Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy days


We're well and truly snowed in at the moment (third day running, I think I've forgotten how to drive) so no excuse for not writing. This does count doesn't it?

It's the sort of weather I remember having to walk three miles to school in during Northern winters, when I were a lass, the snowdrifts nearly up to me neck. (Well I'm only little and I was even littler then.) It doesn't happen often round here and I've happily gallivanted through frozen fields with Molly and negotiated knee-deep snow to get to the nearest village shop, but the novelty's wearing off.

It's all got a bit Victorian, what with the power going on and off and running out of basics like bread and semi-skimmed. If only you could milk a dog and power a computer with candles.

It's added a festive feel to things though - putting up the tree with soft flakes falling past the window made me feel rather whimsical, but I'm hoping it's gone by tomorrow. I've still got Christmas shopping to do, and at least three of us need to go to work. I haven't seen Teen Son 1 since last Thursday. He was staying with a friend and couldn't get home - still can't. He must need a change of pants by now.

If I don't get back on here in the meantime, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, say thanks for reading and being so wonderfully supportive all year and wish you all the very best for 2010.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Back in the Real World


I daren't keep dwelling on the Lovely Thing that has happened. Even though I've now met Lovely Agent, who is every bit as lovely as I'd imagined and has said lovely things and has even sent me a lovely Christmas card. I'm just too scared of jinxing it all.

My inner reality checker has finally put in an appearance - I'm surprised she left it this long. Agnes I call her (though she prefers "Madam"). Formidable woman with terrible taste in shoes. Uses lots of lacquer to stop her hair doing something unexpected. She's a terrible party-pooper. "There's a long way to go yet Missy, so don't go getting Ideas," she keeps saying, wagging a finger.

I don't like her, but she has a point. Although scooping up teenage-boy-pants and feeding them into the washing machine every day is good for keeping one grounded, I find.

In the meantime I'm trying to focus on novel 2 (when I'm not doing the washing and arguing with Agnes) and putting off the dreaded moment when I have to once again untangle the Christmas tree lights and wrestle them into submission.

Mince pie anyone?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas comes early



A few hours ago I signed on the dotted line, so I guess it must be true.

I have an agent.

A real one, with teeth and hair and fingers and everything.

I daren't say any more in case it turns out to be a freakish mistake, but inside I'm marching along to a brass band with my pants on my head, singing "When the Saints Go Marching In ..."

Heaven knows why. They're not even my best pants.

Just wanted to let you all know, and make it a bit more real.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shady lady


A customer sidled up to me in the library looking shifty and asked if I could help her look for a book.

Judging by her hushed tones, flushed cheeks and the nervous glances she kept flinging over her shoulder I assumed she was looking for information of an "intimate nature" - a book about piles perhaps, or something ingrowing. Unless she was on the run from the police and wanting a place to hide.

Or looking for our adult literacy collection. People are often embarrassed about admitting they don't, or can't, read very well.

Just in case, I adopted my most helpful expression (think therapist with a hint of favourite auntie - but stunningly attractive.) After a recent similar request I ended up in a long and hushed but illuminating discussion about autism with a lovely grandma looking for books on the subject after her grandson was diagnosed.

Imagine the sense of anti-climax when she asked in a whisper if we had Jordan/Katie Price's latest autobiography - "the one since the divorce." If not, what about the "style" book?

I try not to judge people on their reading tastes. Whatever roasts your chestnuts as they say. Oh, apart from those people who read pile after pile of "True Crime - The Bloodier and More Gory and Gut-Churning the Better." I do worry a little about those people.

It's interesting that the customer sounded ashamed though. I half expected her to ask for a plain paper bag to put it in, and whether we kept our copies under the counter.

As it happened, all Jordan/Katie Price's books were out on loan. Even the "novels."

She's ruddy popular, damn her.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Onwards


Well, the novel is Out There in the big wide world and to stop myself obsessing about how it's getting on I've made myself start a new one. It feels weird, getting to know a new set of characters, but the idea leapt out at me on one of my dog walks and demanded to be written. I'm enjoying it so far, but keep getting distracted by things going wrong in the house. Mice behind the bath panel making a horrid smell - that sort of thing. I'm resigned to the fact that we'll never be critter-free living where we do, but I suppose it's a small price to pay for being in the country and having lovely walks and views all round.

Elsewhere the lovely Colette has awarded me a ... well a lovely award, quite frankly. Made my day it did and the rules state I must pass it on, which threw me into a frenzy of indecision. I've decided TomFoolery deserves it for (among other things) her envy-inducing photography. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Away with the fairies



Over on Trashionista Anne Rice has declared that angels are set to be the new vampires, and the new trend in literature - good news for anyone currently writing about them.

It got me thinking whether there's anything that hasn't been big in fiction yet.

We've already had werewolves, vampires, ghosts, wizards, witches, zombies, mermaids, and all manner of mythical creatures. Oh, and humans. There can't be anywhere else to go, can there?

I rather like stories where common themes are explored from unusual or fantastical angles, providing they're made believable; the woman who's now a ghost trying to find love, the man who falls to earth and learns how to be human (Starman anyone?) The husband who comes back as a dog like the one in James Herbert's novel Fluke, and if they're funny even better.

Werewolves and zombies don't do it for me I'm afraid, but what about superpowers? I don't think they've been done before - in films yes, but not in women's novels. What about a woman who can make herself invisible, or warp reality, or change form or ... manipulate the weather (don't knock it. I'd love to be able to make it sunny every day!) Hmmm, food for thought ...

