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The Weird and Wonderful World of Writing Superstitions

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?

Titles announced for City Reads and Young City Reads 2017 as part of Brighton Festival

The debut novel by Sharon Duggal The Handsworth Times has been chosen for City Reads while A.F. Harrold’s Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) has been picked for Young City Reads as part of Brighton Festival 2017.

City Reads and Young City Reads are city-wide ‘big reads’ delivered by award winning literary organisation Collected Works CIC, designed to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience throughout Brighton & Hove. This year they launch on 2 March (World Book Day) and run until 14 May with a series of events themed around the books to encourage people across the city to get reading and start talking.

Brighton-based British Asian writer Sharon Duggal’s novel, published by Bluemoose Books, is set in 1981 where factories are closing, unemployment is high, the NF are marching and the neglected inner cities are ablaze as riots breakout across Thatcher’s fractured Britain. The Agarwal family are facing their own personal tragedy, but their pain is eased through humour, friendship and community.

The title chosen for Young City Reads, the ‘big read’ aimed at children, Fizzlebert Stump, is the story of a boy, a book, some very bad people, some very brave deeds, and the importance of rubber teeth for lions.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: ‘We are delighted that City Reads and Young City Reads are part of Brighton Festival again this year – building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. The importance of empathy and community is central to our Guest Director Kate Tempest’s vision for the Festival as a whole, making Sharon Duggal’s powerful debut particularly fitting as a choice for City Reads. And with this year’s Guest Director our youngest in the role to date we are particularly pleased to be providing an opportunity to encourage young booklovers to come together to discuss and share their love of reading – and hopefully nurturing a new generation of artists and art lovers for the future.’

Sharon Duggal (002)

Sharon Duggal, City Reads author says: ‘What an absolute honour to have my novel, The Handsworth Times chosen for City Reads 2017. It is quite a special thing to know that people from all walks of life across the city where I live and work will be coming together to read my book, just as I have done with many previous City Reads selections. The Handsworth Times is ultimately a book about the hope we find in other people and it will be such a pleasure to have the opportunity to get out there and share the story with so many different people across this city via the inspired City Reads programme of events. 

AF Harrold (002)

AF Harrold, Young City Reads author says, ‘Young City Reads is a fantastic initiative and it’s great to hear Fizzlebert’s been picked this year. Hopefully it’ll put a smile on some faces and an embarrassing snort of laughter in the back of the room every now and then when you’re supposed to be getting on with more serious things’. 

Highlights of City Reads include a Literary Salon at the Regency Townhouse (Wed 29 March), a riotous celebration of the music made during era of The Handsworth Times via a Stick It On Party at The Latest Music Bar (Fri 28 April), perennial favourite The City Reads Book Quiz returns on Wed 22 March, and Sharon Duggal is in conversation at Brighton Festival on 14 May. Young City Reads launches at Jubilee Library on 2 March, with a special Brighton Festival event on 23 May featuring the author and illustrator (Sarah Horne).

Primary school teachers and classes are being invited to register online (for free) at cityreads.co.uk and agree to read Fizzlebert Stump The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) together in class between 2 March – 23 May 2017. Throughout the project, participating classes will receive free weekly e-bulletins which will include bite-size Fizzlebert Stump quizzes, puzzles and fun activities to complete.

Paul McVeigh’s The Good Son was chosen for City Reads 2016 while Hamish and the WorldStoppers by Danny Wallace was the title for Young City Reads 2016.

For more information visit cityreads.co.uk.

Brighton Festival will take place from 6-28 May 2017.

Writing Horror – Screaming In The Dark

It seems an odd thing to do, to write horror. When there are a wealth of genres out there, when I could be writing about perfect love or fantastic dragons or gun-toting cowboys, why choose to create the most terrifying, the most soul-shredding, the most unwelcome?

My answer is a simple one: because I like it. I like horror.

I like to read it, I like to watch it, I like to think about it, and I like to write it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t.

As to why I like it, that’s a more complicated question, with a different kind of answer.

