And now for something completely different…


Exciting times awaits, folks. The end of this month marks the one-year anniversary of NM’s Writers’ Bloq. Yessiree, consider me a blog pro! Well almost.

Anyhoo, so in honour of the anniversary, the month of March will see some new ‘developments.’

Firstly the Writers’ Bloq will play host to its very first Guest Blogger, so look out for that this coming Sunday.
And secondly…

I have a confession to make.

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I can remember. Yes, I know, that’s not really a confession and hardly a revelation, just let me continue…

When I nurtured dreams of being a writer as a young girl, I never, ever thought that I would be writing…. fiction.
How’s that? Surprised? I always saw myself writing articles and when it came to books, the only kinds I imagined myself publishing were textbooks and celebrity autobiographies (I’m being serious). Hey, I was young- I was allowed to dream big.
I only started dabbling in fiction writing about three years ago, hence my lack of confidence sometimes with regards to my stories.

Non-fiction, however, is what I consider my comfort zone. I’m not saying it’s easy, in fact, it can be just as difficult even with all the information at your disposal. I enjoy reading and writing it however so I’m hoping you would humour me in this regard.
See, I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog. I’m calling it History, Myths and Legends. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. There is already a category dedicated to this, as you can see on the side but I’ve decided to up the ante. If you are into historical events, true life mysteries and the supernatural then you’re in for a treat!!!

Once a month, I will dedicate one post to a famous legend, myth or piece of history with/without a supernatural twist. I can’t promise that they will have some literary link but I will try. Therefore to all my writer buddies, if this isn’t your cup of herbal tea, I do apologise. You will just have to wait for another one of my regular posts where I moan about editing. 😉
Also if you have a sensitive disposition and a natural aversion to the supernatural, I will understand if you make yourself scarce. I would hate to think I was the cause of nightmares or sleepless nights. I have affectionately abbreviated the feature to HML (not to be confused with the web-link abbreviation!) so you will recognise the article.

As usual, I would love to hear your thoughts about my new blog feature. My very first HML post will be next week : Spring-heeled Jack, the Scourge of England.
See ya then!

NM 🙂

The Most Famous Night in the History of Horror


In the summer of 1816, a couple holidayed with their friends at Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The man, Percy, despite being married to another woman, fell in love with a girl named Mary and the two lovers eloped to the Europe subcontinent together. They were joined at Lake Geneva by their friend Gordon and his personal physician John.

The Villa Diodati, near Lake Geneva. Image permitted courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Swiss summer that year was a wet one and one night, all four companions found themselves in front of a cozy fire in Gordon’s private villa. Outside, an angry tempest provided the perfect backdrop for the reading of ghost stories. Their reading list for the night consisted of various German stories from a book called ‘Tales Of The Dead’.
As the night progressed Gordon came up with an idea.

“We will each write a ghost story,” he suggested imperatively.
Thus began a competition to see who could come up with the scariest tale. The rest of their holiday seemed dedicated to this endeavour.

Percy started a story based on his childhood experiences but with his forte being poetry, he struggled with straightforward prose and failed to complete his tale. Gordon also failed to complete his story about a vampire and John’s efforts, constituting a “skull-like” ghost bride who takes revenge on her faithless groom, failed to impress and he was forced to abandon his creation as well (The good doctor was, however, very impressed with Gordon’s blood-sucking character and intended to write a novel based on this vampire, which he subsequently did).

18-year-old Mary struggled to produce anything at first.
But having recently suffered the loss of her first child and having to listen to discussions about galvanism between the 3 men, the Muses soon took over and Mary wrote a reanimation tale about a monster so chilling and macabre, that when she eventually submitted it to a publisher in 1817, they could not believe a woman wrote it.

Mary named her novella ‘The Modern Prometheus’ but later changed it.
Frankenstein, as it’s now known, is considered a classic masterpiece and according to some, gave birth to a new genre – science fiction.

As some of you have probably guessed, the characters in my little story above were none other than Mary Wolstoncraft Godwin, her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. John Polidori and Gordon was none other than Mr. Controversial himself- Lord Byron.

When I first read about this I was completely fascinated. I love reading about how authors got inspiration for their famous novels. But what made this event at Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati even more remarkable was that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was not the only horror classic that owes its existence to that historic night.