Anyway, if Angels are the new Vampires, I'd like to put in a shout for Fairies as the new Werewolves.

You read it here first, Anne.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cally Taylor Guest Post: Writing Highlights

In case you didn't know (;o)) Cally Taylor is the lovely (I've met her!) and talented author of Heaven Can Wait, published by Orion last week, and as part of her virtual blog tour has kindly stopped by to detail her amazing writing highlights of the past year. Over to you Cally ...

When Karen asked me to write a guest post about my writing highlights I didn’t know where to begin. I was temporarily flummoxed until a small voice in my head said, “Duh, the beginning would be a good place!” but let’s start with an introduction. My name is Cally Taylor, I’m the author of a supernatural romantic-comedy called “Heaven Can Wait” and the last year has been the most exciting one of my life.

It all started in September 2008 when I received a phone call from Madeleine Buston at the Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Maddie told me she’d been given my novel to read by Darley and she’d loved it so much she wanted to represent me and be my agent. When the conversation ended I put the phone down and promptly burst into tears. I’d only ever shown the first five chapters to a few other people (some of the Women’s Fiction writers in http://www.writewords.org.uk/) and had no idea if the completed novel was any good. Darley and Maddie were the only people, other than me, that had read my novel all the way through and the fact they wanted to represent me melted away months of worry, self-doubt and fear.

Signing the contract, which arrived a few days later, was such a surreal experience I actually took a photo of myself doing it! A couple of weeks after that Maddie invited me out for lunch and I met her at the Darley Anderson Agency. I’d always wondered what a literary agents offices were like and walking into Estelle House was like entering a forbidden world. I kept expecting a policeman to grab me by the arm and go “Oi! Published authors only. Out!” It was amazing though – I’d never seen so many books and piles of manuscripts in one place. They even used books to prop up their computer monitors. It was book heaven!

I was still floating around in a little bubble of joy that I’d got an agent when Maddie phoned me in October to tell me that four UK publishers had shown an interest in my novel. I was gobsmacked. I knew it was hard to get one editor interested, never mind four, and couldn’t believe we were in a position where we got to choose. Although I’d have been happy to have my book published by any one of the four I did have a favourite and was absolutely delighted when Maddie confirmed, a couple of days later, that Orion (publishers of Ian Rankin, Maeve Binchey and Kate Harrison) had offered me a two book deal.

Visiting Orion’s offices was another surreal experience. The building was huge and I was so nervous as I perched on a chair in reception I’m surprised there wasn’t an earthquake alert. My editor was lovely and quickly put me at ease once we were in her office – only we kept getting interrupted - by people popping their heads in to tell me how much they’d loved my book! Knowing that other people in Orion’s offices had been sitting at their desks giggling at the ‘funny’ bits (I still can’t believe people find my novel funny) was bizarre but wonderful.

I was still getting my breath back from that experience when Maddie rang me again – my book was going to be translated into Portuguese and published by Bertrand Brasil in Brazil. A foreign version of my novel! I just couldn’t believe it. I’d always dreamed about putting a published version of my book on the shelf above my desk but now I’d get to add another version too.

November was as exciting as October had been. Not only was my book listed on Amazon.co.uk but Maddie had more news! I was on the train from London Victoria to Brighton when she rang me to tell me that SIX publishers in Germany had been bidding to publish my book and not only had Goldmann (German publishers of Alexandra Potter, Helen Fielding and Sophie Kinsella) won the auction but it was for a two book deal. Normally I’m a phone mumbler if I’m on the train but I was so excited my voice increased to a pitch only dolphins can hear and it was all I could do not to turn to the man sitting next to me and go “I’m going to be published in Germany!”

Father Christmas brought me a special present in December – the news that the foreign rights to “Heaven Can Wait” had been sold to Eksmo in Russia. I can’t even begin to explain how much my head was spinning by this point. In four short months I’d landed an agent, a two-book deal in the UK, a two-book deal in Germany and foreign editions of “Heaven Can Wait” in Brazil and Russia. At the risk of sounding like an X-Factor contestant I really did feel like I was living in a dream and kept expecting something terrible to happen to make it all crash down around my head.

January 2009 was a quiet month and I thought, that’s cool, all the exciting news is over now, time to crack on with writing the second novel, but February had other ideas. Not only did Maddie sell the rights to “Heaven Can Wait” to Konyvmolykepzo in Hungary but I attended Orion’s author party in the Victoria and Albert museum too. I can honestly say I’ve never been to such a glamorous event in my whole life. The venue was stunning, the champagne was free, I met Sophie Kinsella’s agent and even ended up standing next to Michael Palin at one point (although I was much too chicken-like to actually talk to him!).

In March 2009 Orion took me to Liberty’s for afternoon tea. I was still marvelling at the fact I was...well...having afternoon tea in Liberty’s... when my paperback editor fished into her bag and showed me a print out of the cover for “Heaven Can Wait.” Like most writers I’d held an image in my head of what my perfect book cover would look like and I couldn’t believe how well the artwork I held in my hand matched that. It was like my publisher and the design team had some kind of spooky psychic ability. I couldn’t stop looking at it! March was also the month when I gave my first ever interview – to http://www.trashionista.com/. I’d been reading their website for YEARS, ogling the covers of other authors’ books, pouring over their interviews and dreaming of the day that they’d feature my novel. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when my own interview went up and my photo stared back at me.

