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Happy Hallowe’en!

In honour of it being Hallowe’en, I’m posting a poem. However, it’s not one I wrote this year, last year or even remotely recently.

This is a poem written by my eleven-year-old self, so please bear that in mind when reading it!

There are a couple of things I’d like to go back and ask her, if I could, like what I meant by the diamond in line 3? But I like the sound of that sentence so perhaps that’s why I used it, and I like the description of clouds in the last verse.

Anyway, here it is, you can decide for yourself whether it’s a Trick or a Treat. HAPPY HALLOWE’EN!

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The witch who flies on broomstick
Flies to wake the dead
The diamond turns the dead awake
To steal the night away, away
They groan and grumble
Clink, and clank a scream
Death awakes, the scream again I hear
And in the distance hoots an owl.

The leaves crunch as foxes prowl,
Bubble, bubble the cauldron boils
The witch flies back to her haunt
To stir and stir, then away to soar,
The children who are not asleep
Waiting, waiting for the noises,
Bumps and bangs in the night,
The vampire bat flies out to hunt.

A storm blows up in the night
With clouds so grey they frown
And burst out crying with a wail
The toad jumps into shelter
As the troopers go past
A queer voice groans and the clock strikes
The first hour of the morning, they die
To their graves they flee.

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Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Waiting for Don Juan

Il signóre Maglian was in the harbourside cafe drinking his espresso, waiting for his friends to return. The harbourmaster sat facing the sea. He could smell a storm coming in: the breeze was picking up; trees on the seafront were whispering it would be a bad summer squall; and fishing nets on the quayside were shifting slightly, nodding in agreement. Allóra. He would not see his English friends today, after all.

He rolled a cigarette, tapped it on the back of his hand, before striking a match and lighting up. I signori would be sure to stay on with their friend and wait for the storm to pass. It was a shame. He had wanted to see the Don Juan round the headland in full sail. She had left Lerici on the first of the month and it had been perfect sailing weather. La bella barca had flown, once she’d cleared the harbour. Maglian had watched her leave, remembering the trips he had taken in her as far as Massa, often in rough seas. I signori had laughed at Maglian’s nerves, and scoffed at him saying they would not be able to swim to shore in such weather. Precisely why he had not bothered to learn to swim, il signóre had said, there was no point when it was you against the might of the sea.

The Don Juan was an unorthodox craft. Il signóre had called her “a perfect plaything for the summer.” And she was certainly that. Maglian stood up and walked along the quay, drawing on his cigarette. Captain Roberts had designed her, she was supposed to be a down-sized American schooner, and then together with il signóre Williams, he had improved her again. Much more sail, a false stern, an extended bowsprit and prow, and more pig iron ballast. Hardly any deck on her at all. Some of the fishermen thought she was “crank” but a beauty nonetheless. Maglian simply remembered thinking at the time that there was more canvas on her than he’d seen hanging from the line on wash-day in Lerici. And the boat was fast. She beat the felluccas as if they were at anchor. Il signóre said she passed them “as a comet might pass the dullest planets of the heavens.”

Maglian walked the rocks in the harbour, still half-hoping to see the sails of the Don Juan. The fishing boats were coming back in, only a few of the ones who went further afield were still out there now. He prayed they would make it home before the storm was full-blown. Even here in the harbour, the boats were rocking as the sea began to boil up outside the bay. The men were securing them as best they could, fastening them down for the squalls to come. One more cigarette, Maglian thought, and I will head home. There is nothing more for me to do here. They will not come home today.

They found the bodies washed up on the shore near Spezia ten days later, Maglian tells the fishermen in the cafe. Someone on the shore thought he saw the Don Juan hurtling home at full-sail, when the storm crossed the bay near Spezia. They should have cut the top-sails but they were trying to beat it home. A violent squall whipped up from the west and they couldn’t outrun it. The wind buffeted the eye-witness on the cliffs and he had to shield his eyes from its force. When he looked back, he could no longer see the Don Juan.

One of the fishermen asks if it was definitely them, if there was any sign of la bella barca. Maglian shakes his head, no, no boat, but it was them. They were identified from the clothes they were wearing and the authorities knew it was il signóre Shelley from the book of poetry in his pocket, a book of his friend’s poetry, il signóre Keats, who died last year in Roma.

The bodies were buried in the sand to comply with quarantine laws, and now il signóre Shelley is to be burned on the beach. Il signóre Trelawney is making up an iron casket for the body, and the locals are helping build a funeral pyre. It will be on the fifteenth, I think, says Maglian, and I will go to say goodbye to my friend.

