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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Hosting a small, intimate party for immediate friends. Bring your own bucket.

I'm sure that was a knock at the door.... ah, hello, there you are.  As the nights darken and the winter edges ever closer (making a weird 'meep meep' noise, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason), I have invited you in to glance over my holiday snaps, drink my home-brewed rhubarb-and-stoat ale and generally rummage through my smalls drawer, making rude remarks about my collection of obsolete pants, carefully embroidered with 'Road Signs through the Ages' by my dear widowed mother.

Come in, come in, close the door behind you otherwise the badgers get in.  Now, who's for a rhubarb-and-stoat?  You at the back?  Ice and a slice?  Fine, I'll pour, you put the protective gloves on.  And, if you'd all like to prop your eyelids open and pretend to be interested, I'll give you a glimpse at my snaps.

No, not like that.  You can get up off the floor.  And you, you can stop rolling around and pretending to be in pain.  Look.

Here I am, pointing at a waterfall.  I don't know why, I think I was giving it guidance or something.  All I know was that my trousers got wet and I had to pass the remainder of the day with a damp buttock, thereby leaving oddly moist semi-imprints in every chair I sat in.

This is an island.  It attempted to follow us home and had to be shooed away in no uncertain manner.  Our own fault for feeding it, I suppose.

Someone pass around the snacks, would you?  I find keeping the blood circulating at times like these is invaluable.  Be careful with those cheesy fingers, they're the cat's favourite and he doesn't like ....oh.  You seem to have found out for yourself.  Never mind, the bleeding will stop eventually.  Have another ale, it numbs the pain.  Actually it numbs all essential functions and I usually find it's best to drink it whilst sitting on a bucket, but help yourself.  Now, where was I?  Ah yes, some of you still seem to be awake...

Here's a picture of me, grinning at a river.  I think I was grinning, anyway.  Maybe I just wanted the toilet really, really badly, after all, that water was rushing really fast, whoooshh whoooooshhhh....oh, excuse me a moment.....

Where did they all go?  Someone even seems to have climbed out of the window, look, they even left their half-finished pint of ale... oh well, seems a shame to waste it.  So then, now it's just you and me, another twenty seven pints of rhubarb-and-stoat and a hundred and fifty seven pictures still to get through...

Oh, really?  Must you go?  No, of course I understand, armpits can be such tricky things, can't they?  Ah well, I shall just have to save the rest of the pictures for next time I invite you round.

I can wait.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What's in a name? Apart from a lot of letters.... (plus a picture of Jared Leto...)

I've been doing it again.  No, shut up, not that, anyway the restraining order is still in place, so I can't, not until September 2014 anyway.  No, what I have been doing is pondering.  Which explains why I'm covered in ducks.  I have also been thinking about names.

My heroes tend towards single syllable names, but this is not through any Male Conventional Naming System (Trademark) it is simply that these are easier on the fingers.  I mean, yes, Amadeus is a very nice name (so long as you happen to be an eighteenth century German, and I'm  not saying that you aren't, I'm just passing comment here), but typing it out on average, say, three hundred times over the length of a manuscript - well, your A key is going to take a fair bit of wear, isn't it?  And it's not a name that easily shortens - by the time the heroine has gasped his name during a passionate encounter...well, just picture it... "Am....Am....Am..." she's just going to sound like a woman with some kind of dissociative disorder.  And then there's Alistair. No, over there, look.  A name which I particularly like, but persist in shortening to Alice...

Because certain names just sound more...well, sexy.  I am currently working on a Phinn, a Kai and a Zan.  And,. I have to say, I am exhausted... but that is by the by.  Others heroes I have used until their bones creaked, have been called Cal, Ben and, in Star Struck (published by Choc Lit, available at all good bookshops), the hero's name is Jack.  I could never, of course, use the names Tom or Will (because those are my sons' names and it would just be nasty), Bill is a grandfather and Zack is too manly.  Any male names ending in the 'ee' sound are a little bit too far on the girly side (Mr Depp, I am making an absolutely enormous exception on your part here) and if I ever use Butch or Randy you have my permission to shoot me.