April was another quiet month but May brought more excitement. Not only did Maddie sell the foreign rights of “Heaven Can Wait” to Ediciones Versatil in Spain but I received the advanced review copies (ARC) of my novel from Orion. They had a temporary cover but they looked like real books, had my words inside and the spine said I was “bringing sparkle to women’s fiction”. Me! My family, who’d been asking for ages if they could read my novel, clamoured to get their hands on my copies and I dutifully sent them out. Then I felt sick. “Heaven Can Wait” had been read by my agent and my publishers – both of whom had said lovely things about it – but it hadn’t been read by anyone not in the industry. My family are the sort of people who, if you ask “Does my bum look big in this?” will say “Yes. Huge” and I knew they wouldn’t sugar-coat their opinions. I shouldn’t have worried. Everyone – even my dad, sister and brother who never read fiction – loved it and didn’t criticise a single thing.

In June 2009 I received the artwork for the cover of “Heaven Can Wait”. I was expecting a limp computer print-out with all the colours bleeding into one another (my printer’s very good at that) but no, what I received was a very sturdy piece of white card with the design – including the gorgeous, gold squirly title on the front – professionally printed on it. When I finally stopped stroking it I put a copy in a clipframe and hung it above my desk.

The Bookseller magazine printed a copy of my cover and a blurb of “Heaven Can Wait” in July 2009 and in August Maddie informed me that my novel was going to be published in Taiwan and China!

In September 2009, with publication day just around the corner, I got busy with trying to publicise my novel. I was interviewed by a journalist from Woman’s Own magazine on the phone, answered some emailed interview questions from First Edition magazine and started to organise a Virtual Blog Tour.

October brought reviews – and some really lovely ones! Candis magazine put my novel on the same page as Ant and Dec’s biography and said “You’ll find yourself laughing one minute and crying the next” (of my novel, not Ant and Dec’s. I can’t remember what their review said!). Chicklitreviews.com also published a wonderful review that made me grin for an entire day. October also brought me a box full of copies of “Heaven Can Wait” – a moment so special it made me cry.

When you read this post, on Thursday 22nd October my book will have been in the shops for seven days time and there’s a very good chance I’ll still be suffering a hangover from celebrating the most amazing day, and year, of my life!

Cally Taylor – author of supernatural romantic-comedy “Heaven Can Wait” (Orion paperback)

http://www.callytaylor.co.uk/
http://twitter.com/callytaylor

Friday, October 16, 2009

Look what I've got!

She's all over blogland today, and I couldn't resist showing off my own brand new copy of Heaven Can Wait, written by fellow Novel Racer and Saffer and all round talented writer, Cally Taylor. I almost daren't get into it because I know I won't be able to put it down and there are chores to be done. Oh, who am I kidding? Bread and jam for tea anyone?

There'll be a guest post from Cally on this blog on Thursday, 22nd October so look out for that, and in the meantime I'll try not to gnash my teeth and tear my hair out with envy. So not a good look.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween and the Virtue of Patience



Mince pies have been in the supermarkets for weeks, which must mean it's... nearly Halloween. Not my favourite celebration of the year - all those hooded creatures turning up at the front door wearing masks and demanding money (and I don't mean the bailiffs.)

Discussing Halloween at work, I mentioned that when I were a lass, living 'Oop North, we didn't celebrate it at all, but the day before Bonfire Night was fairly similar. The 4th of November was called Mischievous Night - similar to trick or treating, only ... well without the treating really. No dressing up or anything, just people knocking on doors and running away, throwing eggs and flour around, smearing syrup on door handles (we once fashioned a cake from the mess left outside) making rather obvious ghosty noises outside the window, frightening old people, that sort of thing. You'd (quite rightly) be given an Asbo for it today.

The thing is, NO-ONE knew what I was talking about. Is it a Northern Thing? Has anyone else heard of Mischievous Night? Did I dream it all? And if so, what a peculiar child I must have been.


Anyhoo. The editing's more or less done. My early chapters have been shown to some lovely and trusted writer friends who have offered constructive and helpful advice, and the manuscript's currently sitting there looking at me accusingly, saying "Well? Aren't you going to send me out into the world then? I'm all grown up now, you know."

Well yes, except that every day I think of something else I need to add or take away or improve on or explain better, or change, and I've realised again the importance of not submitting your work too early.

Patience, patience. Soon, my beauty, soon ...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pågående Europeiska !!



I HOPE that blog title means "Going European" in Swedish, and not something that would make my mother choke on a scone.

Yes I've sold a short story to a Swedish magazine, which means it'll be translated and everything. Bizarre, but lovely. Can't wait to see a copy. Won't be able to read it, obviously, but still.

Also the novel editing's going well and it's surprising how much closer I feel to the story, spending each day with it. Like honeymooners we are, me and the novel. Hopefully we won't get sick of each other in another few days and call the whole thing off.

Ahem. Think I need a cup of tea.

**Also got a story in this week's Take a Break. Which is nice!**

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fish and chip days




We only went and picked the best blummin' week of the year for our break in the Cotswolds. How the heck did that happen?

There was proper, bright yellow sunshine and a vast, cloudless blue sky - EVERY DAY. I've got a sunburnt chest, and I'm proud of it.

"Look," I keep boasting to anyone who'll listen. "Look how tanned I'll be when the lobster-redness wears off." I can't remember the last time I was burnt to a crisp by a British sun - or any other sun for that matter.

I now know that the two essentials for happiness are a lodge by a lake and the sun. Oh and time with the family; although a couple more days and the novelty of that might have worn off.

