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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Further Falling Apart news, a five-line peek, and I go mad and am nailed into a room. Send help. Or Biscuits. I have some HobNobs in here with me, but am running short of Jaffa Cakes.

"And how.." I hear you asking, admittedly from quite a distance because I've been doing nothing but editing for the last couple of weeks and am beginning to twitch and smell and am best approached from a couple of miles with questions held out on a long stick, "is Falling Apart coming on?"

Well, thank you for asking, it's going very nicely.  In fact, the first round of edits are just about done! Yes, done!!! Mwahahahahahahaaaaaaaa....

Ahem. Sorry about that.  And the twitch.  It's probably best not to come too close when carrying liquids.  Or anything, actually, in fact, don't come too close at all, I have spent a considerable time on my own and may react suddenly and violently if anyone ARRGGGHHHHATTFGHHHHH!!!!!!

Oh.  Whoops.  It'll sew back on a treat, though.  Probably.

This is how I look at the moment.  Which is why I am, quite frankly, surprised that you are here.  Or over there, in your case, with quite a long stick.

Anyway.  I hope you all had a terrific Christmas.  I had one, I know I did, it was around here somewhere a minute ago, I just put it down and turned around must have rolled under the sofa, I'll have a look later, it can't have got far, but mostly there have been words.

Many words.  And here, to prove it, are some of them:

Liam raised one eyebrow, archly and knocked his hair away from his face with the back of a wrist.  “He’s in our system.  And there’s only one way that could happen...well, no, there’s two ways, but one of those involves Daniel Craig, two albatross and an enormous quantity of rubber bands, so I’m betting on you being involved.”

There.  That proves it, doesn't it?  Real words, in proper sentences, that quite make up for the Christmas that fell under the cushions.  Or maybe it got eaten by the dog, that happens a lot in my house.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I had better get some Pledge on this manuscript and buff up its paragraphs before New Year, otherwise that might be another party that I hear from a distance whilst barricaded inside my room...actually, good point, must check whether the door is nailed shut from the inside or the outside...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I've been a bit absent lately.  You may have noticed.  Facebook has been unresplendant without my words of wisdomish, I've not been hanging around on Twitter bothering famous people and spreading the word about Tony Robinson quite as assiduously as I normally do, and I have generally been keeping myself to myself.  Have you missed me?  No, no, don't all answer at once, Blogger may crash.

However, I should like to reassure you that life in the Lovering cave continues unabated.  There is a tree, some decorations (oh, all right, we just sprayed the cobwebs silver and put glitter in the dust, but it's decorative, all right?), presents have been bought, wrapped and left in places of safety.  Food reclines at a somewhat perilous angle within the freezer and there is a cake. Somewhere. I'll know it when I see it.  I am deeply ensconced within the Editing Procedure and also my attempts to knock out another book, where I shall be remaining for the next fortnight at least, while the day job is held in abeyance by the fact that children are being given a Christmas holiday and there is, therefore, no need to attempt to educate them.  My house is full of owls (seriously, again, what is it with the owls?) and I just know there is chocolate somewhere.

You didn't believe me about the owls, did you?  Seen here with Hubble Bubble biscuits, sent by the lovely Rachel...
It would, therefore, appear that I am as ready for Christmas as a cat is ready for cheese.  Poised on the cusp of Christmas Eve on my little, immaculately shod, tippytoes and ready to tip forward into the hurly burly of the Festive Season in my gold macrame frock (yes, I know most people wear gold lame but I misheard the instructions.  It's a very nice frock.  And I can keep plants in it when I'm not wearing it.  Quite a lot of me pokes out, of course, but then, quite a lot of me pokes out of whatever I'm wearing).

So it only remains for me to raise a glass of something that is roughly like Baileys but half the price, close one eye because you are all quite a long way away, and wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!  May you all have the Christmas you wish for.

And watch out for the owls. They are definitely planning something....

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The 'C' word, and its association with owls, and a smell is for life, not just for Christmas.

The 'C' word offends a lot of people.  They wish we'd stop saying it, or at least, refrain from saying it in polite company, or among groups of children who pick it up like a chant and run round yelling "C********!" to anyone who will listen.  But, it is a sad fact of modern life that, like it or not, the C word is uttered ever increasingly, sometimes almost fondly, sometimes loudly and explosively, and while some cover their ears and mutter, others just smile and remark on how time has moved on...

What?  Well of course I'm talking about Christmas, what else would I be t... oh.  Oh, yes, I see the confusion there.  Sorry.  Yes.  I was talking about the whole Christmassy episode, I thought, since it's the fifteenth of December and there's only ten days to go before the Big Event, that I'd be able to get away with mentioning something that's been all over the shops since September.  I've even got a tree now, and candles and an inordinate number of decorations with owls on them.

