Hazel McHaffie

story telling

Please do not disturb

Today’s blog is for all you folk out there who asked for an insight into the everyday life of a jobbing writer. Yep, you know who you are. So relax; no challenging issues or troubling conundrums this week.

It has been absolutely roasting hot up here at night as well as by day, so sleep has been rather elusive. But hey, that’s had positive consequences. The old brain has had extra time to whir along, sorting, sifting, coming up with new ideas for the current book. Because yes, after the enforced break from serious writing to fulfill other responsibilities, I’m once more back in harness.¬† And better still, the story has now picked up a momentum of its own.

TypingOK, I created the characters originally, but they have now acquired birth certificates – passports even – of their own, and I’m simply taking dictation from them at a cracking pace. Watching and listening, wondering and exclaiming, as they go about their business and make decisions and interact. Smoke is leaking under the door of my study. Inside, the old word count is growing in a most gratifying way. I am not to be disturbed!

As you know I don’t do formulaic – against my principles. But aside from that, this book is completely different from all the others in several ways which is keeping me on my toes: Have I got the balance right? Will this be easily promoted? Is it clear what I’m trying to do? Are my characters distinctive enough? Its working title has already changed three times, which says something about the take-over bid Tonya, India and Chris have waged against me (it’s a three narrator story). They’ve hauled me into colourful and troubling situations already that require me to really think about my own values and prejudices and preconceptions. (Very good for the soul, a spot of heart-searching!) And enough to keep me awake irrespective of the temperature.

I never divulge details of a story whilst it’s in the development stage but I don’t think I’d be jinxing anything if I let you know that I’ve steered away from a concentration on anorexia to a much broader look at body image issues. And boy, has that opened up a can of worms – several actually! Whereas I was a bit ambivalent, now I’m getting excited about where this is taking me. I want to know what happens!

I really must get back to watching teenage India grappling with her deep-seated angst …



Ideas, ideas, ideas

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is: Where do you get your ideas from?

My problem is not finding ideas, it’s curbing the ones that keep flooding into my mind. A vivid imagination was always getting me into trouble as a child; it’s still operating in overdrive today. Just take my morning power walk; it’s a mine of potentially fascinating stories¬†(with due apologies to all my entirely innocent and God-fearing neighbours!).

Dense hedges



Several properties I pass are completely obscured from view by dense hedges …




Large house obscured by modern building


or new buildings …

I picture all kinds of dark and nefarious deeds happening, screened from public view.

Pretty but secluded house




Child's swing



A quiet middle-aged couple have kept themselves very much to themselves in this secluded neighbourhood for many years …




… then, one day a swing appears. Toys lie scattered on the grass. A young child is seen playing in the garden. She seems to be here to stay. Exactly who is this little girl? What frightening secret are the couple harbouring?







This dog scampers out of the undergrowth, tail wagging, something clenched in his teeth … what if it was … a human bone?! Police swarm everywhere, cordons fence off a nearby property, excavation begins …




Low road





This low road seems very secluded – innocent, hidden and rural ….



Road seen from modern bridge


… but at 5 in the morning an early jogger glancing through the designs of a modern bridge overhead gets a glimpse of a figure all in camouflage green dragging a heavy black sack into the bushes … There for a moment, gone the next.


Immaculate garden

 Who is the mystery person who tends this immaculate garden? No one is ever seen entering or leaving the house and yet there is never a leaf out of place …

Boarded up church


Places of worship seem to offer plenty of scope! What is the source of the evil smell emanating from this boarded up church?

Church gate left wide open






This religious building belonging to an exclusive sect is always locked and bolted … until one day, the gate stands wide open …no one is in sight … who has left the barricades unmanned? And why?





Converted church 



Who is the mysterious person who buys the top flat in the steeple of this converted church? Exactly what is she up to? Why does she creep about at dead of night? Strange packages start arriving for her – what do they contain?

Pretty cottage







Behind the pretty outside of this quaint little cottage what tragedy is unfolding …?


Haunted house






Exactly what happened to the disabled teenager who lived in this reputedly haunted house? There one day … not seen since …

Residential Home for the Elderly 



How come there were only 35 elderly residents accounted for when this residential home closed down? Where are the two the records show as still alive? And why is the building still lying derelict seven years after apparently being sold for redevelopment?





A new young florist opens up a shop in the town. She starts to win prizes, attract customers … stealing them away from the long established florist in the high street. Tensions escalate; bad things start to happen … who is responsible?

Every day, every experience, every encounter has potential. As you can see, even my regular morning constitutional in familiar territory gets the old grey cells whirring – although usually along more focused lines, I must admit. Add to that all the intrigues associated with infertility, assisted suicide, organ donation, gender issues, genetic disorders, illness, death, etc etc etc and wow! who needs to look further for ideas?

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