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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Festivals from the comfort of your own home - well, Galtres festival anyway. May contain mentions of rain...

Just in case any of you have been wondering how I've spent my time this weekend - come on, I know you all think about me when I'm not here, you just don't like to say anything... I've been attending the Galtres Music Festival. It's local and it's not Leeds or Reading, but last night we did have Maximo Park (who I luuurrrve) playing! In the mud and the rain! Just like a real festival!  Except that, because it's just down the road, I can come home and sleep in my own bed and not in a tent where everything gets all clammy and damp and smells of feet.  Although, come to think of it, my home is pretty clammy and damp and does, occasionally, smell of feet...

Anyway. This festivalisation has meant many things.  Not enough sleep, cider that could strip the keys from a piano, music and bouncing, mud, bacon-inna-bun and rain. Lots and lots of rain.  For some reason, a year that has been mostly kind in the summer department has chosen this weekend to dump six months' worth of rain every evening between the hours of approximately 7pm and midnight, carefully calculated to do maximum damage to any attempts to be fashionable or cool.

Look, for example, at this.

Ignore my son's attempts to photobomb the picture.  This is your typical crowd, watching Johnny Borrell, ex of Razorlight. Note the hats, the coats, the extreme wellingtons worn without fear.  Typical Festival goers, in other words; it had to be one of the few places where your pint refilled as fast as you drank it, but becoming progressively weaker as you went on.  At least, I think that was what was happening, after a while I couldn't feel my feet any more and I went blind.

The beer tent.  The last thing I saw before my vision failed.

Maximo Park, the whole reason I was there, dancing and bouncing around in wellingtons, a dog-walking coat and improbably hat, like a yak-herder on a gap year.

And now, if you'll excuse me, the Stranglers are playing tonight and I have to get my frogman's suit out of the packing crate...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

What is Chick Lit? No, seriously, I want an answer... And don't say 'pink'....

Very shortly I am going to be asking for your opinions, so you may want to sit down and have a Hobnob, find a pen, make a cup of tea and work out what your opinions are.  I can wait.  I'll just sit here and hum for a bit, maybe flip through my enormous collection of kitten pictures and furtively Google Tony Robinson. Go on, off you go...
I've got hundreds like this. Hundreds.

Ready?  Right.  Now, the backstory... (stop sighing, there's always a backstory, and you'd only complain if I didn't tell you).  Last week I went to meet up with the Doncaster Chapter of the RNA. Yes, it does make them sound like Hell's Angels, maybe that's on purpose. After all, nobody messes with the RNA. We even have a special 'hit squad' of armed mercenaries to take out rogue reviewers.. What?  Oh, apparently we don't, which leaves me with the question 'who the hell have I been talking to when I phoned that 'special' number I was given at the last Conference?', but that's not really the problem under scrutiny here.

You have no idea how disappointed I am that this is not going to be visited upon people.  I had a list and everything.
We were talking about Chick Lit.  Well, I was talking and they were nodding wisely, making sage remarks and generally a lively discussion was had.  I may have shouted a bit, but nobody threw anything at me, so I have to assume that I wasn't being too badly behaved.  And then it was suggested that I turn the discussion over to you, dear blog readers, which I am here to do, and this is where I need your opinions.

You see, neither my publisher nor I ever describe my writing as 'Chick Lit'. Never. I call  it 'dark psychological romance, with jokes', but whether because it's first-person romantic comedy or for some other reason, people who pick the books up tend to assume they are going to read Chick Lit, whatever that may be.  Therefore, I have had numerous reviews - not bad ones, mostly, in fact, very good ones - but they all say things like 'not your usual Chick Lit story' or variations thereof.  So now I worry that I am disappointing people who expect Chick Lit when they buy my books, and are not being delivered of that which they are anticipating, if you follow my tortured English there.

So, my question to you is - what is Chick Lit?  In your opinion, I mean, I've already canvassed the opinion of the great unwashed masses of Wikipedia which reduces it to 'books dealing with the themes of womanhood, sometimes humorously', which isn't much help, frankly. What makes a book chick lit? Pink cover? Shoes? Heartbroken woman learning to love again? And where does this leave my, quite frankly biscuit-led, books?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Writing, and the Emergency Chocolate Clause.

This is important.  Apart from the blog posts where I want to tell you about my books, or show you pictures of kittens, this is probably one of the most important posts EVER. Oh, that's not including posts where I tell you things about writing either, or talk about the lovely place where I live, or inspiration or things like that.  No, but APART from all those things, this is the most important thing EVER.

Today, I want to talk to you about.....chocolate.  In particular, favourite chocolate. No, wait, this is important, because all writers need Writing Fuel.  It's the thing that keeps us going when... well, yes, when we're writing, but sometimes, during those Writing Moments, writers can have horrible Blank Times. Hours, sometimes days, when there's nothing playing on the screen behind your eyes except a small list of things one must purchase from the garden centre when one is allowed out next and the question 'why is the dog barking in the garden when we a) we haven't got a dog and b) we haven't got a garden. And it's hours like these when chocolate really comes into its own.
This picture is from The Telegraph. Yes, a mainstream newspaper thought chocolates were important too!