 Seriously, what is it with the owls?  Why is an owl particularly Christmassy?  I live surrounded by owls and I've never seen one single one so much as don a Santa hat or drape tinsel, or attempt to 'whoooo' along to 'Merry Christmas Everybody!'.  So I am slightly baffled by the amount of owlage, or I would be if there wasn't a similar outbreak of foxage also stuck to my tree.  Foxes, I have to say, are Not Christmassy.  I know owls aren't either, but foxes are almost the epitome of Not Christmas.  It would be like me sticking all my cats to the tree and claiming them as ornaments.  Foxes smell dreadful and, yes, all right, so does much of my house, but that's all year round not just at this time of year, and a Big and Powerful Smell just does not scream "CHRISTMAS" to me.  It screams "get out your bottles of bleach and scrub for all you are worth because there is probably a dead mouse at the bottom of all this!"


You might have to squint a bit, but there are Definite Owls and Foxes there.  Big Powerful Smell not pictured, although it almost certainly presages a Dead Mouse, probably under the tree.

I'm going back to the editing.  It all makes more sense than sticking owls to trees and contending with A Smell, particularly at Christmas time...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Promised pictures, a smugness of Christmas shopping, my lack of tentacles and a loveliness of cats.

A few weeks ago I promised you pictures of my research, and then was unable to fulfill my promise, on account of my blog-gremlins(about which more later, assuming they don't suddenly break in and wipe my memory of..oooh, look, kittens!).  I hate breaking a promise.  I like breaking the seal on a new jar of coffee, mind you, there's something about that first lungful of undiscovered Nescafe that makes me feel as though I am sitting in a pavement cafe in Nice, dunking my pain au chocolat and pretending to read 'Paris Match' despite the fact that my french is really only up to being able to tell people that the headline is "something about bees.  Or maybe nuclear fuel.."  But I haven't got a jar of Nescafe to hand, so I'm just going to have to show you the previously intended picture of the church on the moors where my heroine in 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' spends a lot of her time, writing her book about graves and being pursued by...well, no I don't want to give it away, but there is a hobby horse involved.

Yep. There it is.

So, that's that one.  And, before you ask, yes, I'm still editing Falling Apart, yes I am supposed to be doing it now, and no, I'm not avoiding it...just....well, this is my equivalent of 'getting some fresh air'. For my eyes.  I'm only doing it with a firm mental image of my editor standing just behind me, possibly dunking a pain au chocolat but with a very steady gaze fixed firmly on the back of my head, which makes me feel guilty if I stray too far from my keyboard, or spend an hour trying to learn to whistle 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town', or pair my socks according to wear-patterns.

But there are benefits to being incarcerated behind my keyboard, allowed out only for the obligatory Journey to the Day Job and visits to the toilet and things....I've finished my Christmas shopping!  Yes, my fingers may be rattling over these keys and my eyes may be focussed on the screen, and I may appear to be working like the sort of demon that you see pictures of in those books with all the tentacles on the cover (only with less tentacles, obviously, because if I had tentacles I'd be able to do my Christmas shopping AND my editing, although that would probably require two keyboards and a bit more brainpower than I can generally muster) but, in reality, I'm giving Amazon blanket-coverage.

Sorry, sorry, I realise that those words will have cast fear into your dear little, not the words about the tentacles, the ones about having finished my Christmas shopping.  I know, because I'm usually the hearee of such smug statements; the 'oh yes, I got all my shopping done in October, it's all wrapped and labelled and ready for the day', when all I've managed is to buy a packet of dried fruit and some pick and mix which I ate on the way home, so my apologies for that.

Here.  Have a picture of my cats to distract you.  Cats are lovely.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Christmas, editing and a bonus Ben Wishaw and Ben Barnes (hopefully the pictures of their loveliness will distract you from how rubbish my blog is...)

Christmas and Editing have become so intertwined in my head that now I can't see a string of Christmas lights without wanting to take out every third one and join the two ends together.  I shall probably spend next week writing Christmas cards and then annotating them in fluorescent yellow pen 'move this to the end', 'take out this greeting' and 'who ARE these people?'

So, you may gather, I am still suffering. Although 'suffering' is a bit relative isn't it, I'm doing most of this from my lovely snuggly bed, draped in a duvet and eating Ferrero Rocher chocolates and shortbread biscuits, I'm not exactly engaging in hand-to-hand combat with armed rebels on a diet of boiled grass and leaves, am I?  But, you know, it's hard and my brain hurts, so...

So. To update you on progress.  Falling Apart now has added Sil, a bit less family angst but more parental contribution, exactly the same amount of zombie but now a bit more 'together', and Zan is just...well, he's just Zan. When I write him I sort of imagine Ben Wishaw as Q in Skyfall... geeky and lacking any noteable sense of humour..

I would very much like to put a picture of that in here, but Blogger, once again, is refusing to let me upload pictures.  I think it does it on purpose..or it could be my resident poltergeist, who seems to have taken a dislike to my computer, but has a surprising affinity for safety pins, which is nice, because there are usually never any safety pins in this house, but now I have several...oh no, now it's done it.  Whoopee.  Anyway.  That there is Ben Wishaw being Zanlike, except Zan would not be seen dead in that jacket and doesn't need to wear glasses, although, knowing Zan, he might just wear them anyway to give himself something to take off and put on again in moments of high drama.

