THE WRITING GAME

The 6am desk
The 6am desk

If you are a writer, like me the early mornings may be your best time to work. As it’s springtime, the light is switched on at about five-thirty and the bird chorus gets into gear outside my window. Getting up takes huge amounts of willpower; even more in the winter. At least in the spring, I can open the window without risking frostbite. The small room I use faces the wrong way. All the sunshine pours into the kitchen, leaving my study dismal and devoid of sunbeams. I combat this with lots of colour, but at six in the morning, that’s slow torture for eyes. Pink is particularly cruel.

Three cups of coffee later – and now it’s eight o’clock – I turn on the computer and stare at yesterdays’ words. They look like rubbish today. The grammar reads like a Janet and John book (for those of you old enough to remember) and the characters are from a Disney cartoon; rushing about and making a lot of noise but not actually human. This calls for another cup of coffee.

By now, my heart rate is terrifyingly high, it’s nine thirty and time to shower and ditch the night wear, throw some make-up at my wrinkles and search the depths of my chest of drawers for some matching socks. Noticing that my husband has left the bed unmade, I fulfil that task and then see the dust on the skirting boards. It has to be done. Those particles of dust have no business there.

My wardrobe doors are open and the inside looks like a party after a police raid. The clothes have left their hangers and lay crouched in desperate piles on the floor. The shoes have taken part in a marriage punch-up during the night; not one pair have remained together. All those pretty sachets filled with lavender that I so carefully hung on the coat hangers have slipped their moorings and disappeared. Where are they? Have I mistaken them for sugar and put them in my early morning tea? Has my hubby used them to wash his hair? The mystery will never be solved.

Now it’s ten o’clock and I haven’t written a word.  I want to; the will is there but the flesh… It’s time to phone a friend. She’s not a writer and suggests we meet in town for a coffee. Another coffee? Can I do this to my over-worked heart? I decline, reminding my friend that it’s a working day for me. I’m just a bit late starting.

Back at my desk, I stare at the screen. The words merge together, taunting me. In my head, a voice is telling me I’m useless. It’s a forceful voice. It starts shouting, a bit like verbal tinnitus: who do you think you are – Jane Austen? Who the hell will read what you’ve written? Who gives a bleeding toss about your new book? Get real, madam. Go back to your housework, shopping etc. That’s what women should do, not foster grandiose ideas about writing books, for heaven’s sake!

It’s sobering, I can tell you, to have such thoughts, but I bet I’m not the only female writer who hears that voice? The goal is to put it back in its box and hammer down the lid. The trick is to make another cup of coffee, read that damn page you wrote yesterday and say to yourself that failure is the only way to success – at least that’s what those pesky life coaches keep telling us.

Strangely enough, this strategy does work and I have just completed my third book. Now, the whole thing is about to start again. I’m on that early morning roundabout of coffee, avoidance, coffee, critical voice in head, more coffee, dusting and finally writing the first bloody page!  Only another four hundred and eighty to go….

To buy my novels, go to www.feedaread.com  or online at Amazon.co.uk and a host of other online book shops! Also on KINDLE.

The Man Who Thought He Was Happy will be in hardback soon.

SECOND NOVEL PUBLISHED!

 eb4894c7-be42-42aa-9f1b-7cf9ab474844RURAL CUT By Lyn Ferrand

Filmmaker Steve Firenze responds to a plea for help from Harry, his daughter’s godfather, who has relocated from London to a small town in the West Country. Caught up in Harry’s desperate claim that an unscrupulous property developer is financially exploiting him, Steve inadvertently exposes the dark side of the rural idyll and comes face to face with corruption and murder. While attempting to solve Harry’s issues, Steve befriends Eloise and becomes involved in a series of malevolent events that threaten her sanity. They are forced to reassess their values, the way they perceive the changing countryside and the people who live there. Black humour is ever present in this tale of unfulfilled expectations surrounding the myth of rural life. With a tongue-in-cheek look at the criminal activities of a local politician, his associates and a quartet of elderly incomers who have purchased houses on a gated community for the retired, Rural Cut explores how financial greed and the repercussions of indiscriminate development can ruin lives and change rural places for ever. This is Lyn Ferrand’s second novel. Now available at www.feedaread.com

ISBN: 9781784076207
Total Pages: 497
Published: 18 April 2014
Price: £7.29

Soon to be available on Amazon and other on-line publishers.

 

 

MARRIAGE GAMES

Why are women more worried about their marriages than men? Women complain about marriage far more often than men. They buy more books about improving marriage and they go to counseling more often. Divorce these days is filed, more often than not, by women.

So what’s going on? Women are obviously unhappy and frustrated with marriage. What is it about the institution of marriage that makes them want to risk all, in order to escape from it? It appears that they blame their husbands for this sorry state of affairs and feel hopeless that men will never understand how they feel, let alone do anything to solve the problem. Women see themselves as the conflict solvers in marriage and when it all becomes too much and they give up and that usually means the end of the marriage.

