1984 v 2022

Working on 3rd novel after agent, Jo, said the 2nd novel was a no-go with publishers. Too dark apparently. Mmm. Try reading 1984 in the actual year 1984 for your English O’Grade, in a class full of naturally miserable 15-year olds during the Thatcher years. That’s dark. I don’t know who in the Scottish Education Board thought of that one.

We also read Consider the Lilies at school – think Scottish historical misery fest. Basically if it would depress the bejesus out of hormonal teens it was in the curriculum. But then we didn’t have the pandemic to deal with, nor the horror of the Ukraine invasion by Russia. Can understand the need for a wee bit of lightness, right enough.

I’ve had a couple of stories published. I came runner-up in Retreat West’s ‘After’ themed flash comp which can be read here https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/onset-winter-proposal-sharon-boyle/ And below is a micro flash kindly published by 100 Word Story:

Betty’s Begonia

They buried Betty between bomb raids in a no-fuss, grassy grave. Overnight the sod erupted with vagina-pink begonias. It was agreed by several snippy-tongued relatives that this was typical. Betty had to be different, and flashy with it. It wasn’t right to be blowsy in such times.

Edith visited the grave and whispered Sorry. Betty’s relatives had talked of appearance’s sake and secateurs, so here she was, trying to tame the flowers into straight-laced conformity.

Back home, Edith withdrew a begonia from her pocket and shoved her nose into it, licking out the pollen. She smiled. It tasted of Betty.

Does Tenerife Have Tea Shops?

Summer holiday has been booked – to skin-scorching Tenerife. I’m not keen on sunshiney holidays but the family loves them. I much prefer the cooler climes of say, the Faroe Islands, photo below, where OH and I went a few years ago (direct flight from Edinburgh to Faroe btw). I’ve also visited Iceland, an egg-reeking, lovely place with bleak, black landscapes; Norway; Sweden; Denmark and, of course, the dreichest country of all and the place I call home – Scotland. Every one cold and the better for it. In fact, give me a coach tour to some wee Scottish or English town full of tea shops and I’m happy. This is not a recent conversion; I’ve been grannified since the age of nine when my nana took me to Blackpool. Apart from the demonic, laughing clown in the glass cage, being forced to visit an empty and depressing Winter Gardens, and Nana refusing point-black to accompany me on any funfair rides in case she had a heart attack (she died aged 96), I had a great time, mainly because of those tea shops.

Today, a flash of mine was published on-line at Fictive Dream as part of their Flash February bonanza. It’s called Terra Firmly and can be read https://fictivedream.com/2022/02/16/terra-firmly/ here.

And below is a 100-word flash, A Man Walks Into a Bar With a Cracked Heart, for which I won the Retreat West’s People Prize. It basically means the punter readers loved it, but not the judges:

A Man With a Cracked Heart Walks into a Bar

Concealed words riddle his body: fractured across his heart; overworked – liver; underused – penis.

He taps the pint glass, glancing at her on the bar stool opposite. Lonely scrawled on her forehead. And round her heart, a wavering impaired.

She too must have a trail of regrets clattering at her heels.

He chances a smile. She looks away. He dips his head, sips his pint, his eyes flicking up.

And he catches it, the sign: her lips softening, just for a second.

Soon he’ll go over and talk, hesitantly. She’ll remain guarded till, relaxing, her heart shivers and settles on paired.

Brilliant Bath and Amazing Astronauts

Five days in Bath: Jane Austin museum; open-top bus tours; afternoon tea in the Pump Rooms; the abbey and, of course, the gorgeous city centre itself (and I thought Edinburgh was wee). Up and down in the train with no hassles. It was great to travel and socialise big-time. It almost felt back to normal.

And the socialising didn’t end there. Last week, I attended a Tim Peake show, astronaut extraordinaire, at the Usher Hall. Place was packed and it was strange but exciting to be at a large, busy venue again. Another strange thing was that masks were worn when walking about – to the toilets or the one measly bar they opened – but not when sitting.