As I mentioned, John Polidori was very impressed with the vampire character that Byron had created. And even though the doctor’s story proved a flop, he later wrote a novel called ‘The Vampyre’ (1819) based on Byron’s creation.
The novel’s main character Lord Ruthven is considered by some websites and literary scholars to be the first aristocratic vampire in English fiction.
More than 70 years later, an Irish author named Abraham Stoker would write a ground-breaking novel whose main character is now deeply embedded in the psyche of popular culture. Stoker listed Lord Ruthven as inspiration for this very character. Few people I think would dare disagree with me if I said Dracula, even after a century, is still the most famous vampire novel ever written.

How is it that one night, one prompt from a competitive literary genius like Byron, one night spent by the fireplace could give birth to a horror classic and also indirectly inspire another?
This question intrigued me, so much so, that I went on a studious quest to recreate that memorable evening (in my head of course). Unfortunately, there are so many different versions of what happened that night in Lake Geneva and in the subsequent days and months that followed, that I almost became frustrated with the lack of consistency.
Luckily my copy of Frankenstein (OneWorldClassics) contained an Introduction written by Mary herself, chronicling (albeit vaguely) her experiences of that night (my little retelling at the beginning of this post is based on her account).

So what does it take to inspire a great horror novel? Or any great novel for that matter?

Is nature important? Atmospheric mood and the natural elements seem to have played a key part in Frankenstein. And the influence of Switzerland’s natural beauty is clearly evident in Mary Shelley’s writing.

Image of the original Frankenstein manuscript, with scribbles/outtakes by Percy Shelley

Maybe pedigree plays a part? Both Mary’s parents happened to be distinguished writers in their own right. Or just maybe that age-old advice about surrounding yourself with the right type of people rings true?
Percy Shelley and Lord Byron were both considered poetic geniuses. Byron had already played his part in the creation of Frankenstein by prompting the creativity in his friends, and Percy, not only proofread and edited the first draft of Frankenstein but also supported and encouraged his wife with her writing career up until his death(like any good literary husband should!).
Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors that results in the telling of a great ‘ghost’ story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from Mary herself. There was no doubt that she had talent and was hailed in even higher esteem than her husband and colleagues but inspiration has to come from somewhere. Something magical happened that night in Lake Geneva which cannot be explained.
If not, then is it just one big coincidence that two of the greatest horror novels ever written find themselves linked by a situation as innocuous as four friends sitting around a fire telling ghost stories? I leave you to decide for yourselves.

Whatever the case may be however, if you are a writer or in a creative profession, I hope inspiration comes to you, situations favour you and luck finds you in all your endeavours.

Happy writing!

NM 🙂

References:

– Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Author’s Introduction to the Standard Novels Edition. OneWorld Classics. 1818 (last ed. 2008).

John Polidori and the Vampyre Byron

Folkroots: Vampires in Folklore and Literature by Theodora Goss

One Lovely Blog Award


Sharon at FigmentsAndImagination has been awfully kind to me this month. She has nominated me once again for another award – The One Lovely Blog Award.
Thank you Sharon, you are just too sweet! If you guys are into poetry, go visit her at her blog for some bardic words of inspiration.

What’s great is that this blog award has no rules so I can pass it on to as many people as I want. Oh, wait, I don’t play by the rules anyway so this doesn’t matter, ha ha! 😉

Anyway, I’ve been checking out some great new blogs over the past couple of months and have decided to pass this award onto the following people. Though I must admit, I did wonder whether there was any point highlighting some of them, especially MJ and Lauren, whom EVERY WordPress blogger seems to be following! They are probably sick to death of receiving awards but hey, never mind, a little bit more acknowledgement wouldn’t hurt anyone. There is a reason these guys are popular, you know. So go check them out if you haven’t already…

MJ Monaghan
LScott
PoeticJourney
Day I started Reading
– Barb at Before Morning Breaks
As the Raven flies

Thanks guys for adding some much needed excitement to an aspiring writer’s dreary life. Keep those awesome posts coming… 😀

The Candle Lighter Award


Just as I was recovering from my Liebster Blog Award, I received another nomination, much to my surprise.

Thank you so much to blogger Sharon over at figmentsandimagination for awarding me the Candle Lighter Award. Guys, you must and go check out Sharon, a real humanitarian, who’s doing great work on the African continent and who really has an awesome blog.

I never heard of the Candle Lighter Award so I did some research and traced its origins back to a blog called Believe Anyway. Its blogger created the award for people who light a candle in the dark with their blog.

I really love the concept behind this award:

This award belongs to those who believe, who always survive the day and those who never stop dreaming; for those who cannot quit, for those who keep trying and if you’re in this category, you are Entitiled to this Award.