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As a child, I was scared. A lot. Most of the time. Not that I wasn’t a happy child, with a normal family and normal surroundings and normal friends. I was. Perfectly normal. But I was also perfectly scared. There was a seeping, creeping horror that hovered around me, enveloped me, and at night I would scrunch my eyes shut and hide beneath the covers in the hope that whatever it was wouldn’t see me because I couldn’t see it.

And there was, as far I can tell, as far as I can remember, no reason for it. Nothing that particularly stands out as being that one specific moment in which something happened – something ghostly and ghoulish and downright petrifying – that haunted me for the rest of my days.

I was a normal girl, but a strange one.

Being alone was bad. I hated it. These days I crave a bit of solitude, but then, when that fear stole over me, I only wanted to be around people. It’s just that sometimes, there were no people to be around. And so I created some. I reached the age of twelve and simply decided that I needed constant, immediate access to someone.

But who? And how?

I started to go to bed and instead of cowering under the covers I moulded myself heroes and heroines, safe houses and refuges. I began to make up stories. These stories became my talisman, protecting me from the real evil by pretending about it. It seemed to me that nothing in the real world could possibly be as frightening as the world I was creating in my head, and so my heroes were slain, horribly. My heroines were kidnapped and tortured. My safe houses and refuges were pillaged by monsters and demons and ghosts.

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And because I’d made it all up, just me, by myself, it wasn’t so scary after all. I enjoyed it. And I began to write my stories down. I began to read other people’s stories. I began to watch the films. Because it was all safe. It was all made up.

I’ve been doing that ever since.

Just don’t ask me to read or watch any ‘true’ horror stories.

They keep me up at night.

If you would like me to write horror for you – or anything else – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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WHAT I CAN DO

Blog Writing

A blog is an essential tool in ensuring your website is seen. I can create regular blog posts that will move you up the rankings and give you a better placement within your industry.

Ghost Writing

Have you ever wanted to write a novel, memoir or short story but don’t have the time? Do you have the ideas, but the words don’t flow? I can help. Contact me for a confidential chat.

Articles

I am happy to carry out research, conduct interviews, and write/edit articles of any length. Contact me for more information about my rates and services.

Web Content

From your home page to your about me details and everything in between, you want a website that has snappy, interesting, high quality content. Let me create it for you.

Sales Letters

If you have a product that you want others to know about, you need a sales letter that is going to get attention – and keep it. I can write that letter for you.

Emails

Are you thinking of starting an email campaign but don’t know what to include? Or perhaps you want to send a special email to that special someone, but you can’t think of the right words. Contact me and we can discuss exactly what I can do to help.

Product Descriptions

Selling products online can be an excellent way of making a business, but if your products sound boring and your descriptions are dull, no one will want them. I’ve written thousands of products descriptions, and I can make your products shine.

Copy Editing & Proofreading

Have you written something that needs that extra level of checking? With my years of experience I can proofread or copy edit your work so that it’s the best it can be.

Social Media Management & Digital Marketing

Getting your digital marketing and social media strategy right is essential. I can provide and implement a social media marketing plan that works for you. Contact me to find out more.

About MeAbout Me

I'm a content writer

Excellent work by Lisamarie, on time, great quality and constant communication. Would not hesitate to recommend and in fact use again as soon as opportunity arises.

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Andreas K

Lisamarie was great to work with - she did a fantastic job that completely met the brief and was delivered before the deadline.

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Quick and brilliant, nailed the brief! Will work with her all the time 🙂

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Roshni S

Fantastic work A++++

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Rob C

It was a pleasure to work with Lisamarie, she adjusted to our workflow and process with ease and completed work quickly and effectively.

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Geoff J

Lisamarie is a very good writer and is very easy to work with. She reacted well to my guidance and provided me with content I'm very happy to use. I look forward to working with her again soon.

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Great work from Lisamarie, articles are exactly what we wanted

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Brilliant work from Lisamarie. I would definitely retain her again and recommend her to others.

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REVIEWS

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.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT and insideSUSSEX magazines.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of horses.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

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Writing A Story: How To Make Your Story Ideas Stronger

Let’s be honest now; writing a story and thinking up a story idea is not the difficult part of writing. Getting that idea down on the page and making it as strong as it can be… that’s the tricky part. Yet it’s something that you absolutely need to do if you want to make your story shine. Here are some tips on how to make your story idea stronger so that it can be the best version of itself possible.