I've eaten too many portions of fish and chips, played silly games in the evenings, watched water-skiers showing off on the lake, stopped Molly from chasing ducks, written half a story, edited some more of the novel and not done any cooking at all.

And now we're home.

The weather's glum, but I've still got a bit of a glow.

Mostly in the chest area.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Summer (ish) holiday



I'm off to the Cotswolds tomorrow for a week. We haven't had a family holiday for 3 years, for some unfathomable reason.

Oh okay, so I couldn't be bothered with the hassle of booking anything when there was the dog to consider, and my mother and work and school and ... you get the message. It was just easier not to bother, especially as I'm not keen on travelling anyway.

Still, I'm quite excited now, and have bought a suitcase 'specially. I hope the sun shines a bit.

I'll be taking the netbook in case story inspiration strikes, but as far as I know there's no Internet.

Gulp ...

See you soon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Good and the ... yawn


I'm lucky to have sold four more stories recently - one to TaB weekly magazine and three for the Fiction Feast - and currently have a story in the latest Woman's Weekly Fiction Special, bringing my total sales to 20. Which is nice. Hopefully that means I'm doing something right on the short story front at least.

However, mentioning this to that colleague at the library, when she asked me how the writing was going, led straight to one of those conversations. "That's lovely," she said, all twinkly. "But those stories are written very much to a format, aren't they? Surely once you know the format it's just a case of changing a few details - names, places and so on?"

??????????????

"It's really not," I said, tiredly. "Guidelines yes, but not a format."

"So you're telling me that every one of your stories is completely different, and I wouldn't guess that they were all by you?"

"Yes they are, and no I actually don't think you would."

"Really?" Look of disbelief.

"Why don't you read a couple and see?"

Frowns. "Well, no it's just ... I mean - well you understand what I'm saying?"

Oh yes. Loud and clear.

I'm getting immune to it though. Gradually ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wanderer Returns

You might remember the tale of how I deleted my first ever novel, after receiving a handful of rejections - conveniently ignoring the fact that I also had two requests for the full ms at the time, as well as lots of positive feedback. I was too stupid inexperienced at the time to know that was a Good Thing and literally wrote the story off.

Well, while my Mum was staying recently she said one afternoon, "I've still got that manuscript you gave me to read. Such a shame it didn't come to anything."

WHAT?? For some reason I thought she'd thrown it away, an assumption she was quite rightly offended about. "I'd never do that," she said touchingly.

Anyway, I asked her (nicely) to send it to me and it turned up today almost as good as new.



A couple of things struck me reading bits of it. Firstly, the optimum amount of time between finishing your novel and editing it should be roughly 5 years. It really was like reading something written by someone else.

Secondly, it wasn't that bad. Nowhere near as awful as I'd imagined it would be. I could kind of see why there'd been some interest, looking back. There's a cheery simplicity to the writing, that keeps it flowing. I hadn't overthought the story - I didn't even edit it, I was that naive.

I knew what it was going to be about and I wrote it in about three months. It dealt with things that were close to my heart at the time - email dating (don't ask) volunteer work and photography - so I didn't have to try too hard with the research. Well they do say your first novel is the closest to being autobiographical, though I'm sure plenty of authors would dispute that. This one for instance. I hope!

We'll gloss over the fact that I committed the cardinal sin of designing (yes designing, on the computer) a cover page for my novel, with plenty of pink, and a whimsical clip-art female sitting under a tree, which I submitted along with the manuscript. Beyond embarrassing.

But still ... I wish, wish, WISH I could recapture whatever it was I was doing right then, because it occurred to me as I was flipping through it that I can either do it again, because I did it once, OR - I had one book in me, that was it and the moment has well and truly passed.

I do hope it's not the latter.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nice idea



I've had my mum to stay for a week, which is why I've been 'off-blog.' We had a lovely time - in spite of the drizzle - and managed to squeeze loads in.

While she was here it was her birthday and I almost gave her this lovely journal I came across in a local gift shop.



Each page has a heading ...


and things like, "who were your best friends when you were at school?" "What was I like as a baby?" "What was my first word?" and so on.

I say almost. Because on second thoughts I realised my mum would be horrified with a present like this.

She's from a generation of Northern women who aren't comfortable being touchy-feely and open about their emotions. If there'd been questions like "do you remember throwing your slipper at us when you were cross?" or "why did we always have corned beef for dinner on Wednesdays?" she might have co-operated - laughed even. "Describe the wallpaper over the fireplace in the house where we grew up," would have had her rolling her eyes and reaching for her pen, but "describe how you felt the first time you saw me," would have had her dry-heaving into her handbag. I know my mum.

Also, her and my dad divorced a long time ago so THOSE questions might have made her upset or cross. All in all, a pretty rubbish present.

Instead I've decided to keep it and write in it myself. I don't mind emoting, and I can't resist a blank page. I know my daughter would love to read it one day too.

I also thought it might be fun to copy out the headings and answer them as the characters in my novel for more insight, because yes - it's time.

Time to get the manuscript out of the drawer (well, up on the screen) and start to think about editing it.

Gulp.

I'm tempted to stick with the journal for now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Doesn't Time Fly?


Two weeks since I last posted? How did that happen? In fact where's July gone? Turn your back for two minutes etc. etc.

I'd like to be able to say I've spent the past fortnight being fascinating - entertaining hordes of people at garden parties and throwing neighbourly barbecues. Or being productive - building a conservatory, say, or reinstating the ancient art of tatting (actually, I wouldn't mind a go.) Hell, I'd like to be able to tell you I've been sunning myself on a yacht in the Mediterranean, but t'would all be a big, fat lie.

