Monthly Archives: August 2014

Thrift Shop/Charity Shop/Bootsale Haul

Hullo thar!

So one of my hobbies is, basically, buying old things.

Yeurp, I’m one of those retro/vintage junkies who can’t help collecting bits and pieces from the past. Mostly, I’m into furniture and kitchen pieces, rather than, say, fashion and jewellery. I’ve never considered myself much of a canvas so I prefer to fill my flat with second-hand things and surround myself with interesting pieces rather than necessarily be a walking clothes rack.

Thrift shopping is THE best fun in the world, if you do it right. Too many people, in my humble opinion, abuse the fine art of bargain hunting by waltzing into an “antique shop” or “vintage store” and paying whopping prices. Granted, if you can afford it, go for it – but where’s the fun in paying full price? Personally, I always avoid shops like that – if they know the beauty of what they have, they’ll charge for it – and they’ll undoubtedly charge too much. 

For me, the real fun is hunting for bargains, and finding hidden gems. The best places to go are good old fashioned charity shops – or thrift stores in the USA – second hand shops and bootsales/yard sales. Ebay and Etsy are all good, but remember, if it’s really special then the chances are the seller will have reserves, or the buyers will bid the price right up.

I’ve got hundreds of vintage things – recently, I developed a crazy passion for Chance Glass, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Pics will come!

But for now, I’ll post a few pictures of some of my most recent buys, just to give you guys a little glimpse into my life. 

pricekensington

I recently bought these from a bootsale on a windy Sunday morning, and I was so excited to bring them home. I’ve seen all of these things up for whopping prices before – I’ve seen poorer examples of the sewing box selling for £18-£26, for instance.

The Price Kensington cookie jar is actually something I used to think was hideous – it was a jar I seemed to see in every house harping back to my childhood, and I couldn’t seem to get away from them. Then, for some reason, I decided they were a timeless piece – even though they’re undoubtedly the junky brick-a-brac of their day. Timeless or not, I fell in love with it, and I needed it in my life. I paid £3.

The “fashion shape” gravy boat is just the most beautiful thing, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s 1950s and I use it every chance I get. I paid £2 for it.

The sewing box was amidst a bunch of old tools and other junk on some guy’s table. He sold it to me for just £2.

The plate rack now holds my beautiful J&G Meakin bowls and plates – a dinner service that I’m still building up – and I think I paid £1.50 for it.

Those velvet curtains in the background were purchased for about £17 at a bootsale a year or more ago, before I moved in to my flat. They’re perfect for my huge Victorian windows, and believe me, buying curtains brand new for windows that size would’ve set me back over £100 easily.

chest

A few months ago I went through a “MUST HAVE G-PLAN 70s FURNITURE!” phase and decided I needed to give upcycling  a try after watching too much Kirsty Allsopp. I don’t think it’s a real G-plan chest, but one rainy day, when I set out to find a chest of drawers, I found it – what a weird stroke of luck. It was raining, too, so I didn’t hold out much hope, but there it was. I bought it for £7 and painted it myself. Not everbody’s colour tastes, but hey-ho.

That’s a fake PK cookie jar, btw, which I had before I found a genuine one. I now use it to hold tea bags along with my Sadler mexican coffee bean guy. That sweetie jar was given to me by my mum, the best thrifter in the west. It’s pretty old, but I’m not sure how old. Around 1940s, I think.

formica

This is my beloved yellow Formica table. It isn’t a dop-leaf, but it is beautiful and it is MIIIIINE, ALL MIIIINE! I found this at my favourite furniture shop, Sue Ryder, and it was up for £20. We happened to drive by and I noticed it outside, beckoning me. I knocked them down to £10 and took it home that minute.