Tim entertained us with a whole heap of life experiences, including what happens to your body in space. A fab place for dieters, apparently. You swallow food and peristalsis forces it down to the stomach where gravity keeps it floating at the top. Hey presto, your belly thinks you’re full. I can see a market for this.

The getting-along exercises the astronauts undertook before missions were also an ear-opener. Potholing in a group, not seeing the sun or outside world for seven days. Everyone goes to sleep and is woken a couple of hours later with, Get up, you’ve had your seven hours. This slog is repeated so that on the fourth day they’re knackered but buoyed by the thought they’re going home. Apparently, when informed they have to endure another three days, there is a rich range of fierce emotions. I bet. But kudos to Tim who has the can-do/will-do attitude that served him well for six months on the space station.

He also has a book for sale, which is more than can be said for me, but I do have another couple of stories published on-line. Came third in a comp with this one, Sunny Defiance and also had another story published at Fictive Dream with Fiery Jamie.

Sense and Sensibilities – or Lack Thereof

All quiet on the novel-subbing front. My book is still drifting aimlessly around the black hole that is known as Publishing Acquisitions outer-space. It’s a very big, very lonely place.

Things done in October:

  • last mow of the lawn front and back
  • planted a rowan tree after howking out an elm (weed of the tree world, sheesh)
  • worked on a third YA novel – written 12,000 words so far, a feat that has failed my goal of completing a first draft by now of 60,000 words
  • have managed to upset the administrator of a small crit group I’m in to the point the guidelines have been changed to reflect my terrible behaviour – it was a clash of sensibilities that made no sense to me

And talking of sense and sensibilities, I’ve booked a week away to Bath where I will visit the Jane Austen museum. I may even pop round to the Roman baths for a spot of fun. If there’s an addendum to the guidelines advising absolutely no dive-bombing you’ll know it was me.

One of my short stories came second in this month’s edition of Writers’ Forum magazine called, Even Desperadoes Need a Place to Drink. And a flash at Reflex Fiction that can be read here.

I’ve Lost That Thrilling Feeling

After the book that I hoped would be my break-out book not being picked up by any publishers last year, I wrote another. Jo, my agent, advised this morning that it is now out on submission. This is thrilling news and yet I’m not succumbing to that thrilling feeling. I’ve learnt from last year’s failure to shove my hopes down deeeep and not check the phone every five minutes. I must act like a cool cat* who is thinking, meh, whatever, while starting another novel.

I’ve had a short story published on-line – The Legacy of Launderette Bernadette in Fictive Dream which can be read here https://fictivedream.com/2021/06/06/the-legacy-of-launderette-bernadette/

and a flash, Steady/Steadier/Steadiest, in the FlashFlood one day extravaganza on 26th June where they published a flash every 5-10 minutes. Mine can be read here FlashFlood: ‘Steady/Steadier/Steadiest’ by Sharon Boyle (flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com)

and my flash The Human Racing which is in the 9th Ellipsis Zine anthology, Life Safari, which cannot be read freely but is available to buy for £3 We’ve got issues | Ellipsis Zine

* Oh, Gawd, the waiting game is torture. Of course I’m checking my phone every five minutes…

The Circle of Covid, a Wonderful/Weird Book Launch (not mine), and a story in the Janus anthology

Socialising has resumed. The credit cards have been paid off. The country is returning to Normalish Times…

… but some folk have gone ‘lift-up bananas’ and another lockdown is hiding just around the corner. I’ve been jagged once, with the second on the horizon but I’m not going bananas or holidaying abroad anytime soon. No burnt skin fry-up this year.*

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Virtually attended the book launch of The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery. She was one of the finalists of Undiscovered Voices 2020 competition and in the space of a year her novel has been printed and her whole life has been propelled into publishing stratosphere. We UV2020s keep in touch by Zoom now and then, so I can keep track of her dream life from my lowly, unpublished position.

