Saturday 26 September 2009

Going Quietly Round the Bend

Thought some of you might like to download a free book “The Career Novelist” by literary agent Donald Maass. Find it here

Haven’t had time this week for much more than a quick browse through, but read a piece that really struck a chord. It is under the subheading “The Dark Side” where he talks about blocks and how he rewrote the opening of a novel over and over and how it was “depressing and destructive”.

I look at the progress of my novel. 30,000 words. It’s been 30,000 words for months. And what am I doing about it? I am rewriting the opening over and over and yes, it is depressing and destructive. What am I going to do about it? I’m not sure.

The other two books, slow and steady progress there.

And I’ve found two disc boxes stuffed with back ups including at least two more novels. Are they corrupted? And if not will I be able to retrieve the data? Who knows? Does it really matter?

We’ve a skip on the drive, a half demolished shed in the garden and there are about a million spiders tramping towards my house carrying all manner of luggage looking for a new place to live – and I haven’t been to the woods for conkers yet – help!

Got a photo of one in the bath the other morning. Not a close up macro shot, but one taken from a distance with maximum zoom. My trusty sidekick removed it for me with the words, “Poor old thing has only got seven legs.”

For the past week I’ve dipped into my draft blogs file and I’ve been working on one, adding bits, removing bits and generally rearranging words.

This morning I thought I should just get on and post it. Then I realised I already had a week ago.

Going quietly round the bend, yes that would be me.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Onwards and Forwards

Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely venture into the garage for eight legged reasons.

After my clear out in here the other day my thoughts turned to the files out there and I sent my trusty sidekick on a mission to find said files.

He made several trips and the chair behind me sagged under the weight of at least two dozen folders, a box file, a ring binder and two of my dad’s old desk diaries.

My new shredder has been busy. It’s a huge improvement on the old one and doesn’t throw a wobbly if I put in more than three sheets or have it going for more than five minutes.

There are several correspondence files. I kept every acceptance (and a few helpful rejection letters) from the 1980s onwards. Most of them have been shredded, but I read through them first and I’ve kept a few of the special ones.

I found four novels. One about the English Civil War (kept that but shredded the two carbon copies and the original draft), a horror, a children’s book and some kind of saga I don’t even remember writing. There’s a letter from a publisher about a book I wrote for children with a fantastic title – if only I could find the book – or even remember what it was about.

There are the notes I made about Native Americans and their customs and the early settlers in America for a 120,000 word novel I wrote for a competition. Where the novel is, I have no idea.

My husband used to tell me never to chuck anything I wrote away and he used to hide the stuff I gave him to take to the tip. But there were things I got past him that he was unable to rescue. Silly me.

I’m not bothered about all the hundreds of short stories I’ve shredded, but I wish I’d kept the books. Ah well, never mind. There’s always something new to work on, new ideas, new inspiration.

Onwards and forwards and all that . . .

Buckle Ye Swashes!

Ahoy there me hearties!

Today it be Talk Like A Pirate Day and I’ve bin puttin in so much practice that I’ve developed a limp and me tongues got the cramp.

I be bloggin about a worryin new trend in the buccaneerin business.

It be known as compensation.

Aye, maties.

So what do ye do if ye gets ye injured in the course of ye duties in the sweet trade me buckos?

Well ye can forget hasty medical attention aboard ship. If the cook’s not up to his eyeballs in turtle stew ee’ll be givin ye a seein to.

If ee should survive the ministrations o’ t’ cook, ye can expect remuneration for t’ loss o’ ye body parts in t’ followin’ sums:

100 pieces of eight for an eye or a finger
400 pieces of eight for a port leg
500 pieces of eight for a port arm or starboard leg
600 pieces of eight for a starboard arm

As well as pieces of eight, ye can expect to have a prosthetic replacement part of the finest quality wood – or in fact any spare bit o plank we can find lyin around.

In addition t’ the above ye can have a job aboard ship swabbin t’ decks or dolin out t’ hard tack or loadin t’ six pounder.

Tis a licence for t’ bilge rats to skive if ye arsk me and ye wonder where it will all end.

Oo Cap’n, I got a splinter in me thumb, ‘ow many pieces of eight do I get? Oo Cap’n, I stubbed me toe on the fore boom, I’ll need a prosthetic toenail and twenty pieces of eight.

Tis a slippery slope I tell ee.

Afore ee know it ye’ll have landlubbers joinin ship in their droves, ‘acking orf their bits ‘n pieces and demandin pieces of eight and cushy jobs.

If ye want to know more about Talk Like A Pirate Day, visit Mad Cap’n Tom at his great grand website. This year they be hookin up with Marie Curie Cancer Care and they be hopin to be raisin plenty o’ booty for that fine cause

Ye can also visit Cap’n ‘Ackles, a direct descendent of the mighty Blackbeard

I’ll be shovin off now mateys, but I’ll be leavin you with this thought for t’ day. Where do pirates do their Christmarrrs shoppin?

Toys aaaaarrr us.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Writing and Non Writing

I love Writers’ Forum and have just finished reading this month’s issue.

