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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gradually graded graduations and, do iPhones bounce? Plus a rather lovely photo of my daughter...

This post may well be truncated because I might just have to throw my laptop out of the window. Bear with me a moment, while I take you on a long journey back into the dark ages.....
(did you just get that 'whooshing' noise, or was that only me?)

In the days of yore, well, all right, about ten years ago, but in technology terms that's pretty much the Paleolithic, I got a mobile phone.  And golly did I feel all trendy and swish!  It looked like this...
although a little bit less swish, being black and white and having no redeeming features at all apart from being able to be dropped repeatedly without breaking.  Anyway.  My children finally became so irritated with my not being able to Tweet at all hours of the day and night (if I'm away from my laptop, as I often am what with having a proper job and everything) that, when my daughter upgraded her phone, she gave me her old one.

Technology and I do not get on.  My children, who all grew up with iPhones and suchlike, tried to show me how it worked by going 'oh, it's easy, you press this this and this, then this, log in to this, press this twice, swipe the screen, and there it is'.  I am sitting there, like that Stone Age man, with my mouth open and my fingers twitching reflexively, completely unable to follow what they are talking about.

So, to the point of this blog.  Yesterday I travelled down to Oxford, for DD1's Graduation Day. She got into her robes and mortar board and received her degree and I was duly proud and properly tearful and everything, and took lots of pictures.  Which are now, I regret to inform you, sealed good and proper into the New Phone.  I tried to iCloud, logged in and everything, but whenever I try to upload (or, indeed, do anything) it tells me that Information is Missing and I have to go back to Apple Log In and start again.  Which I do. And have done.  Repeatedly. With the same result every time. Fortunately I can report that I did, eventually, manage to e-mail a picture to myself, although it would have been faster for me to reproduce the event in crayon.  Look.

And while this may just be a picture to you, this represents many hours of swearing, searching my computer, downloading, losing it, downloading it again, losing the whole folder, throwing the phone, throwing the laptop, and cursing.

Oh, and three years of tough study, lots of essays, many words and late nights and much despair on the part of Vienna.  So, well done her!

And a quietly smug me. I beat technology. So there.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Why not post a review and spare an author from getting stuck in velvet? Plus, gratuitous llama...

Anyone who isn't a writer probably imagines an author's response to reviews to be something like those 'actors receiving the review of the critics' that you always get in a certain kind of film, usually from the 1950's.  You know, where everyone sits up all night and then sends out for the first editions of the newspapers.  They all sit there, smoking and drinking coffee and biting their nails until someone else bursts through the door waving The Times and shouting 'Darlings! They LOVED us! Well, except you, Daphne, but it wasn't your fault that the dog did that with your wig.'

I hate to break it to you, but, for writers, it isn't like that at all.  I mean, yes, we do the whole 'coffee and biting nails' thing, but that's just general and we don't do it waiting for reviews, it's just our default setting.  Also, dogs could do absolutely anything to our wigs and nobody would notice, it's one of the perks of working alone and only going out after dark. Plus, sending out for the newspapers would be a waste of time for most of us, who can only dream of being so much as name-dropped in The Western Daily Pan-Handler in the small ads. You know, underneath the 'hutch wanted for large rabbit' and 'sofa for sale, some stains, mostly explicable'.

No.  We authors sit at home and, if we read reviews of our books at all, we read them alone. Some of us may wear smoking-jackets and hold our cigarettes in ebony holders whilst we are doing it, but since I am usually wearing pyjamas and holding a chocolate HobNob firmly between my fists, I cannot vouch for this.
Like this. Allegedly.

And mostly reviews are completely fine.  I don't even mind the bad ones - as long as they justify why they utterly hated and despised the book, that that is perfectly okay, everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all.  There are always one or two odd reviews of any book, things like 'I didn't enjoy this at all, it was far too slippery and smelled of jam', but that is okay too because we generally assume that the reviewer just pressed the wrong button and was really intending to write a review of the cheese sandwich they had recently eaten.
'Disappointing. The hero and heroine were unbelievable and took too long to get together. One star.'
But generally, writers are pathetically grateful for any reviews.  They prove to us, you see, that people are reading our words.  Books sales don't mean much, I mean, someone could have bought forty thousand copies of our Great Work in order to build a wall to keep the llamas out of the onion shed and, whilst the money received from this venture would be sincerely gratefully banked and spent on food and heating and things, it's still nice to know that those lovingly hand-crafted words have been appreciated by someone who isn't a camelid and can hold a pen.
Cute, but inexplicably scathing about inconsistent character motivation
So, if you've read a book lately, why not pop by a review site and let the author know? He or she has probably been in the smoking jacket for weeks just waiting for feedback, and authors smell funny at the best of times, so, you know, do them a favour...