Anyway.  Back to me and my angst... I am please to report that, despite the editing meaning that I rarely leave my bed except to go to work, the toilet, walk the dogs and replenish my Ferrero Rocher and shortbread biscuit supplies, I seem to have almost finished my Christmas shopping!  Yes, I know! Try not to hate me.  Some of it is even wrapped!  I have no idea how this happened, unless it was because I started shopping for Christmas in about June and have, in consequence, been living on top of boxes and carrier bags for months. Fortunately I am blessed with unrummagey children - well, most of them are away at present anyway, so the presents remain safely stored and unmolested, ready to be brought out on Christmas morning.  I would put them under the tree on Christmas eve but we have cats and dogs and mice and a poltergeist, and the carnage would be upsetting.

Right.  Back to the editing - Sil is about to make an Entrance... (and for those of you who are wondering, I think he looks a bit like this at the moment...)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The excitement of a new Hoover head - why editing turns your brain.

Now, I'm still supposed to be editing, so I'm going to make this quick.


All right, I'm not going to make it that quick, and I can't do spoilers in case some people haven't seen it but...wasn't it just rotatingly good?  In fact, if I can fit in a short break from this editing (which I really shouldn't because, you know, reasons...) I may just have to iPlayer it again.

And, amid all this, there's Christmas shopping to be done, and food to sort out (yes, I still regret last Christmas, the Christmas of the Mountain of Mince Pies. That mistake will not be made again) and, because it's my birthday next week I bought myself a present.  A new head for my Dyson hoover.  Now I come to think of it, this is more of a present for the Dyson than for me, but since the Dyson is an inanimate object with no feelings or humanity...which, now I come to think of it is a pretty good description of me...I'm calling it mine.

So.  Today's list goes: - Edit.  Cook food. Think about Christmas and add stuff to Amazon wishlist for self.  Delete it.  Add stuff for other people.  Feel left out and try to remember the stuff added for self. Waste four hours trying to find it. Think about Christmas some more. Stare in fridge and despair. Stare in freezer and despair. Find 'thing' in freezer left over from last Christmas. Stare at 'thing' and wonder what is. Stare at Hoover.  Affix new head to Hoover and push, in desultory way, around carpet. Realise this less fun than editing. Go and stare at 'thing' again and wonder if can get away with serving for dinner tonight. Watch Doctor Who on iPlayer. Stare at Doctor. Stare at Tom Baker and suffer flashbacks to 1973. Stare at edits. Defrost 'thing'.  Stare at defrosted 'thing', still unidentifiable.  Eat chocolate, make Christmas list, stare at edits again. Go to bed.
I know.  Exciting isn't it?  Look, I'm editing, I find used matches exciting at the moment.  And this goes round and round and makes a 'whhhiiiirrrr' noise.

Like my brain.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Editing. And the pure, naked excitement, sorry, actually just editing. Oh, and I coin the term 'Book-Pregnant' to excuse my bottom.

So. I am now In Editing.

This is an official term for when we writers lie down under the duvet, occasionally banging our heads against any firm object muttering 'no! NO!' and eating biscuits. It is a complicated time in a writer's life.  Imagine, if you will, that producing a book is like having a baby - this is an analogy much loved by writers because it makes us believe that we are not, in fact, getting fatter due to biscuit-consumption, we are 'book-pregnant'.  So, we slave for the obligatory months to gestate our book, then we send it off to be cooed over by our publishers.

Who promptly want us to shove it back in again and have a better looking one next time.

It is not exactly like this, of course, because I quite enjoy editing (knowing that I produced a big, ugly one which needs quite a lot of surgery to get presentable before I can, so to speak, wheel the pram down the road helps) and I most emphatically would not like the process of jamming any of my children back up my nethers. But it is similarly difficult and slightly off-putting.

picture courtesy of glowellness.blogger.

..only even bigger, because I am having a series. Editing is also a bit like unpicking a cardigan, carefully knitted in complicated cable-stitch, and re-knitting it into a sweater with a picture of the cast of The Simpson on the front - they are both the same garment, essentially, but the overall object is different.  Only with mine, I rather overknitted the first garment, so it wasn't just cable-stitched, it also had epaulets, frogging, military buttons and a rather nice forty-foot train, so now I need to go back and remove some of the more unnecessary decoration and make it a little more...wearable in public, so to speak.
Like this, only with more shiny on.

So bear with me, kind people, because I now have the rather confused impression that I have to go and knit myself a baby...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Festival of Romance, and I go for a nice lie down. Or up, if the Viagra takes effect.

Just a quickie, because, darlings, you know me and you know just how much beauty sleep is required to keep yours truly beautiful... in fact, on some days I don't even get out of bed, but I am ravishingly gorgeous despite this.

No, I have just returned from the fabulous Festival of Romance in Bedford, where, along with other luminaries, I was shortlisted for a Readers' Award!  Sadly, for my shoes were things of devastating beauty, I did not win - the award was, in fact, picked up by the wonderful Liz Fenwick, ( so luminous that one could barely see her, I, for one, had to squint, for she glowed like a Tilley Lamp on a damp Wednesday).  But I seriously did not mind not winning, because everybody is so lovely that it's almost a shame that we can't have one of those legendary 'school sports day' award ceremonies where everybody gets a lolly for just turning up.  Only without the 'egg and spoon' element.  I feel that making authors run around with an egg on a teaspoon may just demean the art a touch.  Giving them each a lolly would not, however, demean them at all, it may just mean small fights and tears over the lime flavoured ones.