I was going to write a full review of the magazine, but I’d be here all day. I tried just writing about the articles that particularly stood out for me and again, it would have taken me ages and I’m too lazy.

Apart from that I’ve got a thumping headache, the dogs need to be walked and my head is bursting with ideas which I must attend to before my head really does burst and I end up with a mess on my desk.

Perhaps the sudden burst of activity in my weary brain is thanks to Glynis Scrivens’ excellent article in WF about motivation.

And of course reading about writing is one thing, but you can’t beat getting on with it and doing it.

I decided to sort out some old paperwork this week. Well it took my mind off some troubling Official Business for a while.

I’ve shredded so much that the shredder appears to have gone to god – or gone on strike – or blown a gasket or something. I even had all the paperwork for a holiday from 2002 - and from when I changed bank accounts nine years ago. That was just the tip of a very large iceberg. No wonder the shredder protested.

And I’ve seen a lot of spiders.

Which reminds me.

Daddy long legs.

Where are they? I’ll tell you where they are, they’re still in their leather jackets in the grass waiting for it to rain. We haven’t had any significant rainfall here for weeks apart from a couple of very short sharp showers.

But when the rain comes – so will the invasion! Then you may just hear me scream.

Oh and the picture – it’s one I took yesterday of the Mystery Water Thing. The white blob is two swans. I’m still none the wiser.

Sunday 6 September 2009


Picture the scene – romantic dinner for two, nice glass of Pinot Grigio clasped in my hot little hand and the conversation suddenly takes a sinister turn.

“You think that spider outside the bedroom was big – you didn’t see the one in our bedroom a couple of nights ago did you?”

“What spider?” Almost drops glass, but manages to cling on.

“It was on your side of the bed, just above the window. I’m amazed you didn’t see it.”

Wine starts to vibrate vigorously in glass. Tiny splashes land in my spinach and ricotta ravioli.

“Did you get rid of it?”

“Thought it best to leave it? More wine?”

Clutching at straws now. “Perhaps it was the same one that Indy caught. Perhaps it just looked smaller dead.”

“No it was much bigger and it was black. Tell you what it looked like – one of those that live in the funnel webs in the garage . . .”

Note here for anyone who hasn’t seen one of those tube web spiders – they are the vilest most menacing looking things and when you walk past, they sort of lunge at you! They do!

Maybe they are just ordinary house spiders, but I don't think so!

To me they look like Segestria Florentina. Believe me they sound a lot prettier than they look.

If they are what I think they are, they're big and they bite! They are the reason I will not go into our garage. I wouldn’t let Indy near one in case he got hurt!

Three o’clock this morning I was still wide awake reading my book and casting nervous glances around the room. Exotic tube web or ordinary old house spider - I no longer cared. I was convinced it was out to get me.

I wanted to open the window wider, but what if it was lurking in the folds of the curtains and fell on my head? I wanted to turn my pillow over, but what if it had come up the back of the bed and was sitting waiting to pounce?

“I don’t know what you’re worried about,” he said this morning as I dragged my weary self out of bed and examined the gigantic bags under my eyes. “How many times have you been attacked by a spider in your bed?”

Fair point dear husband, but tell me this. That bite you woke up with on your knee this morning . . . was it really a mozzie?

Saturday 5 September 2009

Day Off

It’s my wedding anniversary today.

This time 34 years ago I was taking my dog Cassie for a walk along the prom and explaining to him that I’d be leaving home, but I’d be coming back every day to take him for a walk.

I wish I could speak to that girl now. I think I’d give her a hug.

By Christmas we’d almost killed each other – twice, a friend had been murdered and we were woken up in the middle of the night with the news that my dad had died suddenly.

I wouldn’t say any of that made me grow up. I’d already done that after the events of a couple of years before, but it changed me, changed both of us I think.

I’d started to write a novel about flying saucers, tapping away on my typewriter while our hamster Hamlet whirled round on his wheel up in our attic flat. We’d got him one of those multi storey plastic affairs with tubes and private areas. He used to eat cornflakes with us at breakfast, holding them in his little paws and watching us with his bright eyes.

We didn’t intentionally try to kill each other. Our kitchen was on the landing and he’d cooked our dinner and left the frying pan (well we were teenagers!) on the hob – the still turned-on hob!

By the time we discovered it the landing was filled with smoke. No fire at that point, just a melted frying pan. If a fire had taken hold we would never have got out of the building.

I was reminded of this last week when he set fire to the oven gloves – he’s still the boy I married bless him.

So how did I almost kill him? I cooked a roast dinner and when I carved the chicken it was all pink and watery and raw. “Why can’t you just eat it?” I said, all offended. I thought if we covered it all up with gravy it wouldn’t matter.

I’d cooked successful roasts before – at home with my mum there to guide me. I knew nothing of salmonella and the dangers of undercooked chicken. But he did. He’d been hospitalised with salmonella as a child.

This was meant to be a short post but as always I’ve gone on and on. All I was going to say was that I’m taking today off and we’re going out for a meal and a wander round!