His real name is Amelia, you know....

Now, I know the theories, that names ending in 'hard' sounds are intrinsically 'male' and soft sounds are 'female' and you never call a hero 'Izziwizzimuss' unless you are writing a story about cats or are deranged, and that the best way to make sure your hero's name is age-appropriate is to check out the Top Ten list of names for the year he was born, but why is it that some names are just more... appealing? 

Oh, and Zan's a vampire.  So, you know, different rules...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

At a titular disadvantage - and no, a new bra won't help...

Why is naming something so hard?

 Well, apart from the obvious point, that my brain is, in fact, made of liquid cheese, and remembering what something is called is a matter of genuflecting in its direction whilst making grunting 'effort' noises...  I can generally, eventually, remember what the name is of the thing I am looking for by doing a generalised mime of the object in question although I do remember on one occasion where my wandering around doing 'scissors' mime was interpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated shadow puppet of Acherontisuchus.  And when I'm looking for...errr...that thing you use, you know, for cooking...full of holes... that thing, it's like a round of Give Us a Clue in my house.  And no, it's not a film.  Or a book.

It's a TV programme actually. Wallander, or something...

And anyway, not that sort of naming.  No, it is of book titles I wish to virtually talk to you. You see, my works in progress (or WIPs as they tend to be known in the trade - stick with me, kid, you'll soon be talking the lingo like a native..) get labelled as I work, rather like Friends episodes.  There's 'The one with that man, you know, the one with the bloke whose wife leaves him who goes to work on a trawler but discovers that he's allergic to seagulls and has to take a job squeezing teabags in a cafe' or 'The one where the cat nearly dies, and they think the cat has died but then it turns out that it was only asleep in the wardrobe and then the, not that daughter, the other one, the one with the hair, she runs away from home and it's all something to do with an anonymous letter'.  But these lack a certain something as actual book titles.  Besides which, there wouldn't be room on the cover and the title would have to be continued on the inside pages, which rather defeats the object.

So, I must choose concise, gripping titles, which encapsulate the spirit and mood of the book whilst taking into account my own, slightly peculiar, style of writing.  And, as any of you lovely people who believe that you truly know me will testify, concise is not really me.  Oh, I can grip, certainly, I can grip like a manical woman who has recently purchased the last Whippy ice-cream in the van only to be faced with a frenzied Whippy ice-cream thief, oh yes.  I can grip like nobody's business.  But concisity is just not in my nature.  Why use one word when there are thousands of unemployed syllables just floating around doing nothing and causing trouble on the streets, waving their suffixes and generally being underused?  No, I believe in getting language off benefits and into the workplace.

This is the sort of thing words get up to when not fully employed, you know.  They go all primary coloured and start getting together and whispering.  Yes, about you...

And so I am faced with a problem.  Well, several problems actually, but only one that need concern you.  The thing with the duck will resolve itself in time and I am sure that the police will understand about the whole 'underpants on the head' thing if I go and explain in person instead of waiting for the court date to come up... anyway.  My problem.  I need titles.  Only problem is, being of a suspicious nature I can't tell you what the books are actually about in case you rush out and steal my ideas and I'm left having to rewrite the one about the man, the trawler and the teabags over and over again.  So, if, without actually having anything to go on, like plot or character or anything, you can come up with some titles for my forthcoming novels, I shall be forever grateful. 

Also slightly impressed.  And probably suspicious.

And before you suggest this, obvious, title, it's been done - look.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday. Now brought to you by Rowntrees and known as Fruit Gum Day.

All rightie, people, listen up!  Except for you at the back, you just keep on listening sideways, I know you can't help it.

I have Pieces of News for you.  Firstly.  Or thirdly, if you're listening sideways.  Next week is Chocolate Week.  No, I'm not sure what it involves either, I am presuming that it doesn't mean that Tuesday is brought to us courtesy of Cadburys, although I think it would be a great idea to have days of the week sponsored by major manufacturers.  I am going to apply now to Slumberland to have them sponsor Fridays.  Imagine no longer having to ring in to work *sick* on Fridays, but to be able to legitimately be taking a 'Sponsored by Slumberland' day...  Ahem.  Where was I?  Oh yes, next week, chocolate...