In  other news, in attempts to bypass whatever bug Blogger seems to have picked up and firmly attached to this blog of mine (and I shall be e mailing them some more of my very sharpest words very shortly), I have taken the verification code off the blog, and am therefore snowed under with Anonymous e mails via the comments section, where a large number of readers attempt to sell me Viagra or transsexual porn.

Note to all bots reading this.  I don't need either of these things. Thank you.  But, you know, because I'm British and everything, I feel duty bound to thank you for your interest in my sex life.

And here, if everything allows, is a picture of the line up for the Readers Award for Fiction...

From the left, Sue Moorcroft, Liz Fenwick, me (and it's interestingly patterned tights not a skin condition), Rowan Coleman and Hazel Osmond.

If you'd like to leave a comment, please do, but don't try to sell me any more Viagra, I can't close the cupboard any more and it keeps falling out. I'm worried that the cats might have eaten it... they've been outside for four days now...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

...hello? If you could just restart your computer, I'm sure I'll be able to get out in time for the weekend...

Ah, what a week I've had... actually, was it a week?  It seems to have contained the requisite number of days, but somehow the actual hours haven't quite been up to numerical scratch, which leads me to conclude that I have been cheated of some of my half-term holiday... When I work out how this was done (some kind of time-hoover springs to mind, the great Holiday Dyson that always seems to come into play whenever I'm looking forward to a few days of doing something. Sooner or later that filter is going to need cleaning out, and when it does, two of those fortnights jammed up its hose are mine...) I shall be demanding retribution.

Anyway.  In the few hours that were left to me, I've actually been doing some research!  Yes, I know! Me! Research! That didn't consist of eating a lot of biscuits or staring at kittens!  Research that involved Leaving the House and you know how reluctant I am to write books that contain places that I can't see from my window or, failing that, the window of a bus. However... and this is a big How, and quite a large Ever, my current work in progress (or WIP, as we trendy writers like to call it, to make it sound as though we actually spend our time talking in acronyms and abbreviations.. 'call up the DLC, would you, check whether it's possible to send a ODV without a GCQ permit, and then pop it on the HMRC site, I'm sure it's tax deductible'... rather than a large number of blank pages stared at whilst slapping one's forehead and muttering 'think, dammit'), titled 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' (or IDWTTAI, if we're being trendy), is about a woman who writes books about graveyards.

Now, of course I know what a graveyard looks like. I live next to one, in fact, so, in keeping with 'research I can do in my pyjamas' I used that one. But then comes a point in the book where an isolated, moorland churchyard was necessary, and I tried just, you know, using my imagination, but since I live a scant few miles from isolated moorland, I decided to go there and make it a little less isolated. I would love to show you a picture, but, sadly, this blog is exercising considerable retribution for past misdeeds (of which I remain largely unaware) by refusing to allow me to post pictures! I know!  I am a prisoner of my own Blog!

So I'd like you all to use your imaginations, if you would, and picture the scene.... Oh, well done! It's almost as if I were there! You even got the small dog and the faint smell of onions!  It looked just like that, and I am busy writing it into my book, as we speak.

Well, I will be, if the blog lets me out...  Hello?  HELLO?     I might just need you to press CtrlAltDelete...only I'm quite peckish now and...hello?  No, don't wander off, I'm stuck here and there aren't even any kittens....

Sunday, 27 October 2013

I announce my attendance at the Festival of Romance, accompanied by industrial scaffolding and three make-up teams from the B&Q Make-Up School

Well.  Not long after last week's blog post winged its way into the ether and blasted itself onto your eyeballs (I'm working on a way to deliver it straight to your brain. I've got as far as wrapping it in marshmallows and delivering it direct to your digestive system, but that's not working out as well as I would have hoped), there was An Announcement. That Announcement was the shortlist for the Reader Award for best Romantic Read at the Festival of Romance (which takes place in a couple of weeks in Bedford and, dear reader, I shall be in attendance!  My attendanceosity was placed in a certain amount of doubt for a while, much as I was placed in a certain amount of debt, but borrowfication and a lenience on the part of my bank manager (just as well because I also had to buy a washing machine) has enabled me to go) - and here is an exclamation mark which you may apply to the part of the above sentence, plus parentheses, as you see fit. !

For Hubble Bubble is upon that list. And here, for your edification and delight, is the rest of it! The list I mean, not Hubble Bubble, if you want to read that you can buy it. In fact, I think my bank manager may insist on you buying it...

Reader Award for Best Romantic Read - for contemporary set romantic novels

Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey (Ebury)
Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson (Avon)
A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
Hubble Bubble by Jane Lovering (Choc Lit)
Is This Love? by Sue Moorcroft (Choc Lit)
Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond (Quercus)

And I truly don't mind who wins the actual award in question, since everyone on this list is absolutely delightful and should definitely win.

And, since I am attending said Festival, I may be found there on the Saturday morning, 9th of November, in Waterstones, from 11 - 1, signing copies of said book, so, you know, if you're there and you want to see me (warning, probable bed-hair and a cross expression and possible half an egg sandwich hanging out of the side of my mouth) then do come! Usual caveats regarding poking with sticks apply.