Just don't tell them it smelled of jam.  Even if it did.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A few little insights into the forthcoming book. Yes, I know, another one! Crept up on me a bit, too... But it's nearly here!

I woke up this morning and thought "I've got a book out in two months!"

I don't know why it came as a shock, I mean, I wrote it and everything.  But somehow I've been burbling along, fiddling with edits as they came through and sending them back, occasionally stroking the image of the front cover, but the fact that it's going to be a REAL BOOK and available for other people to read in less time than it takes my mother to cook sprouts...well, it just seems to have crept up on me a bit.

This is the one...

So I thought, in honour of this book's canter towards appearing in public, I'd give you a few little hints as to what lies inside this beautiful cover. Apart from words, of course, there are lots and lots of words, and maybe a little bit of crayoning if anyone has left me unattended with it and a packet of Crayola....

There's a horse called Stan, who has the build and temperament of a hall table and eats everything that isn't nailed down.  And sometimes things that are...  He can generally only be steered by getting off, running round to the front, and leaning hard against him, which, now I come to think of it, describes my car pretty well too.

The hero is an astrophysics PhD called Phinneas Baxter, who specialises in plasma physics.  He's about as far from being a womaniser as any man who deals in plasma can be - which is quite a long way - and when we first meet him he's naked, unconscious, and out on a windy hillside in March.  Which, I think you will agree, is not a natural resting place for PhDs, unless you live somewhere a lot more interesting than where I do.  And probably warmer.

Phinn has a best friend and general hanger-on, called Link.  He's a trust-fund millionaire who put the 'ass' in harassment, but he's loyal.  He's not honest, and he's not trustworthy, but he's the nearest thing to a brother that Phinn has, which isn't always a good thing...

The heroine is Molly Gilchrist, who writes for a magazine, rides Stan out on the moors, and generally tries to keep herself invisible and out of trouble.  Her fiancĂ© called off their wedding and left her under particularly humiliating circumstances, and she's sworn off men and resigned herself to a future of solitary wine-drinking and Stan.  But, you know, haven't we all, on occasion?

And Molly has a friend, Caro, who devotes her time to trying to get Molly to open up her life.  She's Stan's real owner, but has pretty much disowned him because of the above mentioned tendency to eat things that aren't meant to be eaten.

And, as the latest in the 'Yorkshire' series, it's set on the North York Moors (one day I'm going to do guided walks. Point out all the settings for my books, and ending in a really nice tea shop - I think this could be a goer....). The setting for the first chapter looks a bit like...


So. I hope I have whetted any part of your enthusiasm that might have needed whetting.  Or wetting, I make no judgements upon you, oh lovely, if slightly dessicated,  reader.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

A workshop where I am NOT dressed as a penguin, but a leather ostrich does appear.

On Saturday, the delightful Rhoda Baxter and I were in charge of a workshop over at Beverley.  It was not the kind of workshop that turns out exquisitely designed things made from other things or, at least, it was, but the things that became other things were ideas, if you see what I mean.  We were leading a workshop on Writing Romantic Comedy.

It looked like this

Or at least, some of it did.  I didn't loom like some black-clad stick insect all the time (although I am delighted that I look so thin in this picture.  I have no idea why, I think it must be something to do with the way I am standing sideways on. I am a lot thicker if you look at me head on, although usually bits of me stick out a lot more sideways. On this occasion they are not, and so, for that, I am grateful).

As you can see, there were a number of delightful people present, all of whom laughed in the right places, so I didn't have to do the thing where I stand and raise and lower my hand to indicate when laughter should result.  Which is good, because it always makes me look as though I am giving hand signals to a distant, yet obedient, dog.  So I didn't have to do that.

We talked, and people asked interesting and engaging questions and seemed to enjoy the resulting answers. I always love Q&A sessions, especially as this one, when the questions are well thought out and are not 'where do you get your ideas from?' or 'why do you smell indefinably, and yet unignorably, of mature cheddar?'

And then, when we had finished our workshop and signed a few copies of our books which had been bought by the perspicacious and even more delightful attendees, we went and stood by an inexplicable ostrich.  Because Beverley Library has, in its possession and foyer, an ostrich made of leather.
The ostrich is the one in the middle, for those of you in doubt.  It is staring wistfully at the opposite wall, maybe as though to distance itself from those peculiar writer-types, which is a bit rich since we are not the ones made of leather and nailed to the floor.

But I suppose there is no accounting for leather ostriches really, is there?