Firstly, the sun has officially buggered off - in our part of the world anyway. At any given time I can be found trudging up and down the garden with wet washing slung over my shoulder, and when I'm not dragging the washing off the line I'm drying the dog, because walking through the fields in the pouring rain makes her soggy. (Me too, actually. Not a great look. My hair swells up in the damp.)

It can't be right. It's supposed to be summer.

A highlight has been a swine flu scare. No.1 son quietly took himself to the doctor's a couple of days ago, but his temperature wasn't high enough to qualify. I think he was secretly disappointed.

Other than that I've written some stories, sold a couple, fretted over the novel, worked at the library and cleaned the house in preparation for a visit from my mother in a couple of weeks. Which is ridiculous, because everything will be dirty again by then.

Ah well, it may not be fascinating, but it could be worse. We could actually have swine flu.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Not Nice

Jane Smith over at How Publishing Really Works at has declared today Anti-Plagiarism Day. There are some interesting posts on the subject out in blogland and I thought I'd contribute in a small way.

I noticed this month that once again my book review in the local paper has been attributed to someone else. A man this time. Greg Burns. (It was Polly something last time.) I'm sure he's a very nice man. He might even be a very good writer - better than me. But he didn't write that 300 word book review. I did. I don't get paid, but still. I like doing them, and before the paper was taken over recently there was even a little photo of me to accompany the review and a bit about me and my services to humanity job in the library. Now, I don't even get a mention.

It sucks actually, so I can sort of imagine how people must feel to have whole swathes of text that they've sweated over passed off as someone else's work. Not nice.

Anyway, I've fired off a creative email informing the paper that I won't be contributing anymore.

So there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Done and dusted - for now


Well the first draft of the "rather silly" novel is finished. That is, I've typed The End. What happens now is anyone's guess. Accidental deletion knowing me.

No, the plan is to leave it to settle for a while (half an hour at least) before starting the real work of making it better. Hopefully I won't read it back and think, oh dear. Maybe I'd better leave it longer than half an hour for some proper perspective.

I shall rest my eyes for a bit and try and forget all about the characters, who have become like imaginary friends, and then crack on with some short stories. I've also had an idea for another novel so I may start that too - otherwise I won't know what to do with my hands.

Elsewhere: A random study somewhere has revealed that library staff are the least bitchy people to work with. They obviously haven't worked in our branch ...

(for obvious reasons I'd better add just kidding.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Look into my eyes ...

This is silly but quite clever. Then again I'm rather simple about these things - you'll undoubtedly work it out much faster than I did. Sorry it's a bit blurry, but that's the best way to view David Copperfield in my opinion.












**Warning - Don't look into his eyes for too long, or you'll fall in love with him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Admission of gross stupidity



How many times have I been told to back-up work on the PC? Only a squillion and two. The words are instilled in me, as they should be in anyone who uses a computer every day. Do I take heed? Well most of the time I do, actually. After all I'd hate to lose 13000 precious words wouldn't I? Precious to me. To anyone else it might seem a blessing.

So why oh why oh why in the name of Maltesers, did I not do that very simple thing on my last few writing sessions??? I know why. I'm a fool. I copy my work onto a memory stick, which I'm forever jabbing into my Netbook then transferring to the computer at home or even at the library sometimes, and I started getting lackadaisical about saving to the hard drive. Naturally the unthinkable happened.

Yesterday I saved my work to the USB pen as usual, stuck it in the PC later on, tried to open the document (with the whole novel on it - 77000 words worth) and...nothing. Worse than nothing. A nasty little message saying "this file is corrupt and unreadable." I knew how it felt. Except my face was pretty easy to read.

Bashing myself over the head with a dustbin lid was the least of it. Frantically opening the document I last saved to the PC I don't know how long ago, I realised I'd lost 13000 words. I tried to distance myself from the fact (oh okay, I cried) and spent the rest of the evening fiddling about trying to recover/repair the USB file (ahem, this has happened before) to no avail. I even bought and downloaded some online software that promised the earth and didn't deliver.

Then...

Up at 6.30 this morning, wearily determined to either have another go at repairing the file, or simply start writing all those words again (no chance of meeting my deadline now I thought - and who would believe me when it sounds like the worst sort of excuse? - I blinked at the screen.

What was that? A recovered temporary file in Notepad??

I opened it tentatively, holding my breath, and almost cried again. It was nearly all there. 1000 words and some bits of editing I did yesterday morning had gone; hadn't saved for some reason - must be when the corruption or whatever it was happened - but the rest was intact. In a strange font with no formatting, but what the hell. A victory dance was performed. It wasn't very elegant but the dog didn't mind.

Oh my days. Relieved? I've had a bar of Fruit n' Nut for breakfast to celebrate.

Will I be backing up in future? I already have, in about five different places and now I need a lie-down.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Reality Byte

After seeing Lane's fabulous mini-movie Surgery (if you haven't already do go and check it out, it's brilliant) I was inspired - or should I say distracted - to try it for myself.



If you're tempted to give it a go - don't. It's addictive.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A day at the zoo




I've sold a story to Woman's Weekly for the first time, so I'm Very Pleased Indeed.

It fair took my mind off traipsing round Cotswold Wildlife Park in the pouring rain and a howling wind (don't know what went wrong there - the weather forecast was quite good). The fellow above made me smile though. Looks rather like a cartoon guinea-pig.

I never did find out what he really is, and I'm not sure I want to.

And there were lots of things in threes ...