I am also doing a reading at the Royal Baby Shower 3.15 - 4.30 on the Saturday, which, since the Gala Dinner is at 7.30 really doesn't leave me much time for scraping off some outer layers and replacing them with cleaner, tidier ones, does it? Three hours? I'll have barely got started. Note to self, take extra-sharp scrapers...

This sort of thing. Gets in the nooks and crannies a treat.

My make-up artist, at work.

And, for now, it's half-term, so if you'll excuse me I have to go and inflate and deflate my body in order to get into the dress (also borrowed) I wish to wear to the dinner.  It's only a couple of weeks away and I can't remember where I put the pump or the spare nozzles...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

You can't put your toffees in a headless man; the Festival of Romance; no need to panic but it's almost Christmas.

 Several things have been lurching like thought-zombies to the forefront of my consciousness today, and I couldn't choose just one from the crowd of Walking Dead Ideas to lay before you in all its rotting gorgeosity, so I thought I'd just splurge.  Yes, today is to be a day of splurge-blogging, whereby I shall just splat all those ideas and thoughts into this blog and let you pick amid the eyeballs and organs to find inspiration and/or dinner, depending on how you are feeling today.

Firstly: during our RNA Chapter Meeting (I still love saying that. It makes me sound a bit Hell's Angel I always think. Maybe I could get a Romantic Comedy Novelists' jacket, all black leather with 'Born to Pun' on the back in studs) we were discussing the trend for the headless torso covers, by way of objectification of women.  I am not in favour of headless torsos, I should say, because I like my men with eyes. I'd worry about my readers fantasising about my heroes not having tops to their heads, and being able to use them as convenient containers for things like toffees. Containers with amazing (and somewhat unlikely) abdominal formations, admittedly, but still.  Men are people too, they are not something in which to put your left-over sweeties.

This sort of thing is what I mean.  I make no judgements about the book behind the cover, but this cover just screams to me of a hinged forehead concealing a conveniently large interior into which to place cotton buds or sherbet lemons.  Incidentally, this picture came from here, a place where no cover is safe from ridicule, and quite rightly so.  Is it just me, or does it look as though his torso is trying to crawl up his body to a place of safety between his shoulderblades?

Also, I have finally...FINALLY, made arrangements to attend the Festival of Romance! I always intended to go but, you know, food and everything, but I WILL BE THERE! In Bedford! Oh, I'm not doing anything, obviously, just walking around and seeing things, but I do get to go to the Gala Dinner thingie, which means I'd better start canvassing all my friends of a similar size in order to borrow a frock and shoes. But I am looking forward to it, and also seeing lots of my writing friends and chatting to them, so, it's a good thing.

Another Thing, there are only 10 useable days left in October, this means that Christmas is looming ever closer, like a big cloud of panic, wrapped in bacon. However, I always love Christmas because it's one of the few days in the year when I actually know what we're having for dinner and don't have to rake around in the depths of the freezer for something which will, when defrosted, turn out to be the owl pellets left over from last term.  Also my birthday is in November, which is a day on which nobody is allowed to throw things at me or poke me with sticks, so it's almost like having a holiday really! Isn't it?

I think I'd better go and write another book now...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Beverley Lit Fest, where I was allowed without my Special Restraints....

Well!  Yesterday I was on a panel... no, that doesn't mean that someone finally snapped and nailed me to a door, it means that I was at Beverley Lit Fest, sitting on a chair.  And sitting alongside me were Rhoda Baxter, fellow Choc Liteer, Val Wood, who was 'chairing' us, and Melinda Hammond, so it was all very glam and professional and everything.  We even had proper radio mikes! Normally when I do this sort of thing (well, maybe not this sort of thing, it's more usually a small room in the back of a shop) I'm just told to 'speak up, really loudly, and don't mind the dog, he wanders off half way through anyway'.  But no!Proper voice-loudening devices were worn!  And there wasn't even a dog!  Just lots of lovely people who asked real questions and laughed and didn't say things like 'well, who's she then? I've never heard of her,' during the talks.

I'd never been to Beverley before. Although on a map it's only about half an inch from where I live, when you translate that into real miles it's quite a long way. And it's up and down all the way which, even in a car, is a bit offputting, it gives me the impression that I'm going into space, just really slowly.  But it seems a very nice place, and I'm sure I'll go back, especially now that I know they've got an M&S which is, let's face it, the really important thing about a place. Cultural sights of interest are all very well but sometimes what you really want is a good-quality sandwich and proper pants.
Some of it, I am led to believe, looks like this

And we talked about writing romance and being published and stuff like that, and it was very grown up and I only did one obscene gesture and I didn't mention incontinence or wee or anything even once!

I think everyone may have forgotten my last debacle and I may gradually be allowed into polite society again.  Like a Victorian lady coming slowly out of mourning...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

'I Don't Want to Talk About It' - my sticky middle. A writing one, not my personal one. And I talk about it rather a lot...