Was it really the storm that killed them? one of the men, sitting in a corner of the cafe, asks. He has heard, as have the others, the rumours about dark, suicidal thoughts that swirled around inside il signóre Shelley’s head.

Maybe the Don Juan can tell us that, when she is found. If the sea will give her up.

Wales Blog Party!!!

Welcome to the Wales Blog Party!

Thanks for stopping by here at The Nut Press. Help yourself to some of my dragon cupcakes and a drink. I’ve got some Brains S.A. or some Brecon Carreg mineral water, if you’re operating heavy machinery – like a Windows box 😉

So hey, I’m Kath and I’m a writer and blogger living and working in south Wales. I blog about books; events I go to, such as book launches, open mic, poetry and spoken word; and writing. Oh, and I also sometimes blog about chocolate and life with a squirrel muse, Squizzey, who has his own blog at SquizzBlog and is the one and only blogging squirrel in Wales. (I think I’m reasonably safe in making that assumption!)

Anyway, enough about me. Now it’s over to you…

Here’s how a Blog Party works:

  • Leave a Comment below, saying something about yourself and your blog and any food or drink you’ve brought to the party.
  • Visit the blogs of at least three other party bloggers and leave a comment on their blog. (Follow it too if you like the look of it!)
  • Post a Facebook update or tweet about the party and encourage other bloggers in Wales to take part.

And that’s it!

It’s really simple and a fantastic way to discover new blogs. Hopefully, you’ll find some you want to follow and also get your own blog some new followers in return.

I’ll try and visit everyone’s blog who takes part this weekend and I hope you all have a great time!

The Twelve Months of Nuts

The Nut Press celebrated its first Blogiversary today. On 6th October 2009, I wrote my first tentative post about Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize win and ventured out into the blogosphere.

Here’s my year in nuts…

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow. Each and every blog started with just one post and no followers. I didn’t worry about how much – or little! – content I had at the beginning. If you keep planting acorns, eventually you’ll get an oak wood. The same goes for blog followers. I don’t worry if my Networked Blogs or Google Connect widgets are looking empty or the few followers I have are rattling around in them. Not everyone follows a blog by signing up through either of those. Many people prefer to bookmark blogs and read them as and when they have time. Likewise, when it comes to commenting on blogs, not everyone wants to do this. Some people prefer to tweet you a response or mention it when you chat.

Having a hard shell sometimes gives you a distinct advantage in life. Not everyone is going to like what I write or how I write on this blog. Which is fine. It’s probably a good job to get used to that because not everybody is going to like any book I get published either.

The Nut Press changed its look a number of times but is now happy in its own shell. When I started blogging, I wanted to find a template that was easy to read (so as to showcase my writing), easy to navigate and to which I could easily add side-bar widgets and pages to the basic template. In short, one which had all the functionality I wanted. Considering the template I currently use is free, I’m very happy with everything the Comet theme from FrostPress gives me in this respect but we tried on a considerable number of outfits before we found each other.

The Nut Press contains a different assortment of nuts to the one I ordered. I don’t blog about writing as much as I thought I would when starting out. I thought I’d journal my writing progress on my blog or post work-in-progress. I haven’t wanted to do that, so instead I’ve mainly blogged about events, reading, social networking or posted book reviews. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not that changes again over the course of the coming year.

There are lots of different kinds of nuts. Instead of worrying about who’s reading this blog (from the outset, I always assumed only Squizzey and I did and I wasn’t so sure he bothered that often!), I haven’t kept to a single niche or theme. I’ve simply blogged when I’ve had something to say, for example, because I’ve read a great book and wanted to share that or have been to a good event and that’s worked out pretty well. Different people respond to different posts, which is great. It’s always good when I get a comment because something I’ve said struck a chord.

Some nuts aren’t really nuts. Just as a peanut is a legume, not a nut proper, I don’t think the odd post which might be considered off-topic for a blog that is mostly about books, reading and writing will put people off. Besides, it’s my blog and therefore up to me if I want to write about chocolate or life with a squirrel muse.

A handful of nuts is better than eating the whole packet. I’ve read a lot of blog posts about “building an author platform”, telling me to blog regularly (at least 3-4 times a week). I understand the reasoning behind this but I’m not doing that at the moment. I don’t want blogging to become a chore.