What's that all about??

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

8 things



The lovely Laura Cassidy recently tagged me to reveal "8 things" so to take my mind off the fact that my daughter, having passed her driving test, is now trawling the highways in her first ever motor-vehicle, being cut up by shouty men in white vans, and that I still have a way to go before meeting my self-imposed June 26th deadline, I'm more than happy to oblige. Even though I should be writing. My novel.

*Warning - some of the answers may not be true (don't sue me)

8 Things I look forward to

Making a cake and eating it (all)
Settling down to read a book
Settling down to write a book
Saddling up my seahorse (Riley) and riding the waves on a hot summer's day
The audience response when I play my trombone with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (they often cry)
Playing in the sandpit with my meerkat, Thomas
Seeing my husband at the end of every day
Reading your blogs


8 Things I did yesterday

Combed my hair
Thought about claming my mortgage on expenses
Went to a Pampered Chef party and bought a bamboo spoon
Spoke to a policeman
Cleaned up dog sick
Wished upon a star
Wrote 1000 words
Removed a dead bird from the conservatory


8 Things I wish I could do

Sing
Dance
Fly
Make a cheesecake that didn't taste 'yuk'
Be 21 again and know what I know now
Get a novel published
Carry a moonbeam home in a jar
Build a time machine

8 Shows I watch

The Apprentice
America's Next Top Model
Lost
The Inbetweeners
Peep Show
Desperate Housewives
Mad Men
The Wright Stuff

And that's all folks!

I won't tag you in case you have tag fatigue, but do feel free to poach.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Milestones


If you'd care to swivel your eyes towards m'word counter you'll see that I'm now over halfway through the novel. These are the most words wot I have written since I managed a whole one a few years ago (when I was young and foolish) and I'm Very Chuffed.

Also I wrote the word Penis yesterday, without blushing. In the novel, not on the pavement or anything. It was in context, but quite humourous as I still can't write Serious Sex without imagining my mother's expression.

Which is totally unfair as she's probably more open-minded than I am.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Twelfth time lucky


Author Sophie King was signing copies of her new book The Wedding Party at an independent bookshop near where I work today, so I thought I'd pop along.

What gives me hope with my writing is that, despite being a successful journalist and prolific short story writer under her real name, Jane Bidder, Sophie wrote 11 (yes eleven) novels before finally getting published. One of them was rejected because her agent had taken on another novel that was too similar. How annoying must that be?

But she Never Gave Up. And neither will I - despite my porridge elbow giving me gyp (jip? gip?) grief. Although it's better than it was, so I can't complain!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Flying fingers



Excuse the lack of intelligent blog postings (not that they ever were) but I'm using all the words in my brain for my novel right now. Long words, short words made-up words and even clever words like Circean - which refers to beauty of a dangerous kind. I know that because I've just looked it up. I haven't really used it (I'm not that clever) but I think I will now, I like it.

To meet my deadline I have to write 833 words a day, which sounds easily achievable until you factor in everything else I have to do. Miss a day and suddenly I've got, er, 1666 words to do the next day - miss that and...you get the picture. 4200 words a week it works out at (don't sue me if I'm wrong, Maths was always a weakness) which sounds downright scary, but even so. I'm determined to do it. I'm enjoying doing it.

And if I don't do it everyone will know I'm an eejit, and I really can't have that.

It would make me feel like absquatulating.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hot off the Press

Okay I probably need help, but I couldn't resist this -



The print's rather small so you might have to click on the image (don't bother it's not worth it) and it's here if you've not got anything better to do.

Now I really must get on with it.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Unbelievable


Stories in the news today that you simply couldn't make up ...

"Fir tree grew inside man's lung"






Okay there probably were some weird stories about women but none leapt out at me, honest!

Stranger than all that is how much writing I've done lately. I can't compete with Annieye's extravagant Easter output, but I've not done too badly at all. In fact I've rashly set myself a mid-June deadline for finishing the first draft.

There, I've gorn and said it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Guilty as charged


The other evening I was on the computer (no wonder my elbow's still hurting) when a mini-kerfuffle broke out by the door as the Teens were instructed by Lovely Husband to vamoose. "Stop pestering your mother and let her get on with her writing," he said firmly.

He's very supportive and takes what I do seriously, which is wonderful, but dear reader I was actually on E-bay at the time. Sourcing a new toilet-seat to replace the one that's broken, while simultaneously tracking down a top I'd seen in a magazine. I was planning to follow this up with a raid on the BBC Good Food website in search of a no-bake cheesecake recipe. Not that I couldn't be bothered to bake one, I just fancied one there and then.

Thing is I felt so guilty as everyone shuffled off talking in exaggerated stage whispers, that I shiftily opened a document at random and discovered a short story I'd abandoned a while back. I read it through and it wasn't bad, but I'd clearly lost it half-way through. I'd actually typed "Blah, blah, so WHAT??" in brackets at the bottom.

Spurred on by my family's faith in me I racked my addled brain and shiftily finished it off and after double-checking it wasn't complete cobblers I sent it to a magazine this morning.

And there was I thinking that guilt was completely unproductive.

Maybe if I stand next to the washing-up and squeeze out a tear or two it'll have a similar effect on the Teens.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Porridge elbow


I seem to have developed what's fondly known in our family as "porridge elbow" - a rare form of repetitive strain injury. The term came about when my mum developed a painful elbow that needed treatment, but couldn't understand why. She doesn't use a keyboard, she doesn't play tennis and she's not on her hands and knees scrubbing floors all day long. Then it dawned on her. The reason her elbow hurt like hell was because she'd been stirring her porridge too vigorously every morning for years, to stop it sticking to the pan. Strange but true.