What’s The Problem When Writing A Story?

Every good story has to have one central premise, and that’s conflict. No matter who is in conflict with whom or what, this element simply has to be there, otherwise you really have no story at all.

writing a story

So… what’s the problem in your story? What’s the big issue when writing a story that is causing your characters pain? What are they trying to get over, or achieve, or make better? Knowing this and making it a bigger part of the overall story so that not a single reader is going to miss it will strengthen your story no end.

Push The Character Further

Don’t be nice to your characters. At least, not all the time. We’re not telling you to go ahead and be George R. R. Martin or Stephen King them all (unless you want to), but they have to have difficulties in their lives otherwise no one is going to want to root for them. The story of a normal man or woman going about their daily business might be written well – it might even be beautiful – but unless there is conflict and unless your characters are pushed as far as you can push them, readers aren’t going to remember your writing once they’re done with it.

What you really need is a character who is just like them, just like the reader, and who has to go through pain and suffering in an effort to resolve (or not) the central conflict. This will be remembered and this will make your story much stronger.

What is the worst thing that could happen to your character? Take that idea and write about how they get over that problem, or how they let it take them down. You can go either way.

Combine Two Unrelated Ideas

Some of the strongest stories are those that are seemingly two completely different ideas thrown together. But what if you took those ideas and combined them into a story that no one had heard before? This is why this idea is so important. It’s why it needs to be considered.

writing a story

Open up a dictionary and find the first word your finger points to. Then do it again in a different part of the book. Take those two words and make a story out of them. Working out how to combine the two ideas will give your idea an added element of strength.

Write What Excites You

Every writer is told to write what they know. That’s fine, but if what you know doesn’t excite you, forget that particular piece of advice about writing a story. Instead, write what thrills you, what fascinates you, what you are truly interested in. You don’t have to ‘know’ it to do that because if you’re truly into whatever it is you’re writing about, you’ll learn what you need to learn.

If you write what excites you, your writing will be stronger and your readers will feel the passion you put into your words.

 

Your Memoir: How To Choose A Great Title

If you are writing a memoir, or hiring a ghostwriter to write one for you, it needs to be an accurate depiction of your life – it should include all the interesting twists and turns, all the mistakes, all the joy, the heartache, the triumph, and successes. It’s such an important book for your family – and potentially a wider audience – to have, that you really should spend a good amount of time coming up with the ideal title.

The title should sum up your life story, while simultaneously inviting the viewer to open the book and plunge into the narrative of your life. Maybe this is why people have trouble thinking of something that really works; it’s a lot of pressure to get it right. It’s a lot of responsibility for the future. Yet it doesn’t have to be. Here are some useful tips about coming up with the perfect title for your memoir so that future generations will want to read it.

Keep It Simple

Within any life, there are going to be plenty of memorable moments, and many of them could form the basis of a title. That’s not a bad way to start thinking about what you’re going to call your memoir, but you must remember to keep it simple. Anything that’s too complicated, too full of puns, too long, or just not understandable isn’t going to entice many people to choose your life story over someone else’s memoir. All things considered, you really want to attract readers, not make them think twice about picking up your book.

memoir

The book’s title should try to record a sense of what your story is about without giving away any surprises that you want the reader to discover for themselves. It should also be kept short and sweet – short titles are much more easily remembered.

Match The Tone

The title of your memoir should also match the tone of the rest of the book. This means that the reader is going to be able to understand just what kind of story you’re telling; is it going to be funny or serious, for example. If your memoir is meant to be inspiring, a funny title won’t convey the right message. If it’s full of amusing anecdotes, a more straight forward title might be confusing. Matching the tone and the title will help to narrow down your choices and will help people be much more aware of the type of book they might be about to read.

Will There Be More?

If you’re planning to write, or have someone write, a second part to your memoir (or even a third or fourth part, come to that) then your title should let readers know there is more. You could, depending on the tone as mentioned above, simply write ‘Part 1’ as a subtitle. Alternatively, you might think of a clever play on words that would lend itself to another book in the same vein.