But there is chocolate and, as I am sure you will agree, there is chocolate.  Now I don't want to offend anyone of an American persuasion, but someone once attempted to feed me Hershey's chocolate. Oh, it wasn't deliberate, it was a well-meaning attempt to introduce some alien culture into my life and anyway they'd been to the States and thought that bringing back some American orientated sweets might be a good idea.  And it was horrible.  Everyone who has tried some has corroborated this, so it's not like it's just my opinion either, although I do concede that different people have different tastes so, you know, your mileage may vary. But seriously? They tasted like sick.

But I have just had a conversation with someone (The Mysterious Mr Q, actually) who takes chocolate almost as seriously as I do, and I was surprised to find that he enjoys the odd Flake, while I find Flakes oddly sicky too, as are Twirls.  And don't get me started on Galaxy versus Cadbury's debate.  And then we have chocolate with bits in question - should chocolate be 'pure' or have added...things.  Sea salt or chili or.. I don't know, artichokes or something.

I am going to give a purely personal opinion here, consisting of three words. No, you're all right, those three words aren't anything horribly judgemental like Eat More Lettuce, or Just Say No.  They are: Giant. Chocolate. Buttons.
A perfect combination of mouthsized pieces and yummy chocolate.  Honestly, I'm going for corporate sponsorship next.  Because these bad boys are my current Muse. I am, quite literally, unable to write unless I have at least one packet of these in my possession.  I don't have to actually eat them, because of the Emergency Chocolate clause, but I do have to have them.

What?  You don't understand about Emergency Chocolate?  It goes like this.... You know how you often sit there, brain freewheeling harder than Lord Bradley Wiggins descending Mont Blanc, and your mouth draws your attention to its desire to nom something.  You smack your lips for a moment and finally your brain alights on what it is that your mouth is trying to say - it wants........ You may fill in the blank for yourself, but it is always, and I cannot stress this too much, ALWAYS something that, not only do you not have in the house, but is something that you will probably have to drive a round trip of around 30 miles in order to obtain. Always.  Go on, try it yourself....

You've found yourself wanting sugared almonds, haven't you? Covered in gold leaf? Or those hand-finished crisps that you can only buy from that little farm shop that's only open on Thursdays? Anyway. My point is...  I only really want chocolate when I haven't got any. So keeping an large bag of Giant Chocolate Buttons on the shelf in the bedroom is my way of preventing myself from ever wanting chocolate.  If I could only work out how to do this with all the other food groups, I'd be really thin...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

What I did on Other People's Holidays, and a touch of the Sisterhood....

Oh look, you're back again.  And this week, I'm afraid, I have nothing much to report at all, I'm afraid.  For this week I had 'Visitors', because this is what qualifies as a holiday for me and my vast and slightly effulgent household - providing a holiday destination for others, in this case,my brother and his two female offspring.  No doubt if I ran, say, a bed and breakfast establishment, this would be the holiday-equivalent of my spending a fortnight in Southern Portugal, followed by a week's fact-finding mission to Canada, but, as it was, it was only my family and only for three days, so the equivalent of a long weekend on the Isle of Wight. 

So, this week has contained

Yes, meercats are very cute...

There is little in life more downtrodden-looking than a moist Golden Eagle, even if he has been watered for his own cooling purposes.

And a large amount of this..

Members of my family, ranked according to liking for Cheese and Onion Crisps.  What?  Doesn't everyone rank their families in such order? How do you decide where to stand otherwise?  

All in all a lot of fun was had, sights were seen and we even had a faux-barbeque, on account of not actually possessing an actual barbeque, but everything was fine and food was eaten and stuff, so that was all right.

And in other news, I've been tagged as part of this...
by Anita Davison.  Apparently it's a way of getting women bloggers to spread the word about one another, or something like that.  We're supposed to tag about a million other women bloggers (why do I keep writing the word 'bloogers'? I don't even know what a blooger is, and I'm not sure I'd want to meet one, even if I did) but I seriously don't know that many people.  Truly. My social circle is about the size of a Polo.  So I'm tagging a few of the new members of the Choc Lit team, because I know you'll want to get to know them better, and this seems a good way of getting that to happen.  So, for your delectation, here are:-

Alison May
Rhoda Baxter
Janet Gover
Jules Wake

I know that's not millions and I know that it's not even a tiny slice of the number of gorgeous and talented and fabulous women writing for, or about to write for, Choc Lit, but these are people I know won't hit me. And at least one owes me a cake, so... you know... just pop over to their blogs, take a look. You might like them. I do.