My injury is more obvious. Over-usage of the mouse. My left elbow is fine, but I'm forever scrolling up and down with my right hand on the critter; cutting and pasting and left and right clicking all over the place. When I move the fingers on my right hand there's a corresponding ache in my elbow that's not crippling, but niggling none the less. Like a toothache. But in my elbow.

I'm trying to navigate using the arrows on the keyboard instead, but it's tricky. I've tried using a cushion under my elbow, which made matters worse and using the mouse with my left hand but chaos ensued. I could stop using the keyboard altogether for a while and go back to the old-fashioned method of pen and paper, but the world might stop turning and I wouldn't want that to happen.

My mum solved her problem by putting her porridge in the microwave to speed things along. If only I could do the same with my novel.

And now for some library humour:

We got some new books in today. Do you want to know what they're called? (I bet you can't wait.)

The French Chef by Sue Flay
French Overpopulation by Francis Crowded
The Scent of a Man by Jim Nasium
Wind in the Willows by Russell Ingleaves
Look Younger by Fay Slift


Look, I didn't make them up okay?

Friday, March 27, 2009

It was an accident Officer!


I've read several author interviews recently where the writer claims to have fallen into writing by accident, conjuring images of them lurching around looking dazed having produced a masterpiece without noticing. Can this really happen?

Maeve Binchy apparently used to write letters home from a kibbutz in Israel to reassure her parents that she was still alive, and they sent them off to a newspaper because they were so good, sparking a successful career.

Jane Harris started writing a short story about an ex-boyfriend who happened to be a transvestite, to amuse herself while living in Portugal in the early Nineties, as there was no TV, books or money. Sparking a successful career.

Susan E Philips and her best friend decided one day - just for fun - to write a book together. After some months they apparently worked out a system. Sparking a successful career.

Catherine Spencer fell into writing as she approached the menopause, ready for a change of career, and after eavesdropping on a conversation about writing for Harlequin decided it was too good a challenge to pass up. Sparking .... you get the drift.

I don't completely believe these cases are accidental though. I suspect writing's not something you fall into unless you already have the urge.

Am I wrong?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just tell the story woman


Things are moving along on the writing front (she says defensively.) I've sold a couple more stories, and I've started writing a new novel that I'm really excited about. It's a measure of how excited I am that I've written the equivalent amount of words as Novel 1, in about a third of the time. (I'm not very good with Maths so that might not make sense. I've written it quickly, let's put it that way.)

I feel guilty about abandoning Novel 1, though I'm hoping to go back to it at some point. It had got to the stage where some major things needed changing and I couldn't quite muster the strength. Plus I'd had this other idea you see, which wouldn't lie down and shut it's face.

The thing is, I keep remembering a quote I read on Gonna be a Writer's website - "you shouldn't practise writing you should practise finishing the writing projects that you start" - or words to that effect, and they keep tugging at my conscience. If I give up and start something new every time the going gets tough, I'll never get anything finished.

'Just tell the story, woman,'
is a sentence I say to myself quite a lot. When I'm bogged down, or I've reached a saggy bit, or I've whittled away at the same paragraph over and over again until it's a completely different shape, to avoid Moving On.

But when the story won't budge and the whittling's out of hand, isn't it better to start something that feels like it might be the right shape already, with a bit of careful honing?

Okay, that's enough with the woodworking analogies.

Maybe I should have been a carpenter?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's a Crime


One our library's best customers is a lady who's getting on a bit, likes a ciggie (judging by the smell of the books when she returns them) and reads a lot of crime novels. When I say a lot, I mean she takes out around ten or twelve on a Saturday and brings them back on a Thursday. Naturally, this means she's read just about every crime novel we've ever had in the history of crime novels, but she gets Very Angry when she can't find anything she hasn't already read.

'Utterly ridiculous,' she tutted and huffed yesterday, twirling the spinners round in an agitated fashion while I was trying to shelve. 'I've read all these, duck,' she said to me, when I accidentally caught her eye. 'I miss your table.' She looked longingly at the space that used to house a display of New Arrivals until it was deemed to be In The Way. Maybe she thought new crime novels materialised overnight, by supernatural means.

'Maybe you should try some of our other branches?' I suggested.

'I 'ave duck,' she said calmly. 'Read 'em all.'

'Would you fancy trying something different?'

'Like what?' She looked at me, outraged. 'I know what I like,' she said affronted. 'But it's very hard to find in this lot.' She gestured at the library in general and that, dear reader, is where I cut my losses and fled. I've had the conversation before, and it didn't end well then.

The fact is, she's read so many crime novels that the authors simply can't keep up with her.

I mention it on the off-chance that one of you might be writing a crime novel. Could you please finish it, publish it and get it to me by next Thursday please?

I'm scared she might be planning some crime of her own involving me, some handcuffs and possibly a couple of cigarette ends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Red nose and cheeks



Saw this on lovely Debs blog and thought it was worth looking silly for a good cause. If you fancy a go you can download yourself a red nose here.

I'm blushing because I've received a couple of tasty awards. One is from that fine wordsmith Dumdad all the way from Paris, and I've been assured I can keep it all to my greedy self...



... and the other is from the the very writerly JJ in bloomin' Bangkok, so it's gone all International. This one I've to pass on to three worthy bloggers, so I hereby nominate Amanda, Anna Scott Graham and Lorna F.