You can’t see them very well, but those glasses are Dandy characters from 1989, which I bought from Fairhavens for £2.

kitchen

This is just a little shelf I found in Sue Ryder for £2 and painted white. Those mini casseroles were from my mum – she also gave me two larger ones and a massive crock – so I didn’t pay for those. The picnic tin is, I reckon, probably 1960s? It’s an amazing little bit of kit with a spring top. My mother also gave me that – or rather, like most things from my mum, I nicked it!

teacup

I have the whole set of this – it’s an absolutely gorgeous tea set. It’s either 50s or 60s, I’m guessing. I bought this at a bootsale, along with about five pieces of Chance glass nibbles-plates for £8 in total.

tunbridge

This is an absolutely beautiful Tunbridge cabinet that I bought from Sue Ryder for £45. It was £55, but I bought something else with it (to follow!) and managed to combine delivery charges with it, so that’s what it worked out as. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s empty here because I’d only just got it, but now it’s full of 50s pink elephant cocktail glasses and cake stands. I also have a 70s Expelair fan sitting on top because we’ve had so much heat this summer. This cabinet goes for a few hundred quid, so I got a major bargain. It even has a Formica top.

I bought  this when I was obsessed recently with getting myself a bar, like Delboy’s in Only Fools and Horses. I didn’t have space for one, but I DID have space for a cocktail cabinet. It even plugs in and lights up. I wanted a pineapple ice bucket for it, but my finacé drew the line, there, hahaha. I settled for a mini Crystal D’arques ice bucket bought for £2 at Fairhavens instead.

beresfordhicks

This is the corner cabinet I bought with the Tunbridge cocktail cabinet. It was £15, but I knocked them down to £10 and very cheekily asked if they could include postage in the price. I NEARLY got told to clear off – but the saleswoman went soft on me in the end. So, after haggling, I paid just £65 including delivery for what WOULD have cost me £80 if I’d paid the asking prices and the delivery.

I’d planned to paint this white, but decided that I loved the flame patterns in the wood.

Even better? On its arrival, I discovered it was actually a Beresford & Hicks cabinet. One of these, painted white – or “upcycled” – went for £180 on Ebay in MY TOWN! I just couldn’t believe my luck. It now holds my TAMS tea set, the tea set above, and most of my Chance glass in the cabinet section. On the shelves I have some kooky 50s ceramics. I adore it.

30stray

Lastly but certainly not least, I bought this lovely lot yesterday. It’s an art deco 1930s dressing table set, in the most beautiful design, “Kiralpo”, by Keeling & Co. I bought this at a bootsale for £4 and it now holds my junk jewellery and a silver vanity set, on my 1960s Louis-style dressing table, of course! I *think* it’s 1930s, but it actually could be earlier.

That little gold compact doesn’t have a makers mark that I can see. However, it is engraved with the initials “A V” and the date, 10. 4. 47. I’d love to know the story behind this, and I wished I’d asked the seller if he knew, but I got the impression he didn’t. It includes a mesh powder section with a spring-lid and a perfect mirror inside. The little powder-sponge is embroidered with the words “Angel face”, which was just too adorable not to buy. I paid £2 for it.

So, there we are. Those are just a few things I’ve bought recently, though I could talk for ever about all the other quirky bits and pieces I’ve filled my flat with. 

My obsession with old bits ‘n’ bobs definitely stems from my upbringing, because I think my mum and I share this sense of belonging amongst pre-loved things with plenty of history behind them. Growing up, I always joked that our house was like Steptoe and Son’s, but it looks like she’s passed the baton to me.

I remember buying a knitted owl for 10p at a church bootsale as a child, purely because the seller had asked me, “Do you want to take him home for 10p?” It was a hideous toy, but I felt so sorry for it that I couldn’t walk away. Somebody had loved him once, and, after all, the seller had said “him”. You can’t go around personifying inanimate objects and expect me not to become attached! You just can’t! 

And, thus, another thrifter was born.

Do you love thrifting? Let me know in the comments!

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In other news, I just returned from a gorgeous camping trip in Devon, and I miss the fresh air already. It’s back to my transcribing work tomorrow, and luckily I’d built up enough work before my week away to make up for the lost time. I’ve already gone and bought a gorgeous pair of pink wellies, so I shouldn’t imagine it’ll be long before me and my fiancé are off camping again. We’ve certainly caught the camping bug.

The Writer’s Own Slushpile

The hardest thing about being a novelist is learning that your first novel will probably be shit.

So will the second.

By the third, you might have learned a trick or two. You’ve read tons more books since the first and you have a new respect for pacing. The first novel gave you more confidence knocks than you ever thought you could handle, and by the second novel, you’ve finally realised that you really, really aren’t that special little snowflake. Going unpublished is something that DOES happen to you – not just everyone else. By the third, you realise that you’re writing because you love writing, and no matter what happens, that IS precious to you.

