Wednesday, 22 December 2010

No time to blog!!

Hey guys, it's been a while... again.
This years course is really taking it out of me time-wise and creative-wise, and I haven't been able to write for some time, so I thought a good way to get some writing done would be to suggest to my children that we have a xmas eve story time with xmas stories that we've written ourselves. My eldest is working hard on hers, my youngest decided that too much writing was involved and she is doing a picture presentation instead. My story is finished, and even though it only took an hour to write (and is completely unedited), I thought I'd share it with you anyway. Here it is :)

The Christmas List

‘I’m telling you, this isn’t right,’ said Frank, staring through the blue tinted glass of the bauble. ‘Look at the mess out there. These kids are a bunch of slobs!’
          ‘They’re just being kids, Frank.’ Justin grabbed the list from Franks hand and leant back against the silver frame. The list was long. Franks OCD was definitely in overdrive this year. Justin almost felt sorry for the guy; almost. If circumstances were different he’d have dragged Frank, kicking and screaming if necessary, to the nearest shrink, but it was xmas eve and Frank’s mental issues were becoming a serious pain in the ass.
          ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ Frank’s hand reached up to the pointiest part of his ear. Justin grabbed it before it could make contact with skin, or the skin that hadn’t already been scratched away, that was. Frank glared at him. ‘Look for yourself! Look what that spoilt little brat has done now. I know it’s customary for them to eat chocolate at this time of year, but look what he’s done with the wrapper! It’s not as if he has to treck half way around the world to find a bin now is it, yet there it is, on the table!’
          Justin sighed. He looked at the list. It had to be in by midnight otherwise the kids wouldn’t get their visit from Santa, but how in the hell was he suppose to explain this to his superiors. He could imagine the conversation; ‘Oh yes, well we couldn’t put them on the nice list, could we? Not after they watched TV for too long, or forgot to put their shoes away, and the dirty cup left on the counter was pure evil!’ No, Frank had gone too far this year and something had to be done.
          He reached out and laid a hand on frank’s shoulder. ‘What is it?’ said Frank, ‘I’m busy watching to see what the little monster does with his hat. Nooo! Don’t put it there!!’
          ‘Frank, we need to go now.’ Justin increased the pressure in his fingers slightly.
          ‘What do you mean go? We can’t leave this mess!’ Frank tried to prise the fingers away but they dug in deeper.
          ‘Enough’s enough mate. You need to go, NOW.’
          Frank turned, his eyes wide. What was Justin on about? Then the cogs in his brain clicked forward a notch and all at once he understood. He grabbed the fingers in the palm of his hand and bent them as far back as they would go. Justin screamed. ‘Mate? MATE? You’re no mate of mine! Take my job away would you? And on xmas eve of all days. Well, let me tell you something MATE, I’d rather die than let you steal my job.’ He shoved Justin as hard as he could, ignoring the cursing from outside as shards of glass exploded onto the rug. Justin fumbled for the emergency phone, one leg waving around in mid air in an attempt to keep Psycho-Frank away, but it didn’t work. One kick and Frank was on top of him, eyes bulging out of their sockets, sellotape in hand.


          Frank was woken by the sound of tears. He wasn’t sure if he’d emailed the list through in time, but the sobbing was music to his ears. A clattering of footsteps followed as the parents made their way to the livingroom.
          ‘Oh dear, I was sure you’d all been good this year,’ said the mother as she wrapped an arm around the youngest boys shoulder.
          ‘I was,’ he spluttered through snot-covered lips. ‘Why hasn’t Santa brought us anything Mummy? Even Sacha has a present.’
          The dog was chewing happily on a cracker shaped toy. As her teeth bit down, the toy squealed.
          ‘For God’s sake,’ The mother rubbed her forehead. ‘I told your Father not to buy her a squeaky toy.’
          Hidden by pine-needles, just behind one of the candy-canes, Frank smiled. The toy squealed again, this time longer and louder. ‘Go on Sasha, good dog. One more bite should do it.'

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Hey. I’ve been away a while due to illness. Honestly, I saw the gates of hell at one point. Satan himself grabbed me by the ankles and tried to drag me into the fiery pit, but I fought tooth and nail, and managed to claw my way back.
(Of course, I’m sure that those of you who know me will keep quiet about it only being a simple cold.) I’ve just checked where I got to last time and I will miss out the next few years which were full of work, partying, and having babies.