I'm really chuffed. Plus, spring has nearly sprung. I've hung washing out today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Drawing the Line


One of my favourite authors, Julie Myerson, has sparked a debate after writing a book about her son's use of cannabis and how it led to the heart-wrenching decision to throw him out of their home.

Now this is a tricky one, because her son did not give his permission for the book to be published and tried to have it blocked. In fact he's furious, and has branded his mother 'slightly insane,' saying, "This book is simply an extension of her maternal journalism. My mother has been writing about me for the past 16 years."


The extract I've read is beautifully written (as are all her novels) and in a way I'm curious to read it because (apart from the drugs, thank goodness) I can relate to it all too well, and her son's reaction could be said to be that of a typical teenager, and in a few years time he might be mature enough to read it and understand. BUT. Would I have written and published it? No. Maybe as a memoir or form of therapy, knowing it would never be published, but I tend to steer clear of including family traumas in my writing. It's hard enough living with them, for heaven's sake! I need my escapism, but of course that's a personal choice.

It may even be a good thing if it's opened a wider debate about the potential mental health problems that long-term cannabis abuse can cause, and how it can destroy a family, but just like sex scenes, I couldn't write it myself - with or without permission.

Is there anything you wouldn't write about, or is it just me?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book scramble



No, this isn't a photo of customers at the library hunting down the latest Jeffrey Archer novel.

It's a photo of scavengers bargain-hunters at a Bookbarn warehouse in Bristol. The lease had expired and apparently it was cheaper to give the stock away than to try and sell it elsewhere.

I'm not sure what to make of it really. Maybe they could have offloaded them to charity shops at least? I guess if I was the author of one of those books I wouldn't be too chuffed, but I did like some of the quotes in the article I read about it.

"...they have been coming from far and wide. I had one chap call me up from Milton Keynes yesterday ..."

" ... I've got quite a mixed bag, something about hair cutting, housework, and another called 'The Life of Long Legged Women' ..."

" ... people have been backing cars and vans and even a Porsche into the warehouse so they can stock up..."

"... one couple even came in a campervan and I think they slept overnight and then crammed as many books as they could into their van and drove off ..."

" ... the contents of the aircraft hangar-sized warehouse are a librarian's worst nightmare, with the books piled willy-nilly and not separated according to subject or genre ..." Well I have to agree with that one.

I suppose it was better than burning the place down, and if it brings a whole new audience to "The Life of Long Legged Women" then who am I to complain?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

AND ... relax


Teen Daughter had her driving test today.

She was understandably nervous, not least because it's been cancelled twice already, due to bad weather, and she has to keep psyching herself up. Then her instructor decided to give up teaching at the eleventh hour, and passed her over to someone she'd never met before, with a car she's never driven.

It brought back horrible memories of my first test. I say first because it took me, ahem, four go's to pass. I was quite confident the first time, not really knowing what to expect, and thought I'd done well but I failed. They're not allowed to tell you why, at least they weren't back then, so after that nerves got the better of me. On my second test I was so determined to pass my mind went completely blank and I failed coming out of the test centre, which was unfortunately situated on a hill. On my third test I couldn't stop shaking and accidentally accelerated out of a junction, instead of braking, and narrowly missed getting hit by a lorry. The examiner looked a bit faint.

The fourth time I was eight months pregnant with the twins, and could barely squeeze behind the wheel. The examiner, a steely-eyed woman with a look of the traffic warden about her, looked at me and hissed, "Don't think you'll get preferential treatment just because you're pregnant." Charming, I thought, convinced I'd already failed. I must have relaxed at that point. I even remember thinking what a lovely day it was. Blue sky, etc.

Naturally I passed, and I was thinking about this today while my baby girl was being put through her paces.

It's been a similar tale with the writing (there had to be a link somewhere!) First Ever Novel was written quickly and confidently and sent out straight away. Nicely rejected, but rejected all the same. I became nervous. Started trying too hard, and thinking all the time about getting published, instead of just writing.

So maybe it's time to relax and enjoy the journey again, and perhaps the rest will take care of itself.

At least I'm not likely to be hit by a lorry. Unless I'm writing by the side of the road. And a learner driver comes careering round the bend ...

Sadly, she didn't pass. I baked her a chocolate cake just in case and I think she's feeling better about it now. I reckon she'll do it next time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Little things



There seems to be bad news wherever you turn these days. It's enough to make a girl cower under the duvet whimpering, but in my little corner of the world I've decided to make the most of the little things this week. Not the big stuff, like family, good health and being in possession of all my own hair and teeth. I'm very grateful for those already. No, the little things like,

...having a story in Best today, accompanied by a gorgeously fluffy picture that makes me smile...

...it's half-term, so I don't have to trek Teen Son to college and back every day. A journey that varies between 15 minutes and an hour depending on traffic...

...the weather's behaving itself for a change. I haven't fallen over and cracked my head for about three whole days...

...Mad Men and Damages are back on TV.

...I seem to have plugged the gaping plothole that appeared in my novel last week. With more plot, I hasten to add, not an old sock, some newspaper and a smattering of Polyfilla. I did that once when a shelf fell off the wall. It didn't work...

...I've sold another short story to Take a Break.

...I've invented a pudding that has the feel-good factor without the calories that cause my bottom cheeks to swell up. Not a good look ... so last season...

And - er - that's it really.

Like I said, it's the little things.

Glad Tidings

So, now the season to be jolly is almost upon us, which means another year is almost over and, as usual, I'm left wondering how o...