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Look For Memoir Inspiration

If you are finding it hard to come up with ideas for the title of your memoir, why not look around your local bookshop or online to see what other people have called theirs? Although it’s not a good idea to copy the title word for word, it might give you some inspiration and a push in the right direction.

Remember, when you choose to have a ghostwriter to help you create your memoir you aren’t going to have to work all this out for yourself; I can be with you every step of the way from title to ‘The End’. Get in touch today to find out more.

Creating The Perfect Stay At Home Festival

Missing the tasty street food festival season has to offer? Gousto’s Food stylist Jenny Brown reveals how to recreate a mini version right from your own garden!

With Glastonbury cancelled because of the pandemic, Gousto’s very own Food Stylist Jenny Brown has shared festival-themed food styling tips to help you recreate the summer party feeling at home.

Plus the team at recipe box Gousto have shared six festival-inspired dishes, from vegan burgers to boozy ice-lollies. So what are you waiting for? Grab your wellies, tent… and enjoy!

Here is a taster of the content: 

Festival summer with Gousto

Jenny’s Festival Food Styling Tip:

Forget slaving over a hot grill and create a ‘build-your-own-burger’ bar with just a few ingredients! Whatever you like on your own burger, you can’t go wrong with a burger bar, and they are seriously easy to set up right in your own garden. Grab a few bowls and fill with delicious burger toppings like cheese, onion, pickles and ketchup and let your guests create their own personalised burger.

Festival-inspired recipe: 

Ultimate Vegan Stack Burger

https://www.gousto.co.uk/cookbook/recipes/the-ultimate-vegan-stack-burger

Introducing the ULTIMATE vegan burger. Pile your plant-based brioche buns high with a vegan patty (try Gousto’s for their famous extra juicy vegan patty), melty vegan cheese, a smoky crispy potato rösti, and balsamic onions. Legendary!

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.

Find out more about my publications on my Amazon Author Page.

I am the features and online editor for insideKENT magazine.

I am also a freelance writer who has ghost-written hundreds of blog posts, articles, reviews, fiction, and more.

I live with my husband, daughter, and a cat called Cheryl in the Kent countryside next door to a field full of cows.

http://www.facebook.com/lisamarielambwriter

http://www.twitter.com/lisamarie20010

3 Reasons To Have A Blog On Your Business Website

A blog is a massively useful way to bring traffic – and therefore potentially new customers – to your website. You can think of a blog as a tool, just as you would any piece of equipment that is absolutely necessary to your business. It’s something that might take time, effort,  and money if you outsource the writing, but it is also something that, when done right, can be looked at as an investment of those things, rather than a waste. Read on to discover exactly why you need to have a blog on your business website.

blog writer

More Traffic

The first thing that a blog means is more traffic to your website. If you are using the right keywords and information, your blog is likely to come up first when someone searches for whatever it is you do, or have written about. If the blog is informative and useful, those same people will not only click through, but they will stay (and the longer they stay, the better it is for your SEO and Google rankings).

Not only that, but once people are aware that you exist – thanks to your blog – they will return to read more. They will browse the rest of your website. They will, hopefully, buy from you. And of course, when you look at the numbers, the more people who come to your site, the more chances you have of making a sale.

Ideal For SEO

SEO – search engine optimisation – is something that you need to consider for your website. Again, this can be outsourced, and if you aren’t confident in doing it yourself this can often be the best way to do it. SEO is how you gain traction in search engine rankings. If you think about how you use a search engine, when the results are given to you it is likely you look at the top of the first page and possibly go no further. If you do keep looking, it is likely you – just like everyone else – will check out the second page and no more.

If you can have your website at the top of the Google rankings, you are more likely to be noticed, and with so much competition around that is a precious thing to be able to do. With a blog, SEO becomes much easier. You can include:

seo blog writer

Be The Expert

A blog will help to prove that you are an expert in your niche as you will be able to show the depth of your knowledge and understanding. If you can put this information into layman’s terms and make it interesting, you are sure to find plenty of new customers.

People will always be happy to buy from someone who clearly knows their product or service very well, and the more you can prove this in your blog the better your sales will be.