I found this so inspirational that I really couldn’t bring myself to single out anybody and leave others out. The above applies to all my blogger friends(you know who you are), so I am not going to pass this on to anyone in particular. Instead I dedicate this to you (YES YOU!), thank you for supporting me and remember to always keep that candle of hope burning brightly.
And thanks once again Sharon for your acknowledgement!

NM 🙂

Writers’ block on the Writers Bloq


There is a reason why this blog is called NM’s Writers Bloq (yes, that’s a q at the end, not a g!).

The dreaded disease had spread its big, black bat-like wings around me once again.

I have 3 stories patiently waiting to be completed. I usually like to work on more than one story at a time because if I hit a slump with one, then I can just switch to another without wasting any time. This being my supposed cure for writers’ block.  Sadly I recently hit a slump with all three at the same time. Talk about hard luck!

I’m very proud of my reaction to this however, as usually I get very depressed and start questioning myself and doubting my abilities (okay, this did happen too, but it only lasted like, a day!).

This time, instead of putting the focus on myself, I focused on the stories themselves. I decided to write, in journal-form, my thoughts and feelings about each story.  
I tapped into my subconscious and wrote, without any reservations, what I hated and what I liked about each story. And I got some surprising results.

For one story I realized that it was my attitude that was holding me back. I was so worried about what others might think that it prevented me from progressing with this story.
The second one was proving a chore and only after writing my feelings down, did I realize that it was only because I hadn’t done the necessary research I was suppose to initially, that I was lacking confidence with certain themes in the tale. I’m such a big fan of research. I’m always harping on about its importance yet for this story I seemed to put very little effort into it due to my laziness.
My third story was actually a result of a nightmare I had. The dream gave me the idea for the story but because the dream made no sense realistically, I wondered whether my reader would feel the same way about what I was writing. I also wondered whether my writing would do justice to what I thought was very, very scary.  Would the reader also find it scary or would they think it’s just stupid?

Who would have thought that writing down my thoughts and feelings would reveal so much? And without thinking too hard it also provided me with the answers as well. It was like Tom Riddle’s diary-Harry Potter writes a question on the page and an answer appears to him on the very same page. Except in my case the answers were benevolent, positive and very helpful. It helped me provide the solution to the unique problems I was having.

For the first story, I thought of famous authors who had written about the same themes or issues in their novels. I realized that they didn’t seem too bothered about what others might think, so why should I?  I’m happy to say that I’m almost finished with this story. 🙂
For the second tale, of course, it was obvious. Research, research, research. The more knowledge you have at your disposable, the more effortless and enjoyable your writing will be. Simple.
In number 3, I convinced myself, that if I found this story scary, then others might too. Hell, the fact that I refuse to work on this piece at night, has got to mean something!

All this took less than half an hour to do, yet it proved most invaluable. Self-help books always advocate writing down your general thoughts and feelings in a stream of consciousness. This form of stream of consciousness-writing works for any problem, trust me. My humble advice is: do this for your stories, your novel or any WIP that is lying stagnant.  You will be surprised at what is revealed to you.

As writers you would think that the most obvious thing to do if you have a problem is to write it down. Sometimes the most obvious things are the most elusive.

NM 🙂

NaNoWriMo? Is that a new type of IPad or something?


I have decided to take part in NaNoWriMo 2011……………….Ha! Ha! Gotchya!

Yeah right, like I have the discipline to pull that one off.
But I must admit that with every writer/blogger talking about National Novel Writing Month, I feel like a sad schoolboy, who doesn’t have the latest Playstation game all his classmates are talking about and therefore cannot get excited about it in the same way as his friends are. What I’m basically saying is that I feel decidedly ostracized and even considered, for a fraction of a second, to take part. Off course, I do know my limits and therefore exercised my better judgment.

Even though I’m not participating, I feel strangely motivated. With all the hype, it seems NaNoWriMo is having an indirect effect on me.Maybe it’s the thought of all those brave souls, who are deliberately putting their entire lives on hold – locking themselves in their houses, switching off their television sets, the internet and other social media for the entire month in an attempt to eliminate all distractions so they may undertake the admirable task of writing their novels in 30 days (strange how they find the time and means to blog about this though!). This has motivated me to work just a little bit harder on my own stuff. It’s an incredible lesson in discipline and it’s rubbing off on me. I seem to be winning a little-and I’m not even taking part!!