Around early 2004 I was volunteering at my children’s school. I would go in for an hour or two a day and sit with the children who had reading difficulties. I would read to them, and get them to read back. It took a lot of patience, finding just the right books, and showing them how the words interact with the pictures to tell a story. It was quite sad at times, especially when I had kids tell me how much they loved reading but had no access to books at home. Eventually I was approached by one of the teachers. She suggested that I looked into becoming a qualified teacher as I had a flare for it. Trust me when I tell you this, but after having two kids and spending years with no mental stimulation what-so-ever, to have someone tell you that you are capable of more than washing dishes is a big deal. I thought about it for a while and did a bit of research online. I had almost decided not to do anything because of the cost and time involved, and then I came across the Open University. Not only would they pay my fees, but they would also give me a grant, and I could study part time. I bit the bullet and signed up for a degree in Literature.

It was very difficult to get back into studying after such a long time, and the first year covered so many different subjects that I was quickly overwhelmed. Luckily I had a wonderful tutor that emailed and phoned without prompting just to check I was keeping on top of everything. As time went on and my assignments were returned with high marks, my confidence started to grow. Maybe my grey matter hadn’t turned to baby porridge after all. Over the following three years I studied everything from Shakespeare to Philip K. Dick, and even though there are writers I would rather have my teeth ripped out than have to read again, I can honestly say that I learned something from all of them. I am now in my sixth and final year, studying children’s literature, and providing everything goes to plan, I will be walking away next summer with a first class degree. Now to go back a few years to where my story really starts: my fourth year. After spending so long trying to study, work, and bring up my kids alone (oh yes, once I started my degree, my home life fell apart and I ended up as a single parent.) I really needed a break, but I didn’t want to take a year off. After browsing through the courses available I decided that creative writing would be an easy option; almost like taking a holiday. Oh, was I in for a big wake-up call.

I had this idea in my head that I could write. Of course I could. I’d spent my whole life reading book after book and knew I could do better. I wouldn’t even have to work at it. It would be a bit of fun.

I spent the first few weeks making a half-assed job of the writing exercises attached to the course. I was itching to get on with the first assignment. I wanted to do something spectacular, and I ended up writing something that I thought was very VERY good. I received my first ever critique (from my tutor) and had to face the fact that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. That, truth be told, I had no clue what I was doing.

As it’s time for me to sign off and go to bed, I will treat you to that first story I wrote and you can see for yourself just how bad I was, hahaha.
Of course, showing you how bad I was is a good way into explaining how I am improving, what I’ve learned along the way, what I still want to learn, and who has helped and influenced me along the way.
Good night, and enjoy (cringe).

The Wedding Ring

Alan was sitting in the same chair he’d occupied for years, only now it was different, now he was alone. The room was cold and a thin veil of dust had settled on the glass coffee table beside him, but he didn’t notice. His dull green eyes were fixed on the lower left hand side of the window, not focused on anything beyond, but rather on something deep within himself. Sleeplessness showed in the glazed pupils and bloodshot whites, and tears had formed clean channels down his cheeks. The only signs of life he displayed were the slow rise and fall of his chest as his body unconsciously breathed for him, and the occasional twitch of a finger where he held onto her wedding ring. Greasy strands of grey hair clung to his forehead, damp with aging sweat, and his brown trousers were stained with urine. Once the smell would have disgusted him, he had always taken pride in his hygiene, but not now. Now he was lost to the world, oblivious to his surroundings, to the rhythmic ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece that echoed throughout the room as a reminder of passing time.
Night time approached and the light from the window gradually faded until the room was cloaked in shadowy darkness, yet still he sat. The only light was a subtle orange glow cast by a streetlamp outside that seeped unobtrusively into the room. Occasionally a passing car threw light across his face causing his pupils to contract sharply, but even this was an involuntary reaction. Noises drifted in from outside. Dogs barked in the distance, and the faint sound of music was carried by the wind from the local pub. A group of teenagers sat on the wall opposite, laughing and talking amongst themselves, exchanging obscenities with the resident drunk as he made his way home. The man living opposite made sure his door was firmly locked by shaking it back and forth before leaving for the evening shift, and a young mum returned home with her screaming son. Life carried on as normal outside, completely unaware of his presence behind the net curtain. The world beyond his four walls knew nothing of his pain and he knew nothing of it.
Then, all at once, he was startled back to consciousness by a loud ringing sound. Unable to recognise it at first he glanced around the room trying to find the source, then, realising it came from the doorbell, the mist disappeared from behind his eyes and he tilted his head, listening with anticipation; but only for a moment. He would have heard a key turning if it was her. But what if… no, she wouldn’t forget her keys, she was the organised one. The bell rang again. Alan made no attempt to get up; no-one else mattered; nothing else mattered. His eyes glazed over once more as he desperately tried to fight his way back to nothingness, but she wouldn’t let him go. The furrows on his forehead deepened as her parting words swirled like a hurricane inside his head; ‘it was never about you’. With those words his world had fallen apart, if it was never about him then what was their marriage about? She was his world, she was what he lived and breathed for, and she… she had walked through that door without even a backward glance. He should have hated her for leaving but it was too hard for him to hate her, it was too hard to feel anything. Every memory he had was tainted and every thought poisoned. Eventually his eyes found their spot on the window once more, his brow softened, and with one last deep sigh he sank back into depths of his mind.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Where to start?? Well... I could start from the point when I wrote my first serious story, but that would be wrong. It might bore you silly, but I really think I need to start at the beginning.