The Sinister Left – A Left Hander’s Thoughts

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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…

Roblox Video: A Wolf Or Other

We’re all for trying out new things here are lisamarielamb.co.uk, and when my daughter said she wanted to be a YouTuber playing Roblox, we said okay, why not? Letting children explore new things and have fun hobbies they teach them important skills is crucial, and whether or not her videos do well, she will have gained plenty of knowledge.

So, for your enjoyment, here is Barbie Lamby plays Roblox!

Sleep Week: Lack of Sleep Can Increase Depression Tenfold – Tips to Sleep Better

For Sleep Awareness Week, mental health treatment specialists Smart TMS examine the dangers of sleeping less, and how to combat it

Gerard Barnes, CEO of Smart TMS, discusses the restorative benefits of quality sleep on mental wellbeing and shares tips on how to sleep better. 

sleep week

In today’s society, it is now harder than ever to get a good night of sleep. According to the Mental Health Foundation, we are now sleeping 90 minutes less on average than we did less than 100 years ago, with factors such as increased work responsibilities, over-stimulation from phones and laptops, and poor diets causing more and more people to suffer with sleep problems.

However, for those who find it difficult to sleep at night, tiredness and lethargy should be the least of their worries. People who suffer from insomnia are a staggering 10 times more likely to suffer clinical depression and 17 times more likely to suffer with severe anxiety, whilst a recent study carried out at the University of Oxford found that “sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, and other mental health problems in young adults with an average age of 25”.

Furthermore, not only can a lack of sleep exacerbate underlying mental health issues or even cause them, but it is also associated with greater mood variability, a reduced capacity to manage emotions, and increased levels of impulsive behaviour and inappropriate reactivity. In other words, a lack of sleep leads us to behave more erratically and make poor decisions.

How to sleep better, according to a mental health treatment expert

Gerard Barnes, CEO of mental health treatment specialist Smart TMS, is well acquainted with the issues brought about by a lack of quality sleep.

Since 2015, Smart TMS clinics have been using TMS therapy to effectively treat chronic anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD and a range of other mental health problems. Now, Gerard discusses the restorative benefits of quality sleep, and shares some tips on how to prepare for a better night’s sleep.

“There are a range of factors that contribute to any mental health problem, and we can never put something like depression or chronic anxiety down to one single issue, but regularly getting good quality sleep is one of the single most potent ways to influence one’s mental health in a positive manner.

Some people who experience a significant lack of sleep may suffer from a sleep disorder which likely requires specific treatment, but for the majority of us, our sleep quality could be dramatically improved by simply making some simple adjustments to our lifestyle and daily habits. With this in mind, here are four key tips that can be easily applied to start sleeping better”:

sleep week

Switching off

“Our reliance on smartphones, tablets and laptops in today’s society has never been greater, and while this technology has a range of advantages, it can also have a devastating effect on our ability to sleep. Blue light emitted by our screens disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle – switching off or leaving your electronic devices for half an hour or more before bed will help you to feel sleepy and allow you to drop off more effectively.”

 Avoid caffeine and alcohol

“Consuming caffeine before bed is of course not conducive to relaxing, but many may be surprised to find that alcohol actually disrupts your sleep. Whilst many people say they find it very easy to fall asleep following a few drinks, alcohol has been proven to reduce the amount of time spent in REM sleep – the stage of sleep responsible for the retention of memory, learning and mood regulation. Staying away from alcohol before bed will improve memory, prepare you to deal with your emotions and is essential for your overall development.”

sleep week

Establish a sleeping routine

“Building a realistic and achievable daytime routine is one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety, helping us to cope with change, form positive behaviours, and feel more in control of our lives. Our night time routines should be no different. 

The benefits of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day for our mental health cannot be overstated – reduction of anxiety, improved energy levels and ability to cope with responsibilities are just some of the positive effects.”

Get moving

“Doing regular exercise can be very difficult for people dealing with mental health problems, but it is one of the most beneficial and influential things we can do to help us sleep better. Not only does exercise release a natural antidepressant in the form of endorphins, but the increased demand placed on our body makes the prospect of sleep far more attractive to our mind. Even just 30 minutes of exercise a day will help in the quest to achieve a better night of sleep.”