Husbands, on the other hand, have a different take on all this. Women’s expectations, especially their wives, are too great. Women cannot see their point of view; cannot see that they have made a gigantic effort be what their wives want them to be. Is that it? Do they feel under enormous pressure to change, to earn more money, to be better husbands and fathers – goals that seem impossible to reach? Men often feel they have given their all but are met with nothing but nagging and reproach.

These days, the most common grounds for divorce are ‘mental cruelty’ or ‘emotional abuse‘. Women who live with men who batter them or who are alcoholics, divorce far less often than women who file for divorce because they feel they have been emotionally abused. So what does this really mean? My perception of emotional abuse or mental cruelty can be listed as follows: indifference, diffidence, bad communication and neglect. Simple. Out of these, neglect is the killer. Could it be that some men cannot recognise neglect? They seem not to notice when they have emotionally abandoned their wives. They just don’t see it. Leaving a woman alone for weeks at a time, either physically or emotionally, means trouble. Women leave men and divorce when they feel neglected.

Explaining to a man that he is neglecting you is a tough one. They can understand that you will leave if he raises a hand to you or runs off with your best mate or all your money, but neglect? What  does that actually mean – in man-speak? One thing I do know; it is something that all men should avoid at their peril. The fact that women will stay in physically threatening relationships with criminals, even with murderers but will leave a man who neglects them, shows how important it is that men understand this.

When we read about child neglect, we are horrified. What person would leave a child alone for weeks on end, not talk to that child, never take that child out, never show that child affection, subtly require that child to meet their every emotional and physical need and expect that child to live happily under those conditions? No, wives are not children, but in a relationship we want to be able to trust and be loved by our partner; we expect truth and care and connection, we want a soul mate, someone who takes our  feelings into account when decisions are being made. Someone to whom we feel emotionally connected – just like we wanted in our childhood in order to live a happy life.

That emotional connection seems to be the most difficult thing for some men to come to grips with. Even men willing to help out with the kids, do the shopping, cooking, cleaning, achieving emotional connection can often seem like climbing the north face of Everest. But, it is really so easy. It just takes time, intimacy and committment;  three dreaded words to many men.

Take the boarding school survivors. Men who have been holed up in a boarding school for years often have enormous problems with intimacy. In order to stay alive in that hot bed of sexual innuendo, bullying and deprivation of home comforts, a boy must build a wall around himself. At boarding school it works. In a relationship, it doesn’t. Of course, if you marry a woman who has been to boarding school too, I guess it may work? There are many organisations that help men and women recover from their school days away from home. Many people who need their help are often suffering mental illness as well as marital issues.

So how do we make men step up and recognise the signs of neglect in a marriage? A check list should do it: Listen to your woman, spend quality time with her, share your life with her, make decisions with her, don’t be patriarchal or patronising, if she tells you she is unhappy about your behaviour, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, protect and foster intimacy between you as if it were a priceless diamond or a new Porsche and be committed to having the best relationship, not the best job, car, TV, phone. If you do this, you may be lucky and the woman you love will be at your side when you are old and infirm to care for you, and possibly, won’t divorce you.

RESPECT!

Writing, for me, is not a hobby, it’s my work.

That’s a hard thing to get across to family who often find it difficult to see me as anything other than a relative.  I remember how horrified I was at the way they were patronised and talked down to by the staff, when I worked in a home caring for old people. These elderly people had lived! Their lives had been diverse, full of colour and experience, yet because they weren’t young any more, showing respect for their past lives was often sadly missing.. They were just grey-haired, wrinkled and sad as they sat in the day-room in their high-backed chairs, being quiet; for that was expected. They had to comply, not make a fuss, never demand anything, always appease and be ‘nice’ so that the important work of the carers or the supervisor could be given the ‘respect’ it deserved.

When you took a moment or two to actually listen to the stories of the lives of those old people, an amazing cornucopia of experience revealed itself. They had held down responsible and creative jobs, they’d been heads of companies, senior executives, high-flyers. They had contributed to the economy, raised children and loved grandchildren. They had been through marriage and divorce, travelled the world, fought in wars, met and dined with kings, made money and lost it. They had years of fascinating life behind them. These were the people who now needed help to go to the toilet, to wash and feed themselves and because they had lost their identities in the work place setting, they had become nobodies.

This happened some years ago, but I wonder if staff in these homes still behave any differently to the people they are caring for? There have been some terrible cases of abuse to old people reported in the press, so I guess that the dehumanizing of the elderly still goes on. In certain social situations it does seem that we often misread the emotions and feelings of the person we are communicating with, focusing instead on ourselves; our own feelings. This can turn into a sort of subtle bullying we might not be aware of. Feelings can be so easily bruised and hurt when we are the person in charge, in control, holding the power, even if that power is imagined.

We see this destruction of feelings all the time on the internet and on social networking sites. It used to be that bullies confronted you face to face, now it can be done incognito. The simple act of refusing to accept a ‘friend’ request from a relative or friend, isolating that person from your inner circle and making them feel rejected or even suspect they are being laughed at secretly, can destroy your self-esteem in a stroke and the ‘trolls’ who slide through Twitter leaving their hate tweets create havoc that has even led to suicide.