I have to confess that if I had not started blogging, I would never have known such a thing as National Novel Writing Month existed. Only when I did, did I realize what an incredibly small bubble I was living in. When I first heard the term “NaNoWriMo”, I thought it was some new piece of technology out on the market, like a new type of IPad or those Tablet PC thingies. I even delayed finding out what it was because I figured since I don’t even own a Kindle as yet, there was no way I would be able to afford a NaNoWriMo, which sounded very expensive.
Ah, the beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand, as Frank Herbert once said. My ignorance certainly has been betrayed since blogging, I won’t lie. That’s the purpose of ‘web-logging’ I suppose, to open up yourself to the world around you so you become less of an idiot.

So will I ever take part in NaNoWriMo in the future? Probably. Maybe. Nah, highly unlikely, maybe in my next life. But if you are taking part now, here’s a hearty good luck to you. I truly admire your spirit so go break a leg, or finger and remember to have some fun in the process. If possible…

NM 🙂

Part 2 – And the Versey goes to…


Yesterday I revealed 7 facts about me that you didn’t know. I have one more for you. I know exactly how Dorian Gray feels.
Why? Because this Saturday happens to be my birthday and I’m dreading every second that brings me closer to it. One year older and sillier rather than wiser, I think.

Anyways, in honour of my impending dotage and possible senility, I’ll be the one handing out the gifts in the form of a Versey to the bloggers who have had an impact on me since I started this blog in April.

I’ve customized my Awards (when have I ever done things the normal way?), so don your red carpet apparel on and let’s go…

Drum roll, please.

THE VERSEY OF INSPIRATION goes to…

Philip Bradbury
Whenever I feel low and demotivated, I can always count on Philip to pick me up again. Published author of no less than 9 books, his posts are very inspiring and just the boost every struggling writer needs to get going!

THE RODIN’S THINKING MAN AWARD goes to…

August McLaughlin
I love reading August’s thought-provoking posts which combines elements of writing, inspiration and psychology. I’m always left resting my chin on my hand, deep in thought, afterwards. Your levels of self-awareness will definitely go up a few notches after reading this blog.

THE MONTY PYTHON AWARD goes to…

The Wuc
If you tell me that there is a funnier blogger out there than the Wuc, I will not believe you.

THE MISS CONGENIALITY AWARD goes to…

Katy Hulme
I don’t know Katy personally but from my interactions with her over the Blogosphere, I can truly say, she is one of the nicest bloggers you’ll ever meet. And I think her popularity bears testimony to this.

THE HIGH ACHIEVER AWARD goes to…

Charlotte English
Charlotte has the distinction of being my first ever subscriber (although I don’t think she realizes this). She recently published her first novel Draykon- I noted her progress prior to this and it gives me warm fuzzy feelings to see a fellow writer do so well. She now also has her own website and Facebook page, way to go Charlotte!!

THE VERSEY OF CREATIVITY goes to…

Monique(Neeks) Give Neeks any 3 random words and she’ll create a story from it, using those words. Some of the words are pretty hectic and chosen by other people so you don’t expect much when a writer attempts this. But Neeks does a brilliant job and her stories are very enjoyable to say the least. An excellent concept with great results.

THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AWARDS goes to…

F Scribbles
F is a Kuwaiti who loves her music and who lived in the US for awhile. Her anecdotes on being Muslim and living in America are entertaining but also very refreshing and honest. There’s also a healthy dose of inspiration in there as well and off course, music. We need more people like her in the world, who can bridge the gap between East and West.

THE BOOKWORM’S BEST FRIEND AWARD goes to…

Becky
I only discovered Becky’s blog last week but I love her posts and her topics. We seem to have quite a bit in common so I look forward to her future posts.

And finally…
Just as the beautiful Ouroboros devours its own tail in accordance with the karmic cycles of life, I too, have decided to come full circle in order to repay the favour bestowed upon me. Therefore I award the

PORTRAIT OF A CLASSIC LADY AWARD to…

Louise Jaques
For being the best advocate for Classic Literature than anyone I know and well, just for being downright awesome!

Congratulations friends, on your Verseys, and thank you for inspiring me and helping me on my journey to becoming, not just the best writer I can be but also the best person I can be too!

NM 🙂

DAY 26 and 27 – Favourite fiction and non-fiction book


Favourite Fiction Book

I’m including 2 days in one again because I find Day 27’s favourite fiction book obsolete. If your favourite book ever, happens to be a novel like Hound of the Baskervilles, then it stands to reason that it would also be your favourite fiction book.

DAY 26 – Favourite Non-fiction book

Now here’s something you might not know about me. There was a stage in my life when I barely read any fictional novels. It wasn’t out of choice, I just seemed to be drawn to non-fiction books. Any book dealing with unsolved mysteries, history and legends was my weakness. I still have this inclination but it’s only in the last 3 years, ever since I started writing, that I rediscovered the joys of fiction books. I still prowl the history and esoteric sections of the library and bookstores however, so therefore choosing a favourite work of non-fiction is a bit of a challenge for me.