It was a lovely but unusual book launch. I sat in the bedroom, logged on, chose my avatar and watched it scoot about a virtual island, slip through magic mirrors and play a few games. If another avatar approached, their human face appeared at the top of the screen and we could chat. But I didn’t, not really. Unable to network in person, I am equally useless in virtual form, despite the Boyle-Bedroom Bar.

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*Holidays this year is travelling from home in south Scotland to the woolly wilds of north Scotland. I can’t get excited about it. The threat of rain is huge and realistic. You’d think in the year of lockdowns the sun would sort itself out, but no, it looks down on Scotland and thinks, Nah, I’ll not bother with that place. Not worth my while. Too wee. If only I could send my avatar on holiday instead.

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I have a story in the Spring 2021 Janus Literary Story Prize Anthology that you can read here https://www.janusliterary.com/2021/05/20/sharon-boyle-sea-animals/

Furloughed Twice, But Still Dithering

Well, it’s been a while and I have absolutely no excuse for not posting and have in fact had an abundance of time as I’ve been furloughed not once, but twice. Dithering is a speciality of mine and I curse that it’s not appreciated more in society.

After winning first prize in Cranked Anvil’s short story comp last summer, story here, they asked me to complete a Q&A session and here it is. I’ve pasted in the body of this post rather than provide a link as I’ve noticed that links can eventually go defunct. Yes, it’s time for me to undertake a spot of blog spring-cleaning:

QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR PROFILE INTERVIEW

Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself, and the kind of stuff you like to write.

I live in East Lothian with my son, daughter and husband. I’m imaginative and a rampant procrastinator – not a good combination. I write short stories, flash pieces and YA novels.

How long have you been writing, and what was it that first got you started?

I started serious spare-time writing when I turned forty – a watershed age when I said to myself, Get those ideas that have been churning round your head down on paper. And get them down now.

What does your writing day/schedule look like? Do you write full-time, or are you fitting it in between a full-time job and life in general?

I work two days a week in an old-fashioned hardware store, so not too taxing and I get to meet lots of quirky characters. I know nothing about DIY but can wax lyrical about LED lightbulbs. My daughter is at uni, my son stays mostly in his room and my husband works in the home office so I am lucky to have time to write. I don’t have a typical day but will write at some point for three to four hours. I also like to mooch about and meet pals for coffee. I do not exercise and am suspicious of people who do.

How have you found writing during lockdown times? Has your writing day changed much from how it was pre-lockdown?

I’ve been furloughed twice and so have no excuse not to commit to extra writing. Also, all the coffee shops are closed.

Tell us about the last thing you were working on. And also, a little about your very next project.

As well as flash and shorts I’ve been writing a YA thriller/sci-fi. It was LL in the Bath Kids’ Novel Award in December but I’m completely reworking it to concentrate fully on the thriller part. My dream is to have a YA novel published.

What successes have you had in the past? How do you feel when you see your work in print?

I’ve had quite a few short stories, flashes and even the odd poem published on-line and in printed magazines such as Writers’ Forum, Ink Tears, Moth Magazine, Sentinel Literary and the Brighton Prize. I’ve won the HISSAC, Exeter Short and Writers’ Forum short stories comps; a Retreat West themed flash, and a Cranked Anvil short story comp last year. As you’d expect, I’m elated, especially as it means I get to mark-up my colour-coded jotter. Green means a win.

Do you have a particular place where you go to write? Where is it? How does it help your writing? Describe your desk/office/workspace. (If you don’t have one particular place, tell us about the different places you might go to write.)

Up until recently I wrote at a very messy dining table but now my daughter is at uni I have her room – a desk to myself, glorious! It has a simple view of trees – no people or anything to distract me. I need silence and so don’t listen to music unless typing up notes. The cat sometimes sleeps on the bed but I can suffer his snoring.

Do you have any tips or advice for other writers? Either things you have developed yourself, or pieces of great advice you’ve heard or read from other writers.

I always find having more then one project on the go helps a tired mind. Getting bogged down or bored on a piece can be alleviated by switching to something fresh/new/different.