I don’t remember crying much when Dad died. I was numb I suppose. I got on with sorting things out.

Some time in the days that followed I remember going to feed Hamlet and finding him dead in his cage and just falling apart, collapsing in floods of tears.

Once when I was about 7 I came home from school and my dad handed me my recorder and told me to play it as I walked into the front room. He’d rigged up strings all round and as I played a “snake” began to rise from the corner. Oh that’s a bit random isn’t it, but I was thrilled with it.

And I can never celebrate my anniversary without thinking about Dad.

Friday 4 September 2009

The Fount Of All Knowledge

This week I have mostly been eating lettuce.

No I haven’t really. I’ve been off on my adventures. But I have been watching reruns of The Fast Show.

On Sunday it was Roxanna and Jordan’s joint birthday party in Halton – three hours, 25 kids, a soft play area and lots of lovely food!

Guess who almost got stuck climbing up into the soft play bit? Well I’m not telling you – it’s too embarrassing. It’s all right if you’re a child and can wriggle like a snake, but when you’re getting on a bit and parts of you that used to be bendable have become rigid, going up and at the same time backwards and up again and forward isn’t so easy.

Roxy and Imogen were like peas in a pod – well two girls in a toy car made for one - like Cagney and Lacey or Thelma and Louise as they sped up and down the hall a la the Flintstones. The girls did their own thing and why not?

Then there was the eventful night in the hotel . . . but you don’t want to hear about that.

We had another trip to Bressingham this week where Imogen managed five rides on the Carousel despite only being entitled to three. She’s two years old and she got chatting to a five year old boy on the next horse. By the time the ride finished she had his age, name, the day he’s starting school and the titles of his favourite books. About the only thing she didn’t get was his phone number.

Next week Lachlan starts school. That’s kind of been on my mind a lot lately. Seeing them all dressed up in their school uniforms for the first time is a Lump In The Throat moment. He gave me a twirl today and looked so smart and grown up that as well as the lump in my throat I had puddles in my glasses.

I have been otherwise amusing myself by lurking round a forum or two. Amazing what you learn.

A certain male writer who is regularly published in women’s magazines is really a woman! I will have to have words with him as he’s obviously been keeping something from me.

Just to clarify the above - the male writer in question is definitely a man! NOT a woman. I have no idea where the person who claimed otherwise got their information from, but they couldn't be more wrong! I just thought it was a good example of how people can state something as a fact and yet clearly not know the truth.

I wrote a whole list of untruths that I have uncovered, but then I thought to hell with it and deleted it all. Life’s too short to go round nit-picking. I’m sure people mean well when they put in their two-penneth worth.

This morning as I padded back and forth between bedroom, office and bathroom in my usual half asleep state, I paid little heed to the piece of fluff on the floor outside the bedroom door. I may even have trodden on it.

Then I was asked if I’d seen the deceased spider . . . noooo. With my glasses on I saw that the piece of fluff was in possession of eight hairy legs. It has Indy’s paw prints all over it (and quite a bit of his fur surrounding it – I’d guess it was a ferocious battle). I think that it was heading for the baby’s room and Indy took it upon himself to save her – Isabel may be able to crawl now, but she’s not got the speed to outrun a spider.

Usually “Spider” is enough to get him charging in to the rescue – even if you whisper the word for fear of letting the spider know you’re onto it. I don’t make a habit of killing spiders or encouraging Indy to kill them, but sometimes when they have you cornered in the bathroom, cowering in the shower, there’s no choice but to call for canine help.

If at all possible, I go for the large glass and piece of stiff card method of removal.

Tilly is terrified of spiders. She’s scared of most things. She fled from the room the other night because a moth had fluttered in and she went off to hide under the bed while Indy was leaping round like a thing possessed trying to catch it.

I took a photo of the spider using the macro function. Big mistake. When I put it up on the computer screen and it appeared so huge I nearly died of fright – you can see every hair on its legs. I can’t look at a picture of a spider without my skin crawling. So in order not to kill anyone who has made it this far and who may be similarly sensitive I will make the picture small when I add it to this post.

And please, please – if anyone out there thinks it is just an empty spider’s skin and the owner is now stamping about somewhere in my house bigger than ever with a brand new set of leathers – keep it to yourself!

I’ve been having disturbing and vivid dreams for the past week or so. Not all of them nasty I must say.

I also have my spell dish up and running! See here for instructions

In Other News (if you’re still here).

I am happy to announce that as I am in possession of a sturdy pair of chunky thighs (slap – wobble!) I am less likely to die of coronary disease than someone with the kind of slender pins I have always envied!

How many of you have had your tape measures out since the news was announced?

My husband is safe too. I thought he had skinny legs until I got my tape measure out which has led me to a conclusion. My legs are not fat, they are merely too short. If they were as long as his they would look fine.

In case you missed it you need to have thighs with a circumference of 60 cm to be safe from early death.

We have Professor Berit Heitmann to thank for this revelation! More power to her I say! I am sincerely hoping that she will later reveal that a double chin is a sign of great beauty and a large bottom an indicator of superior intelligence.

Well I can dream can’t I?