Whoever we are, we deserve respect from our fellow humans. That’s what the phrase ‘the milk of human kindess’ really means. I think I deserve respect and for that reason, I try my best to respect others. When I am confronted by a total lack of respect these days, I just cut that person out of my life. I can do without the way such behaviour makes me feel.

 

 

 

 

BURNT OUT

Writing a novel takes it out of you. This second book has left me feeling empty; as if I cannot muster up the strength to put even one sentence down on a blank page. It’s a bit like looking at a delicious plate of food and realising your mouth is stitched up with twine…

The dictionary and thesaurus – menus for writers –  stand on the bookshelf, unopened. My hand hovers across their spines. Shall I? Shan’t I? No, I shan’t. The meaning of the word abacinate has lost its charm, although it’s how I felt when I put down the last full stop at the end of my new book. (okay, I’ll put you out of your misery: it means to blind someone using red-hot metal…)

I have always loved words with a passion. My earliest memory is of sitting on a form (that’s an interesting word: meaning a bench…)  in the Methodist church hall that doubled as a school room when I was five and taking a pencil from a jar offered by the teacher, a jolly lady in a turquoise smock. (Funny how the names of colours resonate…) She produced a piece of yellow paper. Along the top was a line of A’s, beautifully scribed by her, I suspect. With an intense gaze at my small hand clutching the pencil, she uttered those magic words: ‘WRITE!’  At the time, I used to pretend I could, by writing scribbles and then reading them out to my Mum as a made-up story. That’s what I though Miss Thingamejig wanted me to do. It hadn’t twigged that I was supposed to copy her perfect A’s.

She moved away and padded round the room like a panther, checking up on the other five-year olds. By the time she got back to me, my whole yellow page was covered in brilliantly executed scribbles that I announce were ‘real writing!’ Miss wasn’t amused and told my Mum that she thought I might be educationally challenged…

Even she couldn’t put me off my insatiable curiosity to explore words and put them together in infinite possibilities of meaning and construct that is writing. What a miracle! Can you imagine not being able to express your thoughts and feelings in the written word? It’s a tragedy that so many people cannot write or read, even in the UK in the 21st century. If a child leaves school without these abilities, the education system has let them down, big time.

It starts in babyhood, this love of words. If your parents talk to you – I mean ‘talk’ not bark out instructions or tell you to shut-up all the time – if they converse in a way that engages a child, if they have books in the house and read to you from day one (even tiny babies respond to a warm tender voice reading Peter Rabbit!) then your brain clocks the idea that words are good; words give pleasure.

The language of today is in danger of becoming short-hand. Texts take the place of sentences. Receiving 500 emails can never compete with the thrill I used to get when the postman delivered a real letter, especially one in a pale blue envelope that smelled of violets!  Okay, I know this makes me sound as if I’m a Victorian ‘lady’ – I’m not. I just worry about the way we are neglecting the miracle that is language. Of course, language must evolve and I have nightmares of a time when people only connect through a mobile phone, even if they are standing opposite each other!

Good conversation is an art form. Reading a wonderful book is a joy. Writing an old fashioned letter, sealing the envelope and carefully writing the address on the front and your address on the back, sticking on the stamp that you have carefully licked and formed an opinion about the taste of the glue, walking down to the post box and taking a moment to turn the envelope over in your hand before kissing it – if it’s going to the lover – and then slowly sliding your hand into the slot and letting it go; what is more sexy than that?

Writing will always fascinate me. The magic of a pen working its way across a page, watching your thoughts slide down your arm to your hand and become recorded for the world to read, that’s a miracle, isn’t it? Writing on a laptop has made the whole physical exercise less arduous, but essentially it’s still the same premise: thoughts from head to hand to page. Reading what someone has written is mind reading, no matter how dry the facts presented may be or how thrilling the story, what you are reading has come from the mind of another human being and that’s amazing!

PS: I’ve overdone the commas in this piece and not checked the grammar. Who gives a green banana, I wrote from the heart as well as the head!

LET ME WRITE!

Finally, my second novel is finished.  I have cursed, cooked, walked miles – anything  to stop writing. Then, after breaking my foot on New Year’s Eve, I became  a prisoner to enforced stillness and the book got finished! It should be in print in about 6 weeks time.

Once the proofs were checked and rechecked and checked again and then checked again, I shut down and helped my husband paint the kitchen. Well, helped is a bit of a stretch here. What I actually did was hobble around moving things. When the job was finished, I hobbled around and put everything back. Very tough.

Each morning, I stop myself from sitting at my desk to begin the next book. It’s there, in my mind, waiting to be teased out, but again, I am procrastinating. It’s a a strange lark, this desire to write. You want desperately to do it, but you hold back, knowing that your subconscious is in charge and will give you the green light when it’s ready. At least, that’s how it is for me.

Today, the sun is shining and it is the start of the Easter break. Everyone is supposed to be out there, enjoying the holiday. I want to be inside, working! How contrary is that?

RURAL CUT by Lyn Ferrand – published by http://www.feedaread.co.uk – out soon.