Even if it hurts to go unpublished yet again.

This road is long and you’re walking it with everyone else, pulling your manuscripts along in a little kiddy cart behind you. Some peoples’ piles are higher than yours. For others, their wheels are wobbling off. Some people have to keep re-attaching the handle because it just keeps slipping and the bolt never did fit properly.

Others are sick of dragging the cart around, so they think ‘Fuck this shit!’ and they flat-out boot it into a ravine and storm off without it. They’re going to focus on their day job because at least it pays.

 

I am on my seventh manuscript.

That’s not including the countless short stories I’ve written over the years since I decided, at age 18, that I was going to take this writing malarkey seriously. I sold a good few short stories to some terrible markets, for basically pennies, and most of those places ended up closing down on account of them being shite, and my stories being shite, and it all just being shite, really.

But later, I made some professional sales. I sold a short story to Mischief Books, a Harper Collins imprint, and was paid £75. For a 2,000 – 3,000 word short story, that wasn’t too bad.

But I wanted to be a novelist. I still do. And you know what? I am. I’m just unpublished so far, and that is NORMAL. I just have my very own slush pile to work through, and I am a very, very busy woman.

The problem with the slush pile is that you’ve got this backlog of work, which you’ll recall as being terrible one day and amazing on another. You’ll read snippets and burst with pride. You’ll read other snippets and wonder what the heck you were on about.

But mostly, you’ll still burst with pride. I do, and that’s what’s most confusing – because you’re forever left with this question in your mind: why not me?

There is never, ever any way of telling if you’re actually good at this stuff. There just isn’t. You can read as many novels as you like, and coo over Margaret Atwood and even accept that you’ll never, ever hold a candle to her – but it’ll  never reveal a single thing about yourself and your ability as a writer.

You have a slush pile, but you are no agent. You’re just a writer. You can’t see between the lines like they do.

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The worst part, of course, is ALWAYS the editing.

Right now, I’m working through my three YA novels (two of the others are the terrible first two novels; the third an adult Gothic horror; the fourth a novella) and it’s like staring at a mile-high  junk yard. Somewhere inside it are all the parts to build a Ferrari – except I don’t know what a Ferrari looks like under the bonnet, and I don’t know how the heck to build one anyway.

Doesn’t stop me wanting to drive one though, ’cause y’know…I reckon I’d look good in it.

That is a terrible, rubbish, awful analogy. I can’t even drive.

OH Christ, you get the picture. Use your imagination – you’re an author, aren’t you?! AREN’T YOU?!

Editing. Urgh.

I finished my first run-through of editing and re-reading my latest novel, Beyond (previously “Prom Spirit” was the working title, just ’cause). It finished up at 80,800 words -ish.

It wasn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good, either. During the writing process, when you’re all obsessed with the new story and it basically consumed your daily life, it’s easy to just think “This is the best thing I’ve ever written.” I did this. I convinced myself this was the  book to end all books. I do this with EVERY book I write.

At its heart, Beyond is just a simple story of two lost souls figuring out how to let go of their past lives.

In essence, I still love it. But once I’ve finished writing and I’m left twiddling my thumbs, that’s when the doubt sets in. I start telling myself it’s frankly terrible and I’ve just wasted time on this thing – just like ALL  my other novels. Honestly? I think it’s just part of finishing a novel. You fall in love, you doubt it, you despise it, you fall in love again. Swings and roundabouts.

So now it’ll go off to my fiancé, who actually works as a technical editor, so he has a great eye for detail. He’ll (hopefully) pick out any clumsy phases and grammar/spelling mistakes that went under my radar, of which there will be loads. Loads and loads. Too many.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t really read YA. That makes me nervous, because although he’s always very encouraging about my work, it does make me wonder if he really gets it or even likes it for what it is. Naturally, he *loves* everything I write and thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But if somebody doesn’t normally read YA, they won’t know what I’m up against. He also could just be saying he loves it when really, he thinks it’s a pile of cringe-worthy crap.

Those are my fears, anyway. He vehemently denies it. We’ll see.