Holy Blood and Holy Grail by Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh is a book I quite enjoyed but it is somewhat erudite and tedious and I sometimes found it difficult to follow the authors’ arguments. I absolutely loved The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It’s about the cholera epidemic in London in 1854 and is a very exciting and well-written book.
There are many others I enjoyed, including all those Reader’s Digest’s coffee table-type books- Facts and Fallacies, Great Mysteries of the Past etc. But if I am absolutely forced to choose a winner here, then I’m going with The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow. I base my choice on my belief that it is the book with the least flaws in terms of dispensing of information.

The Complete Jack the Ripper is by far the best book ever written on the Ripper mystery-I should know, I’ve read a lot of them!

It seems pretty evident that nobody knows more about the famous murders than Rumbelow. Every single person ever considered as a suspect (and there were many of them) is mentioned in his book and each suspect’s case is carefully considered and argued brilliantly. Ironically the one problem with Rumbelow’s work happens to be the one thing that also sets it apart from the other Ripper books. He makes no real effort to provide his take on the mystery whereas all the other books always seem in favour of at least one suspect. He keeps absolutely mum about his own suspicions which can be a difficult thing to do for a non-fiction writer. He lays out the suspects before you as if in a line-up (he does however place slightly more emphasis on the more popular candidates) and traces each one’s movements during the time of each killing.

Rumbelow’s aim is clearly for you to make up your own mind but in the end you are left more confused as to the Ripper’s identity than ever before. Maybe the brilliance of this book lies in this fact, which is probably why I love it so much. Too often you find the thoughts and opinions of an author filtering through what is supposed to be an objective piece of work.

There is another reason I love this book. If you’re a fan of Victorian Literature like me (especially Dickens), you will find Rumbelow’s mouthwatering depiction of London in 1888 to die for! Trust me, if you read it, you’ll be tempted to write a Victorian murder mystery. Sometimes the best stories for inspiration really are the true life ones!

NM 🙂

Day 10 and Day 11 of 30-day Book Challenge


Okay I’m breaking the rules here and including two days in one, for the simple reason that I don’t think a single post for each of the below is necessary.

Book that changed my life?

I thought long and hard about this and the truth is, there is no single book that has changed my life. Every book I have ever read has influenced me or my writing in some way or the other. Unless its absolute crap off course. But then, even The Ghosts of Sleath made an impact on me that was monumental.

Favourite Book from your favourite author?

My answer to this I have already covered in Day 1. Arthur Conan Doyle is my favourite author and it stands to reason that my favourite book of his would be Hound of the Baskervilles.

So its two for the price of one- sometimes a bargain means a compromise in quality. Sorry!

NM 🙂

Ps. for the full list of the 30-day Book Challenge click here.

Day 2 – Least Favourite Book


I’m dreading this but it has to be done.

There are too many ‘least favourites’ to name but I will draw your attention to two books.

The Ghosts Of Sleath by James Herbert will always hold a very special place in my heart. Not because I liked it, oh hell no! I absolutely hated it; I found it torturous to read. Ironically I feel very indebted to this novel, simply because it ignited a spark and woke up the dormant writer in me.
As I read it, it made me sigh with frustration so many times I just thought (without trying to sound arrogant) I’m sure I can do better than this. And that’s when I picked up a pen and paper, 8 years after squashing my dream of being a journalist. So the Ghosts Of Sleath actually inspired me but unfortunately not in a way the author would have hoped.

So strange, yet so true.

Another book I was terribly disappointed with was one I read recently: Disgrace by JM Coetzee.
Maybe it’s because I feel embarrassed after I bigged him up in one of my previous posts that my disillusionment with this book is more pronounced. The fact that it was a Booker Prize winner makes it worse. Having read this novella, I now have some doubts as to the credibility of the Booker Prize.
Anyways, award-winning or not, I didn’t learn a bloody thing from this book, apart from the fact that if you’re a young woman in South Africa, living alone on an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere with very little security is not exactly the smartest thing to do. You don’t need someone from Mensa to tell you this.
The ending was also a big letdown. That’s if you can call it an ending. I kept flipping and turning the last few pages, wondering what happened to the rest of the book.

Okay I think I’ll stop ranting now. I have now made my peace with Disgrace. I look forward to Monday’s post. Laughter, they say, is always the best medicine.

NM 🙂