It may come as a surprise to those of you who drift through this blog, that I am, actually, a writer.  A real one, with books published and everything.  And Being a Writer means that, occasionally, I have to sit down know, write things.  There's only so long that you can breeze about, all trailing scarves and flakes of chocolate falling from your scarlet lips, muttering "I am an artiste, I should not be burdened with earthly things...' before flopping down onto the sofa to watch 'Cash in the Attic' whilst calling it research.

So I have been doing just that.  The writing thing, I mean, not the wafting and the chocolate and the Cash in the Attic thing. And I have to report, rather proudly, that I have now officially reached the half-way point in 'I Don't Want to Talk About It'.  The characters are all there (one main character, Daniel of the biker boots, chaos tattoo and long black coat, has only just appeared in person, having been mostly there in thought alone up until now), the story, a woman whose ex tried to come between her and her identical twin and who is now cautiously attracted to a man with a stammer and a niece who is obsessed with her hobby horse, is settling down and beginning to turn the corner into the build up to a rather nasty reveal which turns the whole thing upside down.  So far so hoopy.

But I have become afflicted, people.  And all those of you who've ever tried to write a novel will start to nod, sympathetically I hope although maybe with an element of schadenfreude, at the following words.  Sticky Middle.

Oh, I wish it were as delicious as the name - and this picture - implies! But no! Having a sticky middle is rather like having one's own personal middle becoming sticky - there is a lot of explaining to do and one has to be rather careful how one goes about it in order not to provoke cries of revulsion and horror from nearby onlookers.

I know what has to happen, it's a romance, so girl gets boy and they go off to, if not a happy ever after, at least a happy for now ending. But, before that there is a lot of sorting out to do... And because there are a lot of complicated motivations, unreliable narrators and downright lies going on, it's got to be carefully sorted so that the reader (hopefully you) knows were everyone is coming from, why they behave the way they have, and why there are no miraculous solutions or 'cures.  Without rushing, and ending the whole thing at around the 50,000 word mark (most of my novels are about 80,000), or dragging out the whole 'going out, coming back, trying on new dresses and shoes and cooking lovingly described meals' and then ending abruptly with a quick ' he lied, she lied but they all love each other now, so that's all right isn't it?' (You may think I am exaggerating, but I have read books like this! Yes, really! Books that people paid real money for!).

So, in brief. I need to write another 40,000 words (yes, that is quite a lot. Yes, it is more than two pages. Yes, I completely understand that you once had to write 500 words when you sent that Round Robin to your family at Christmas and that it took you all day, and I feel your pain, but perhaps you can imagine writing 80 times as much without ever mentioning Your Nathan and his incredible success with the trolley collection service).  They have to tell the rest of the story, but not too quickly, not too slowly and they have to be amusing and yet tear-jerking too.

Oh sod it. I'll just go and watch 'Cash in the Attic' a couple more times. For inspiration, you understand, because I AM an artiste, you know...

Sunday, 29 September 2013

In which I am stressed by the failure of domestic appliances.

This has not been a good month here.  Now, I don't wish to burden you with my woes, but since you are already here and I've locked the doors, I'm going to, anyway, and you needn't think that you're getting your hands on my Hobnobs unless you maintain a suitably sympathetic silence, with occasional nods of empathy. After that, we'll see, but I warn you that the biscuit tin lid is rigged with explosives, so don't try sneaking a hand in unless you want to be sponging custard creams out of your ears all night, all right?

My car needs a new clutch
My washing machine is broken beyond repair
My hoover's revolutionary Powered Head has inexplicably lost its power and I now have to hoover a dog-haired carpet with an upholstery brush..

Who sniggered?  I heard someone snigger there! I demand that you all assume a solemn expression, this is important, as you will soon discover when you try to sit down and disappear in a cloud of dog-fluff...

the Big Car needs taxing and new tyres (also MOT and something called a 'timing belt', but since I don't know what that is I shall just nod and smile whenever it is mentioned)
I owe the Council Tax people, on top of everything else I am paying them, a mysterious £50. I don't know what it's for, I just got a letter telling me I owed it. So I rang them up, and they don't seem to know what it's for either, but they were able to assure me that, oh yes, I quite definitely owed it to them. For... you know... reasons.
Tax returns.  No, nothing specific regarding those tax returns just... they exist, and I have to do them. That's quite enough for someone who lives in World of Chaos (it's like World of Leather but it moves around more) since it involves piling up bits of paper.
This is what my brain looks like from the inside.

What it should be like. Apparently.
So, as you will see, I have an extended period of screaming to be getting on with. This may delay me, somewhat, from actually doing anything that needs doing, but I find screaming so therapeutic, don't you? Besides which, it keeps people from getting their hands on your chocolate wafers - it takes a very brave person to tackle someone who keeps yelling "Things! So many THINGS!" while shaking a mop head and brandishing a packet of paper clips.

So if you see me during the next few weeks, just pat me kindly on the shoulder or, for those who wisely don't want to get that close, just hold out some chocolate. On the end of a stick. Probably, to be safe, a very long stick...

Oh look. Now someone's detonated the bourbons...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

It doesn't matter what age they learn to talk. Honestly.

And today I return another child to University.  One has already gone, another is yet to leave, so I thought this was the ideal place to have a quick word about children...