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I finished reading Under The Never Sky and absolutely ADORED it. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads and a nice little review. Currently I’m reading Hush, Hush by Rebecca Fitzpatrick, which is a novel I’ve always been curious about seeing as it has, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and dramatic covers I’ve eve come across. I’ve also never read a fallen angels novel, and they seem to have been flavour of the month for, well, a lot of months…

Anyway, after that, I plan on reading the next book, Through The Ever Night on my camping trip, which is in a week’s time. Yippeee! Let’s hope the weather keeps up. How much do you bet I get stung  by a horrible, horrible, horrible wasp?

New WIP completed!!

YAY!

 

Yesterday, I finished my romantic ghost story at 78,000 words. I’m hoping by the time I’ve gone through the first draft and started my first go of edits, it’ll end up at a round 80k – just because. If the story doesn’t demand it, then I won’t worry about it so much.

My working title was originally “Prom Spirit”, because it’s about a girl who dies on prom night and ends up in limbo, where she meets Zachary, a boy who died on his prom night in the 80s. So, those two words just kinda made sense.

I’m now working with the title “Beyond”, because that’s what these guys are searching for – the path to whatever is beyond limbo, the bleak, grey world between life and death.

 

So here’s loosely what it’s about. I’ve only just completed the first draft, so forgive me if this seems a bit rusty (and it will!):

About our characters:

Our main gal, 16 year old Jamie, is battling with the loss of her own life, and dealing with the betrayal of her best friend, all from beyond the grave. When she glimpses her loved ones’ future, she is terrified that her death will set them all on the wrong paths; will her sister give up ballet and become a shrinking violet? Will her best friend end up in an unhappy relationship with Jamie’s ex, Ted? Will her parents ruin their marriage? Jamie decides she can’t let that happen – not if she has the power to set things right. Jamie must tread the fine line between ‘just visiting’…and haunting.

Zachary, a moody yet sentimental dancer, is hiding a dark secret about his death and the circumstances surrounding it. With nobody to confide in and all his resentment bottled up inside, he has lived alone in limbo for 29 years, refusing to make peace with his past and all the memories that haunt him. Zachary doesn’t do haunting; he lives in the now, and that’s how he likes it. Until Jamie comes along, that is, and turns all his stubborn ways and everything he’d grown to understand on its head.

Jamie knows they need to work together, because – duh! – she’s see the film Ghost and knows how these afterlife deals work. It’s Zachary that’s the problem – all he wants is somebody to dance with, and she wants to crack on with the haunting. They can’t faff around with flying mopeds and dancing ghosts; joy amongst death is impossible. Besides, Zachary is keeping something from her, and falling for somebody you can’t trust is dangerous…even if he’s the last ghost on earth.

 

About their world:

Limbo, the world Jamie and Zachary inhabit as ghosts, is their own town – but it’s cold, isolated and deserted. The sun shines, but there is no warmth; the flowers bloom, but their petals hold no colour. Their world is a cool shade of grey, surrounded by an eerie, mysterious green aura. If they ever hope to see the world in all its beauty again, they must make peace with their life on earth.

That is, if they can dodge the lightning. With every visit made to a loved one, a storm brews. If Jamie can’t keep herself from the land of the living, then she might just get stuck there; separating her from Zachary and whatever lies beyond for good.

It’s a fine line they’re treading. On one hand they’ve got a whole world to themselves; a world where their imaginations rule and almost anything is possible. On the other, they have a duty to discover what their unfinished business is to earn their passage to the afterlife – if there even is one!

Jamie discovers that it isn’t so easy to let go and forget, and while she’s doing unimaginable things in Limbo, her loved ones in The Living are falling apart.

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So that’s the premise, in a nut shell. I always find it incredibly difficult to condense the story into some kind of blurb or teaser that people just read and instantly understand. I tend to over-think things, start rambling, and lose sight of the key facts. /sigh

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to start editing soon, get this thing beta read, and then work towards getting the manuscript as polished as I can. Not bad for my  seventh completed book! That’s right, seven – of which only about three or four are any good for publishing, in my opinion. Actually, probably everybody’s opinion. D:

So if you’re reading this and you’d like to be a beta reader for my contemporary/spooky tale, please contact me! I need you! 🙂