Flash Fiction: Origami Army

Arthur sat, barely moving, hunched over, crunched into the wooden desk in front of him. His desk. The desk at which he was supposed to be performing some sort of miracle so that his boss wouldn’t call him into his office, tell him the figures were not good enough, and send him home. And remind him not to come back. So he supposed it wouldn’t be his desk for long.

Despite knowing this, despite having been told that this event was definitely going to take place on or around today if he didn’t get his act together, and sharpish, Arthur couldn’t bring himself to even turn on his computer. He knew what would happen if he did; it would whir into being and whirl into his day without a second thought, this hateful, dead and living thing that couldn’t help him now. In fact, knowing the true state of everything, the numbers glowing hotly out from the skinny monitor, laughing at him because they knew what they meant even if he didn’t, would most likely make things worse.

So he sat at his desk and did no work. He stayed hunched over, his hands moving and nothing else, creating. Origami. Every time Arthur was stressed or angry he took a deep breath, took a piece of paper, and took the time to fold it into the approximate shape of a crane. It was the only shape he could do, and even then not very well. But it was better than letting that stress and anger do what it really wanted with him, and take him over so that he became a beast that even he didn’t recognise. That’s what had happened with his wife. With his children. With his friends who were friends no more. He told himself that he couldn’t afford to lose anything else but the reality was that he had nothing left to lose.

After a lifetime of seconds which fizzed with such an urgency that it made Arthur think of a bowling ball bomb from a kids’ cartoon, he heard the door behind him open. It startled him momentarily before he ducked his head back down and continued his paper folding. It was only the boss. He was only going to be fired. It was fine. Fine. He folded faster, cutting himself on the lip of a wing, the paper slippery in his sweating hands, the edges secretly sharp.

“Arthur.” The voice was smooth, deep, filtered through years of management speak and the more than occasional brandy. “Arthur, do you remember what we spoke about the other day?”

Arthur nodded, irritated by the interruption but determined not to let it show. Instead he carefully positioned the lopsided crane, fashioned from one of his many important reports that sat – until now – in the in-tray, so that it joined the ranks of the others. He then reached towards the diminishing pile of paper (scrap, he called it, although it wasn’t entirely that and the boss was sure to mention it sooner or later) and started to make a new crane, hoping it would be better than the last poor effort.

“…poor effort.” The boss had been speaking, but Arthur had not been listening. He had been busy, and why could the boss not see that?

Arthur nodded with no idea what he was nodding about. He sat up suddenly, breathing deeply, blinking in the fluorescence of the office and noticed something surprising. His desk was covered, literally covered with no spaces and no gaps, with origami cranes. Hundreds of them. A thousand? It could be. It certainly could be. He smiled. He had no memory of making them but what the hell, what did it matter when they were there?

He stared at them. Willed them to move. And they did. Slowly. Juddering along the desk and then, as one, taking off in jerky, beautiful flight. Arthur spun in his spinning chair to watch them go, to watch them as they flew at the boss, pecking and biting and flapping at him. Drawing blood. Scratching and snarling and screaming as they went so that their screams matched Arthur’s, his delight and pure pleasure manifesting itself in a primal childlike cry.

And then they fell. Hundreds – or a thousand, or a million for all Arthur knew – roughly hewn origami cranes lay broken and dead on the floor.

The boss stepped backwards away from Arthur’s desk, his hands held up in defeat, his eyes wide and fearful, his tongue tied with wonder at the strange and dangerous man who was now laughing at the balls of paper he had swiped from his desk and onto the floor.

“One more chance, eh, Arthur?” he whispered as he left the room. “I’ll speak to you next week.” And then he was gone.

Arthur sat alone at his desk, shoulders shaking where his laughter had grabbed them. He reached towards the pile of reports that still sat in his in-tray, pulling one towards him, and began to fold it into the approximate shape of a crane.

Flash Fiction: Cherub

At the bottom of the garden lives a cherub made of cold, cold stone. It sits and watches and holds a cold, cold stone bird in its chubby, chipped hands. They are stuck together, trapped together. And yet it seems as though the cherub has the advantage even so. That bird is doomed. I pity it.

I don’t think the cherub likes that.

I think the cherub would prefer I fear it, not have sympathy for the pet – prey – it clasps.