I was five when I wrote my first story. Everyone else in the class had written a sentence whereas i had written an entire story. I don't remember exactly what it was about, (something to do with ducks and a pond) but what I do remember is my mum sticking it to the kitchen cupboard for everyone to see. It was up there for years, and I found it embarrassing to say the least, but looking back it gave me more confidence in myself than any teacher ever has. My mum knew the importance of imagination, and also of literature.

It is fair to say that my reading taste at a young age was anything but dark, (although knowing that I found great pleasure in Enid Blytons middle class conservative world fills me with horror,) and it was around the age of ten when I discovered the world of dark fiction. Having read all my own books, and desperate for something new, I started browsing my mums bookshelves. Dickens, Shakespeare, Milton held no interest for me at that time, and then I came across a book of short stories by a man named Edgar Allen Poe.

Poe changed my entire concept of literature. It was no longer a safe warm place to spend an afternoon, it became a place of fear, excitement, repulsion, all those strong emotive reactions that Blyton could never provoke. What I loved the most about Poe's writing was that he could take a seemingly boring situation and make it sinister, not through action, but through his flair for descriptive writing. From this I moved onto stephen king and Dean Koontz (to name but two), and again I found description and characterisation to be what drew me into the stories.

During my teenage years I experimented more and more with small descriptive passages, always looking for new ways to show something. At sixteen, for my GCSE's I had to write a story on (and how boring is this!!) a sporting event. I spent half of the exam just sitting and staring at the paper; every now and again writing an opening sentence before scribbling it out. Then it hit me. Rather than writing about a whole event I could pick something small. Something I knew about (sport really wasn't my thing,) so I ended up with six or seven pages about swimming from one end of a pool to the other underwater. The feel of my lungs as they started to crave air, the burning sensation in my eyes from the chlorine... you get the idea. I got an A*

After that life sort of took over. I still wrote a bit but it was mostly poetry. My social life became all important and I was working long hours. Still, every now and again I'd finish reading a book and think to myself 'I could do that! Of only I had the time, I could write as good as King, or Koontz.'
Hahaha I'm not alone am I? How many of you are thinking about becoming writers and feel that the hardest part is the imagination involved?? And... how many of you (like me) now realise that it is a bloody difficult technical process even if you have the best imagination. Easy... My arse.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hello and welcome.

My name is Lisa Jenkins and I am a dark fiction writer from Swansea, South Wales. No! Please don't stop reading. Just because you prefer romance or comedy doesn't mean that this blog is not for you.

My main aim for this blog is to create a place where other potential writers can gain some insight into what it takes, technically and emotionally, to be a modern day writer.

What qualifies me to do this you may ask. If you type my name into a search engine you are unlikely to find any of my work, and that is because I have only recently had my first story accepted by a magazine and am still awaiting a publication date. What does qualify me is the journey I have taken to get to the point of publication: The problems I have faced, the advice I have received, and all the head-hairs I have ripped out in the process. There is a lot of good information out there for the new writer but you have to know where to find it, and how to distinguish it from the bad advice you will almost definately receive at some point.

Of course, in order to get this information, you will have to put up with whinging, ranting, and some (quite frankly) stupid comments. I am also hoping to get some of my better known writer friends on board, either for interviews, or to guest blog.

I am hoping this will become a fully interactive experience, so please join in with your comments or questions and let me know what topics you would like to see covered.

That's all for now. I will be posting again soon, and the next topic will be HOW I BECAME A WRITER: The Beginning. Duh, Duh, Duuuhhh