Thursday, 23 January 2014

Hare today, Hare tomorrow

On Monday, I confused my friends by telling them I was taking my hare to the gallery. "Why is Helen taking her hair to the art gallery?" they wondered. : ) They heard the word 'hair'.

Harry the Hare, or 'a rabbit for blokes' as the gallery director called him, is my latest paper-mache creation.

Over the years, I've tried many methods of making the armature (skeleton). I've tried:
chicken wire - strong and quick, but hard work (with my disability),
balloons - slow and yields weird shapes not really suitable for animals,
rolled up newspaper in the style of Dan the Monster Man and
cardboard and wire in the style of Jonni Good

Harry has a Jonni Good style armature. I used wire in the ears and the spine to allow some movement in the final piece.

All was going well ... I left Harry sitting on the boiler one night, waiting for his back legs and hips to dry.

 Oh dear, when I saw him in the morning, he'd sagged. His back legs had splayed and his spine had buckled. The mache mixture I used was old and hadn't set. So much for short cuts.

Since time was pressing, I used modroc to hold him together, and soon he was looking good as new.

Once I was happy with his shape, I coated him in newspaper and PVA.

His top layer was done with acrylic medium and burnt umber paint. Normally, if I have no time limit, I coat my creatures in paper clay (see later blogs about how I make this). However, the date for admission to the exhibition at the Beetroot Tree Gallery was sooner than I realised.

The acrylic coat worked well.
It's water resistant and easy to 'comb' into fur with a toothbrush.

Now, Harry and his friend Scaredy Cat (made last summer) await their public. I'm looking forward to the preview on Sunday evening. I just hope both creatures behave themselves.

Monday, 13 January 2014

the circle continues...

The writer circle continues with Ruth de Haas.

Ruth is a fellow member of Scribes, a writing group based in Derby and also a fellow Swanwicker (Swanwick Writers' Summer School)

Ruth de Haas (nee Connelly) was born and raised in Southampton and read Ancient History at Balliol College, Oxford. Since then she has held a variety of jobs including selling vacuum cleaners in John Lewis and writing questions for the Weakest Link. In 2006 she moved to Derby to join the Rolls-Royce graduate scheme (aero engines, not cars), where she met a handsome rock climber in the pub one night and hasn't looked back. She now lives with her husband (that rock climber) in an excitingly crumbling Edwardian house, and works as a project manager when she isn't writing novels and blog posts. She has completed one fantasy novel, The Heartland of the Winter, a coming-of-age story which explores the impact of a harsh climate on the individual and society. It's currently under submission with publishers, awaiting that three-book deal. In the meantime, she's working on another novel, Forever 27, a magic realist tale of sex and death and drugs and magic and rock 'n' roll, inspired by the '27 club' of famous musicians who have died at that age. Her hobbies include yoga, listening to loud music, and following the (mis)fortunes of the England cricket team.

Monday, 6 January 2014

I've been asked to take part in a blog chain in which I have to answer four questions and send those questions to someone else:

What am I working on?
I've just self published the second book in my fantasy trilogy ‘Taranor’ and am busy getting on with the third. I’m also tidying up a stage play to be assessed for production this year and waiting to hear from an agent who is reading my autobiographical adventure novel.

How does my work differ from others?
This is quite a tricky question.  All true-life adventure writers concern themselves with exotic places, illness and risk.  My castaway tale is no different in that respect. What made my experience truly epic was the thread of emotional turmoil that runs through the narrative like a stick of rock. I spent my days trying to stay alive whilst wondering if I might be pregnant (not such a good place to form an embryo) and struggling to cope with the recent loss of my mother. This makes the story more than a travel novel: it involves an emotional journey as well as a physical one.
With my fantasy writing, I like to bring in some meaty issues alongside the Faeries and Goblins. The Taranor series explores themes of racism, poverty and the misuse of power.

Why do I write what I write?
 In the early 90’s, I developed a chronic, incurable neuro-muscular disorder and consequently lost my job. For the last twenty odd years this painful condition has placed severe limits on my day-to-day activity, my ability to travel, and my social life. I began to write my castaway adventure in an attempt to escape my pain. It worked. Writing has since become a passion. I love the process of creating characters and living many lives. In my imagination I can go anywhere and be anyone. My body may be in trouble, but in my mind I am free.

How does my writing process work?
I carry a notebook everywhere I go, and jot down ideas whenever they come to me.  Once I know where I'm going with a story, I write the first few drafts in long hand, or, if I can’t manage that, I use a Dictaphone.  Then, when I have something worth saving, I speak into my computer using Dragon voice software.
Editing and proofing is more difficult, since it involves the use of the keyboard.  To get round this, I often print out a whole chapter, correct it with a brightly coloured pen (I love stationery) and then speak the corrections into the computer. I would recommend this whether you have chronic pain or not. I find I can pick up more errors when I see the words on a page.

The fantasy trilogy is co-authored with John Raybould.  We plot the story together, but write separately. We meet up regularly to keep our story lines in synch.

Thanks to Keith Havers for inviting me to do this. Keith is a witty and refreshing author, specialising in writing for women's magazines and for children.