I've several friends at the moment with young children. And by 'young' I mean still falling over, being sick and weeing everywhere - which I realise can also describe me after a hard night on the orange juice, but these particular ones have ages in single digits. The children, I mean, not the parents, because that would be odd.  And, almost without exception, they feel that their child is somehow 'behind' on something.  Those whose little ones can confidently recite pi to fourteen decimal places, are worried that their child isn't yet running confidently downstairs with a pig under each arm.  Those whose children are currently entering their ninth marathon are worried about that lisp when their child pronounces on the subject of 'absolute existentialism'.  Those parents who aren't worried about either of these things are particularly fretful that their offspring has a tendency to remove all its clothing in Tesco, and run down the offal aisle.

As I have raised five children past the 'naked offal-running' stage, through the lisping inability to do a jigsaw puzzle without wetting themselves and up to the ability to dress themselves in clothes that don't frighten horses, I feel qualified to tell all those parents not to worry.

Honestly. Seriously, don't worry.  I despaired too that my children would never learn to use the toilet/never learn to speak in a language that didn't consider 'Onint' to mean Elephant/never be able to walk confidently up and down stairs without dropping to their bottom and shuffling... and yet... one of them is a father himself, three are at University, and one is performing advanced singing and dancing in front of many people.  One of them called a pigeon a 'pim', one used to pronounce swan with a peculiar nasal 's' that sounded like pfhwan, and one got ridiculously excited by dinosaurs and knew practically every single type (including Baryonyx) by name by the age of three.  All now functioning normally in society (well, if you count training to be accountants to be normal, which I don't, but your mileage may vary) and able to pull their own trousers up and put socks on the right way round.
Two accountants, one writer, and a working father of one. I know, hard to believe, isn't it?  Just goes to show that you should never despair...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Okay, I'm going to make this quick know, reasons.  I'm a day late, because I was at Booqfest in Northampton this weekend and it was brilliant as ever,  I basically ligged about, chatted to people and was a bit 'fangirl' over Joe Lidster again. Yes, just like last year.  I was surprised, frankly, that he actually spoke to me at all, rather than calling the police and gesturing wildly with the end of the table leg he was using to restrain me from flinging samples of my writing at him.  Anyway.  This year I arrived too late for the cupcakes (something I am still sulking about), but had an enjoyable time anyway.  And then today I went to work, from which I have just returned, and am therefore tired, cross and somewhat de-energised.

Yep, honestly, I can't even muster up the enthusiasm to post a picture of kittens.  I've spent the last five hours rushing around a science department, been shopping, hung out the laundry and now wish to lie very still, gazing at the mysterious crack in the ceiling and going 'mmuuuuurrrrrr' quite a lot.  I also have to do some more work on 'I Don't Want to Talk About It', my current work in progress, which I am now wishing had a much shorter title.  I am about half way through presently, suffering from 'middle of the book' syndrome, and am restraining myself from eating loads of chocolate and pretending that I've got nothing to do except lie still and go 'mmmmuuuuuurrrrr'.  But I am aware that those of you who read this blog (you do, don't you?  I mean, you are out there? Because I do have a suspicion that it's really just me and a large chicken, and I'm beginning to suspect that the chicken might not be real either, so, you know, if you are out there I shall be amazingly reassured) want some form of entertainment from these words of wisdomish, so, in the spirit of entertaining some people, who may or may not be real, I'm going to dance.


Now I'm going to lie down and go 'mmmmmuuuuurrrr' some more. Come back next week. I might be feeling more enthusiastic by then.

What do you mean 'why is there a picture of Johnny Depp'? Seriously, I'm appalled that you even have to ask...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

How I had an attack of Chickens,gave up gardening and took up wildlife and wasps.

I used to like gardening.  There was something about being down there in the soil, stark naked and rolling around with a potato in each hand that told me I wasn't doing it quite right, but I was happy.  I had the sun on my buttocks, the wind in my groin and a smile on..well, I suppose it was my face, but I was quite often upside down, so it wasn't always easy to tell. And then, dear reader, I got Chickens, it was probably all that rolling around naked, people always told me I'd catch something. 

Subsquent to the Chicken Acquisition, and not unrelated to it, I discovered that there are few things more dispiriting in life than going out to your newly-planted herb garden, in which you have invested time, money, weedkiller and many hours of naked rolling, and finding nothing left but a patch of bare earth, three bits of pecked greenery and a lump of chicken pooh.

But, you know, chickens lay eggs. And gardens don't, although you can, with much hard work, whole days of weeding, hoeing, tying up, pegging down and covering with netting, persuade a garden to let you have not quite enough vegetables in one go to actually feed the family, thus necessitating having to go to the shop anyway to top up with frozen veg.  So I gave my garden over to the chickens.  And, by extension, the hedgehogs, rabbits, pheasants, deer, butterflies birds and wasps.  I mean, I could be out there now, carefully turning over soil in order to painstakingly plant something which the chickens will eat as soon as it sprouts, or will turn my newly dug soil into a dustbath.  But I'm not, I'm sitting here on my bed, in the sunshine, guilt free.
Here they are.  On my picnic table, on what used to be a lawn.
My garden is now 90% nettle and 10% bitey-things, with a 0.5% pondage variable, but that's fine.  The children have all grown out of wanting to dig random holes or have a tree swing, the dogs like mooching around in the undergrowth, the cats enjoy stalking the innocent wildlife that wanders through, and I... well, I gaze out over the half an acre of wilderness with they eye of a David Attenborough, and mutter about refuges and endangered species.  There's a patio to sit on, if necessary, and sufficient flat bits of grass to sunbathe (ah, yes, sorry, I forgot to mention the wasps' nests, but they're fine, leave them alone and they won't bother you...).  I save time and energy, which I can then invest in writing, which is a posh name for Googling, laughing at cute pictures of kittens and trying to formulate a message to Tony Robinson which won't breach the (fairly specific) terms of my injunction.  And I get views like this...