What the cherub does not know is that I do fear it. I like awake at night thinking about it, thinking about its dull dead eyes and its flaking grey hair, too old to be the child it wants to be and wants to have. And when I do sleep I dream about it and in my dreams it has teeth. But I try not to think about that. It does no one any good my husband, my mother, my doctor, myself says.

Scary cherub

I don’t know where it came from. My dad, laughing when I mentioned it at Christmas, the room full of tinsel and warmth and a bit too much wine, suggested a garden centre. I doubt that. All I know is that it’s been here longer than I have, part of the grounds before we bought the house and left by the previous owners who ran as far as they could from it, and ended up crossing the world to live in another country, to get away from that thing in their garden.

Perhaps.

That’s what I think anyway.

But it hasn’t driven us away. Yet. Maybe it likes us. Maybe it enjoys me watching it, mistaking my fear for awe or love or not making a mistake at all and knowing, in the end, that I fear it. I wonder, maybe, in the very deepest corners of my scarred mind, whether I do love it a little bit though. I feel something for it at any rate. I thought it was hatred, but lately I’ve become less sure.

I dream about it. That’s how I know what it really is. What it really wants. The children. The last couple had none, preferring work to family (and there is the most likely reason the cherub made them leave) but we have three under ten, young and healthy. I’ve told them to stay far away from the cherub. At first they asked why and at first I told them but my dreams – nightmares – transferred to them and I had to backtrack, to tell them I was just playing and that it wasn’t going to get them. They still don’t play near it though, and I’m glad about that.

Their nightmares have stopped. Mine continue.

It wants my children. Wants me to be the one to sacrifice them to it and its lifeless bird. But I’m strong enough to resist. I won’t do it. But with so little sleep and so much fear, I wonder… I wonder if one day I will?

Writing: It’s Never Too Late

There is a feeling that steals over me sometimes that I’ve left it too late to be doing this. That I should have started writing earlier in life, a decade earlier, 15 years earlier… If I had, I wonder where I would be now?

And then I remember two things. The first is that I didn’t start writing earlier because I wasn’t ready to. If I had, my writing would not have been of the right standard, and I might have given up after a few rejections. Secondly, I’m not alone. Many writers had other careers first before moving on to new and exciting things.

That’s life.

So here are a few of them to illustrate my point. It’s quite an impressive list.

 

Frank McCourt

Author of the wonderful Angela’s Ashes, McCourt didn’t start writing until he was 65 years old. On top of that, he left school at 13 due to his family’s poverty; he had to start work.

 

EL James

No matter whether you love or hate the Fifty Shades series of books, no one can deny what a phenomenon they became, spawning movies and many copycat versions. EL James was 44 when she began to write these books which began simply as fan fiction.

 

Mario Puzo

Mario Puzo, the father of The Godfather was 33 when he began writing. Whilst that’s not ancient by any means, it is still a lot later than many famous authors – Stephen King was just 12, for example, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was 23.

 

Chuck Palahniuk

The Fight Club author was another of the 33 year old club, picking up the pen to write down his incredible stories in his fourth decade of life.

 

Charles Bukowski

writing

Although Bukowski wrote for most of his life, he didn’t get his big break until he was 49 when he submitted Post Office to a publisher. It was published two years later, and at 51 Bukowski’s life changed forever.

 

Donald Ray Pollock

writing

Donald Ray Pollock had a variety of different jobs in his life, but writer came relatively late. He published a collection of short stories when he was 55, and when he was 58 his debut novel, award-winning The Devil Of All Time, came out.

 

Helen DeWitt

Writing Helen de Witt

Helen DeWitt spent most of her life in academia until she almost had a breakdown and realised she just couldn’t face it anymore. With 100 different novels in fragments around her home, she took some time off just to write – with no interruptions. She would, she said, ‘write until the money ran out’. At the end of that time, she had her impressive novel, The Last Samurai written. She was 44 years old.

 

So there you have it. Many of the writers who are now household names didn’t start writing until they were 30, 40, 50, even 60. And even if they had been writing for longer, being published took the time. So I can relax and enjoy what I’m doing – just write and the rest will follow.