Nuts are even more delicious when mixed with other foods, like fruit and chocolate. I’ve had a lot of fun this year interacting with other bloggers, for example, by taking part in Book Blog Tours for Keris Stainton’s Della Says OMG!, Nicola Morgan’s Wasted and D.J. Kirkby’s Without Alice, visiting and reading other blogs and leaving comments and having people do the same here. It’s been fantastic to see how blogs and their bloggers can work together to help promote a book or an event, such as Talli Roland’s upcoming Blogsplash on 1st December. Watch this space!  

Some people have a nut allergy. There are some people who will never read my blog, even if I read theirs, comment regularly and retweet links to their latest blog post. I know I’m doing all of that for the right reasons, because their blog posts are worth reading, I like them and want to share them with others. I don’t do it to try and encourage reciprocal behaviour, so I have to accept it probably won’t happen in some cases, deal with it and move on.

Nuts are a highly prized food and energy source. I’m amazed and thrilled that The Nut Press has been shortlisted for an award in the inaugural Wales Blog Awards 2010. When I started blogging a year ago, I never even considered I’d be on any kind of shortlist for it and I’m very excited about attending the Awards ceremony next week at Chapter Arts Centre and looking forward to meeting some more bloggers for the first time.

Nuts are a healthy snack. If you’re shy (like me), blogging can be a great way to interact with other people without having to do it face-to-face. You write a post, people comment and you respond to those comments from the comfort of your own chair in front of the computer.

Although, nuts are also great party food! I think I’ve mentioned already on The Nut Press how I’ve found blogging a great way of meeting people, both by visiting other blogs and having people visit mine, as well as through meeting bloggers at events out in the real world.

To celebrate my first blogiversary and blogging in Wales, I’m hosting a Wales Blog Party this weekend (Friday 8th – Sunday 10th October inclusive). Drop in anytime over the weekend to see how it’s going and if you’re a blogger in Wales, I hope you’ll join in!



Limbering up for NaNoWriMo

Last November I toyed with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month during which you write 50,000 words. However, I chickened wimped decided against it because it was already a few days into November and I’d done no planning or preparation whatsoever. I was also worried about the prospect of having to get the word count done, without there being any scope for my much-needed “ponder time”. (This veers wildly from brainstorming ideas in a notebook to hot writing to creating family trees and devising flow-charts to watching the squirrels in the trees out back while eating chocolate and drinking tea and a lot of other things in between.)

This year, however, is different.

This year, other writers who’ve taken part in previous years, 2009 included, have positively encouraged me to give it a go. I’ve talked to published writers like Miranda Dickinson and Keris Stainton, who have successfully used the month to get a jump on a novel by writing 50,000 words of a “dirty” draft. (This is also known as a First Draft but a “dirty” one just sounds like it’s more fun to write, doesn’t it?) Both Miranda and Keris have subsequently gone on to write the remaining word count (50,000 words is not enough for a complete novel, despite the name of the month), finish, edit and polish it. You can read what Keris says about NaNo here.

Roz Morris has some great advice from some of her NaNoWriMo winner friends on her blog Nail Your Novel. (If you’re a writer, I really recommend you following Roz both on Twitter where she tweets as @dirtywhitecandy and on her blog, Nail Your Novel. She also has a book out under the same title and I’m finding it invaluable, as it’s packed full of practical tips, hints and checklists. Check it out here: Nail Your Novel. (I’ll be posting a full review shortly.)

This year, I am being more organised about the whole thing in order to give myself the best chance I can for success. I’ve already signed up and made the commitment to take part, for starters, and I’m currently working out which of my ideas I’m going to submit to the NaNo treatment. I’m going to spend this month prepping it, factoring in some “ponder time” and putting down some ideas. I am also going to be doing mini-NaNo’s to get myself into the habit of writing at least 1,667 words a day. (If you’re doing NaNo, feel free to buddy up with me. I’ve signed up as “katheastman”. Highly original, I know!)

This year, I’m doing my research with some recommended reading, such as Chris Baty’s

This year, I have my buddies doing it with me. Thanks to social networking – take a bow Twitter and Facebook – I now have a support group of other writers, most of whom have taken part in NaNo before. We’re going to be cheering each other on and helping each other get past that finish line on 30th November with 50,000 words a-piece. I feel more confident about taking part this year because I know I won’t be going it alone. And, out of everything I’m doing this year, this is what’s encouraging me the most. I believe I can be a NaNoWriMo winner.

Have you taken part in NaNo before? Did you manage to cross the finish line with 50,000 words? Have you worked on what you wrote that November and finished a novel? Do you have any tips or hints for things I should be doing this month to get ready or for November itself?

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