Anyway.  Because of said Chocolate Week, my delightful and only occasionally baffled and confused publishers Choc Lit are hosting a short story competition - which may be accessed directly by pressing the little purple button that links to the site from here (where it says Choc Lit, in case yours doesn't look purple.  Mine does, but it's all right, I've got an ointment...) and they are also, in honour of the chocolate, reducing one e-title from each of us to the measly price of under £1!  Yes!  For less than the price of a bar of Fruit and Nut, you could be the proud owner of a copy of Please Don't Stop the Music (other titles are available).  This is presupposing that you are not already the bustingly proud owner of a copy - and if not, why not?  HOW long have I been drumming it in to you that you are supposed to rush to the bookshop and buy copies of my latest releases even before they are released? Hmmm?  But if you aren't, you can now remedy the situation for small change.  But bear in mind that I don't want to see you here again until you have, all right?


... and this.  How much better can life be?

Well, yes, it could also have Tony in it.  Good point.

And also in other news.  Those of you who have hankered for a sighting of me in real life (and there are those of you, come on, don't be coy, I've seen the e-mails...) may have their chance.  If you are quick, have really good eyesight and an empty stomach, then I may be seen at Malton Literary Festival on 23rd of this very month!  I shall be performing there - not certain as to the nature of this performance yet, I've taken delivery of  a set of multi-coloured juggling balls, a fire-eating set and some stilts, to the bemusement of my postman, but suspect that I shall probably be doing something along the lines of reading from my latest novel, Star Struck, and maybe giving a teensy little inside peek into my newest, yet-to-be-released (hell, it's yet to be titled) novel from Choc Lit.  Which doesn't have Tony in it.

Right.  Off now to perfect my stilt-walking, juggling, fire-eating act, just in case.  If you see a really tall, slightly singed woman with RSI in both wrists, you'll know it's me.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wot aye dyd ohn mi hollidaes

At the risk of boring you (oh, must you go so soon?  But I'd only just got started!) I'm going to tell you about my recent weekend.

I spent it stalking Hadrian's Wall.  I had a quick squint at Hadrian's Ceiling and a bit of a quick tour of Hadrian's Shed, but it is with his Wall that I am chiefly concerned here.  Now, I am sure that most of you have had experience of trying to find walls and realise that you must move quickly and quietly in order to see these elusive creatures which can, in extreme cases either a) follow you around an entire county, or b) shuffle away from the places you expect to find them and relocate to entirely different places.

Here, in fact is a stretch of said wall.  Looking utterly immobile, all innocent and standing around, la la la, been here for centuries, not going anywhere, dah de dah.  It even hums to itself, it's that good at seeming to be a permanent fixture.  Note the grass growing on the top and its apparent firm location in the landscape.  This is a part of the wall which has been brought into domestication and may even be described as 'tame'.

Wild walls are harder to find.  I was accompanied on my trip by an experienced wall-locator, someone with a past history of being able to find rocks piled up one on top of another and also well-versed in the identification of said edifices.  "That's a wall," he can say, without fear of contradiction.  We donned the appropriate wall-stalking gear (pictures of me dressed as a breeze-block are currently unavailable) and crept through the landscape, making occasional wall-luring sounds (chisel on rock, the sound of mortar being thickly applied and, unaccountably, in my case a sad sort of 'honking' sound).  But the wall was too clever for us.

We were told there had been a wall here only the day before.  Now there was nothing but rock-droppings.  Some of them dropped quite a long way...

Eventually we started to hallucinate walls.  At one point I went completely mad and jumped up onto a pile of bricks declaring that I had found it, and that Hadrian should have used better glue.  Sad, I know.  But, at last we got word of a sighting, whispered between those who know their walls and we rushed to the aforementioned location (which I dare not divulge here, because now is the wall breeding season and to disturb a rutting wall is to invite death).

Here, eventually, we found one, and it had young with it!  How lucky is that!  Of course, having seen it and photographed it, we left quietly so as not to disturb it.  But don't bother going here to look, it will be miles away by now.