Which is nice.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

I host a Special Guest who has a competition for you! Lynda Renham launches her new book and tries to steal my HobNobs!

Today, I have a guest on the blog!  I know!  I actually managed to persuade someone to come in here!  I shovelled a clear path and laid a trail of cake, and then I stood at the door making those 'squeaky' noises that one makes to attract cats, and she came!  Obviously I immediately had to tie her to a chair to prevent sudden escapes or anything, and then I asked her some questions about her writing and books!

So I'd like you all to welcome....Lynda Renham, whose new book 'The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties' is available today on Kindle!

  Lynda, I've got a few questions for you, so that readers may be enlightened about you and your writings, if I may...

Oh.  Sorry.  I'll take off the gag and blindfold, that will make things easier...

I note that The Valentine Present and other diabolical liberties features a stammerer (as does my wip, incidentally, chaps).. would you say that stammering had any hand in your becoming a writer?

I had a stammer from the age six until nineteen. I still stammer a bit now when nervous or excited. You can imagine if I have anything urgent to tell Andrew it can sometimes take a while. I used humour as a way to deflect from my embarrassing stammer when I was young. I suppose in that way it set a humour course in my writing.

Lynda talks in italics.  Posh, eh?  I've only just learned to speak in sans-serif...

How do you come up with your, very funny, titles?

Andrew and I do a lot of brain storming. We throw out ridiculous titles like ‘Teacakes and Jam’? or ‘Croissants and knickers’ until we come up with something that sounds right. In fact,  ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ was initially ‘Pink Wellingtons and Flat Caps’ but our cover designer, when querying something, referred to it as ‘Pink Wellies’ A result! Sometimes it is called ‘Pink Willies’ - damn predictive text.

Oh, I dunno.  Seems reasonable to me.. Probably a good job the book isn't called 'Green Wellies and Flat Caps'....

 What is your view on scented candles?

Apart from giving me a headache and sending Bendy into a coma, I love them.

Bendy is Lynda's cat.  He's very lovely, but then, he is a cat...

 Your cover art fits your books so well, how do you arrive at the covers you use?

We found a superb artist by the name of Gracie Klummp. Her work is amazing. She always seems to know what we want and she reads extracts before starting work. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I believe the cover is very important.

You've always been a huge supporter of mine (for which, many thanks!), who do you consider your greatest help during times of strife?

You’re very welcome. I love your books, but let’s get back to me… My rock and greatest support is my husband Andrew. I never give him enough credit as he won’t allow it. But I’d be back in the gutter without him. I am his Eliza Doolittle (if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

I now have visions of you, hunched over a rail yelling 'move your arse!', but, of course, you'd never be so coarse, Lynda, would you?  Oh, sorry, the gag again...tut...I just can't remember to leave that off, can I?

Who (and I admit this may be a leading question) is your favourite band?

Erm, erm… Let me think. Ah yes, it is the hugely successful indie rock band Willow Down.

Of course, of course...mmmm...Ben Davies.....

My latest novel, Hubble Bubble, is about a bunch of women who try to perform magic. If there was one piece of magic you could do, what would it be? 

Apart from bringing world peace and all that malarkey, it’s got to be to make chocolate calorie free.

I know you are a lover of yoghurt, and yoghurt-based substances, but what is your favourite flavour of ice-cream?

Mmmm, where do I start? Strawberries and cream.

Sadly misguided, because we all know it's anything with marshmallows and caramel in, but I shall let you have that one.

And finally - rhubard. Yes, or no?

Yes, yes, yes. I love rhubarb. Rhurbab yogurt, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb and custard. I’d have rhubarb tea if I could find it.

Good.  Good.  That's the right answer.  Stop wriggling, I'll let you go in a minute. First I want to tell people how they may participate in your competition, giveaways and general high fallutin' doings today..
Go over to Facebook, where the online launch is taking place, just here .  Like Lynda's Page, which will give you many more details about her books, and check out her website.All these places will give you maximum chance to win copies of The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties, Lynda herself will be there, just as soon as I've released her from the chair and made sure she's not running off with any of my Hobnobs or anything.  You can also, should you so desire pop Twitterwards,  where Lynda will be delighted to hear any tales you may have of liberties taken with your person.  I'm just off over there to mention those packets of Hobnobs I can see her stuffing in her pockets this very minute. Oy!  Stop it!

Oh, and there's a chance to win a copy of Hubble Bubble over at Lynda's blog too, so...pop on over, have a chat with us as we party and...she's doing it again, sorry I've got to go...