Giving Up Smoking: Eighteen Month Landmark

It’s that time again.  Anniversary, celebration. Eighteen months ago this weekend, I quit smoking after more than twenty-five years of complete dependence on cigarettes.  Often, I would chain smoke, going through five or more cigarettes an hour, and I always smoked through colds, chest infections and bouts of flu. Whenever I tried to give up on other occasions, I would find it impossible to get past the third day (the same happens with many smokers attempting to stop).

In the early days of quitting, I used a number of relaxation methods, including Progressive Muscle Relaxation devised by the late Edmund Jacobson, a psychiatrist and doctor, famous for telling the general public that they must relax (1934).  In PMR, the client or recipient tenses, then relaxes groups of muscles on the understanding that if tense muscle cause stress and vice versa, then the opposite must also be true – i.e. relaxed muscles lead to a calmer mind. 

I’ve also used Nicorette.  Smoking Cessation experts have varying opinions on the use of Nicorette.  Some recommend it, knowing that many people who give up smoking fall into the smoking trap again, usually after trying “just one” at a party or celebration.  So common. Keeping a regular supply of Nicorette helps in those circumstances.  Others disagree with the idea, arguing that people who want to give up smoking should quit cold turkey – i.e. just stop without relying on props, which in their view will only prolong the psychological difficulties associated with giving up smoking. 

Either way, the aim remains the same…abstinence from inhaling smoke in any form.


Portraying Grim Scene Setting In Fiction

Quite a challenge.  Too much scene setting, and the writing gets in the way of the story, causing the reader to skim over details. Too little, and the places mentioned in the story feels hollow. I think the answer lies in simplicity and in relating details directly from the character’s viewpoint so that the reader sees how the character engages with the environment around them.

In the novel I’m working on, the central character Gavin spends a week in an old house on a special summer course for musicians, close to a northern English coastal town. From the start, Gavin picks up on a sinister atmosphere and finds himself drawn into danger. In this part of the novel, I use a present day time frame:

The sky darkens when the bus gets closer to the coast and the temperature drops for May, reminding me of swooping seagulls and sand blowing about in the wind, the grits getting into my eyes.  A large sign reads: Lyme House, 1m.

The driver takes a left, away from the road to the House.

Lyme House, where I first met Lucy. A mile inland, tucked away in a private driveway hidden by trees and hedges. Mostly rich kids attended, but I got there on a scholarship, meals provided. From the start, I couldn’t understand why our hosts had chosen such a dismal town when they’d previously held classes at Lancaster University.

Approaching the High Street. Chain stores and ninety-nine pence  shops. The locals looked stressed.

The town’s deteriorated since I was last here, and it was pretty rundown then, especially around the pier. A property developer drew up plans for a new theatre/cinema/sports complex on the promenade, but the plans fell through after the fire. More shops have closed and everywhere seems dirtier than before. I can already taste and smell the pungent mixture of salt and seaweed, along with something like diesel in the sea.I don’t see many tourists.  Mostly kids in hoods hanging around the benches or summersaulting through the air on skateboards. The bus does a right. I spot an elderly lady on the sand, pulling a terrier along on a long lead, and a trio of young boys, about nine or ten, kicking a can around near the wall that separates the road from the shore. One final twist, and the bus reaches the central roundabout,  pulling up outside the Tourist Information Office. 


Teen Fiction/Young Adult Fiction/Thriller

Happy Fifth Birthday, Blog!

Five years ago, I hesitantly took on the challenge of blogging and I’ve been posting ever since, once or twice a week usually, although there have been a few delays recently.   I can’t really imagine life without the blog now.

Thanks to everyone who has read the site, and also many thanks to WordPress for providing this incredible publishing tool!

Here’s to five more years of blogging!