Finally, some quickfire answers:

Planner or pantser? – Panster who works to a short, rough outline. I think I’d be bored if I knew exactly how my novel was going to turn out.

Computer, pen & paper, or typewriter? Both. I like to write with pen and paper then type up later, revising as I go. I think the slower action of writing allows for ideas to emerge and develop.

Do you write every day? Mmm, usually.

Do you have a daily/weekly word count target? No. As long as I write I’m happy. I’ve disappointed myself too many times by failing word counts.

My Year of 2020, Covid, Social Wastelands and Bad Fringes

January – carrying on with life in a blissful and naïve way, unaware of the awfulness that is around the corner

February – rumours of a strange, deadly virus are surfacing but life is continuing as normal. Attend the UV2020 agent’s party in London

March – agent procured! Social life taking a serious hit with this strange virus known as Covid 19. Not worrying – it’ll all be over in a few weeks time. Have a new idea for a children’s novel. First chapter written

April – Zoom here, Zoom there, Zoom everywhere. Learn how to not talk over people and wave when a tardy-arse comes on-line. Furloughed from work. Son off school. All four members of family are attacking fridge with gusto.

May – continuing with writing, Zooming and not going out.

June – back at work. Fringe a goddamn mess.

July – no fortnight holiday to a Bake-Me-Alive idyll this year. Garden has never looked better. Actually warm enough for daughter to sunbathe. The shifting tiers allow for a spot of socialising in pub with friends. But the tiers are capricious, untrustworthy and teasing, and it’s not long before lockdown ensues once again

August – have written a third of my novel. Not straining myself writing-wise; have loads of time

September – daughter off to university to experience the crappiest ever (non) Fresher’s week. But on the plus side, I got a proper haircut!!!!

October – nothing new to report except no longer laughing at the laughable notion of not being able to socialise at Christmas

November – Nana died. Of old age, hah, hah, eff you, Covid. Family members drink and distantly socialise at funeral. Nana may have been a teetotaller but her family are most certainly not

December – longlisted in the Bath Kids Novel Award. Cue frantic, and I mean frantic, finishing of novel in order to get it to a somewhat readable status. If the Brexit deal can be signed off days before the end of the year, then I, Sharon Boyle, can receive a LL on the proviso that I sub the entire ms in three days. Sleep never looked so good

January 2021 – waiting for the SL Bath results. No longer a naive innocent about Coronavirus going away anytime soon. Hoping that one day we can look back on the year 2020 and laugh, albeit in a hysterical way. (update edit – I was not SL, readers. The slog continues)

I’ve had it easy, many have not.

Take care, folks xxx

2020 – the Year We Partied Like it Was 1984.

2020 – the Year of No Holidays

2020 – the Year of Having a Mask in Every Handbag/Pocket.

2020 – the Year it was a Bit Rubbish to Be a First-Year Uni Student…

… like my daughter who is not having the usual experience of first-year students: the partying, general debauchery and freedom of being away from home. No, she and her fellow hall-mates are actually studying because there’s not much else to do under the current government restrictions. I just wonder if she (and everyone else in the universe) is going to go bananas once the curfews are lifted. There’s going to be some serious, high-doh partying around the theme of freedom-at-last (I love themed parties and always wanted to attend a masked ball but, nah, not anymore).

Anyway, she’s at uni and I have her upstairs bedroom to write in, so that’s a bonus. Now I can fritter away time staring at the garden from a more elevated level. Worry is that students may not be allowed to returned to uni after Christmas. I will then be back at the dining-room table. Thanks, Covid.

There has been a recent plethora of stories and films about viruses/pandemics/life-threatening lurgies but my two stories below do not feature any bugs whatsoever:

Came 1st in Cranked Anvil flash with a very short story that can be read here: https://crankedanvil.co.uk/2020/09/11/moth-woman-sharon-boyle/

Came 2nd in the Nov issue of Writers’ Forum magazine with a short story – doubly delighted as it’s a YA story.

Bye for now

Sharon x