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Monday, 28 December 2015

My Christmas Secret....

Oh dear.  I have a small confession to make.

I don't know much about wine, but I have friends that do.  No, that's not the confession, I mean, lots of people have friends, it's not something one generally has to confess to. Unless one has friends of a Dubious Nature, which you don't usually confess to, so much as just pretend that you really believe their story of being given a car that someone didn't want any more.... Anyway. I have friends who Know About Wine.

One of those friends was kind enough to give me a bottle for Christmas.  I left it sitting on the worktop on Christmas Eve whilst I went to work...(no, you don't know where this is going; besides, it was red wine and nobody in my family really drinks red wine apart from me.  And I don't so much 'drink' it as...well, you've all seen sword-swallowers, you know how it goes).  So, anyway.  Picture the scene, if you will....

I headed off to work at quarter to eight on Christmas Eve morning, and returned, exhausted and with my cheeks aching from smiling at people, at quarter past five in the evening, to rush out and walk the dogs and start sorting food for Christmas Day.  Food, including a large joint of beef which had to be roasted over Christmas Eve because there wasn't room in the oven to cook it on Christmas Day.
It looked a bit like this. Before it was cooked, I mean, we didn't sit down to a large lump of pink meat on our plates.  So.  There I am, it's nearly six o clock on Christmas Eve and I have been at work for nine hours and my brain is fried (come to think of it,. we could have served my brain for Christmas dinner, it was already cooked and I would barely miss it at all). I have to cook the beef.

I think we can all see where this is going, can't we?

There was a bottle of £4.99 Merlot bought expressly for the purpose of cooking the beef in. This bottle was Somewhere.  My brain was not capable of searching for Somewhere, not when there was a bottle of red wine sitting right there on the worktop... Yes, I did wonder, when I had to hunt down a corkscrew (I mean, I haven't had to open a bottle of wine with a corkscrew since about 1990)...

Well, that beef was delicious.  I'm sure the wine - which turned out to be a really nice 2001 vintage - added immeasurably to that deliciousness.  I sometimes wonder what the wine would have tasted like had I drunk it?  Probably delicious too. But we will Never Know and neither will we Ever Tell the Person Who Gave It To Me...
It wasn't actually this wine, but I can't bear to google the one it really was.  My nerves, you know.

You all know how to keep a secret, right?  There's a glass of £4.99 Merlot in it for you, if we ever find it...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A Christmas Card from me....

To all the lovely people who stop here on their way to somewhere more interesting, and leave a comment.  To those who say that reading this blog makes their day (yes, I know, but a lot of people don't get out much, all right?).  To those I love, and those I've never met and those who fall somewhere in the middle on that sliding scale. To everyone who's bought one of my books and enjoyed fact, even if they haven't enjoyed it, at least they took the time to hand over money for something I produced. To those who've had an awful year, with commiserations.  To those who've had a fabulous year, with congratulations.

To all of you.

Lots of love
Jane x

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Robert Downey Junior, yes. Dustbuster Hoover, no.

Okay.  This blog is about to be full of sweeping generalisations and gender stereotyping, for which I apologise madly, but rigorous scientific testing (ie, me talking to people - people I know, I mean, not flagging randoms down in the street which, I agree, would be more scientific but, hey, I've already got a reputation here..) has shown it to be true.*

Christmas shopping woman: "Well, Friend A collects (insert collectible here), so I could get her one of those for Christmas. I'll ask Friend B to casually enquire which are missing from A's collection, and then I'll order one.  There's still four weeks to go, so I've got time to order it, wrap it carefully and deliver in person."

Christmas shopping man: "What the hell does A like? They've got some of those...y'know, things, but they've got enough now, nobody needs more than four of anything...what else?  What about those super-powered hammer drill things that have been on TV? I like the look of those. Everyone likes drills. I'll get one. Only it's Christmas Eve, so I'll have to nip out at lunchtime to buy it...A won't mind if they don't get it until New Year, will they?"
No home, apparently, is complete without one of these.

I have an Amazon Wish List. Not for me, you understand, for I wish for nothing (other than Robert Downey Junior with a bow round his neck, but, sigh...)

 but during the year I add things that I see that I think people might like for Christmas or birthdays.  When I say 'people' I mean people I know again, whilst I am sure that other people may also like these things, I am only equipped to buy for the first kind of people.  Anyway.  I go down my wish list and use it to remind me of things that I might like to buy other for Christmas, having had 364 days of warning.

Some men become panicked around about the 18th of December, fling themselves upon the One Click button, which they mash with their fingers and toes in an attempt to become fully Christmas Presentified, all the while shouting things like 'does your mother want a fully illuminated magnetic screwdriver? Why not? Everyone wants one of those - I've just bought myself two, in fact! I'll get her one. It's the thought that counts..."

* Disclaimer.  Some men are very good at Christmas presents, my own dear brother is one. Last year he bought me train tickets to go to visit my mother, the year before it was tickets to see the Monty Python Live show in London, and my Other Half has given me some very thoughtful gifts too. But, trust me, I've been on the receiving end of dustbuster hoovers, food processors and other 'gifts' that take surgery to remove too.  But I suppose it was the thought that counted - the thought that a clean house and home-prepared food was what mattered...

So, no. I don't know what I want for Christmas (other than RDJ as mentioned above).  But, while a hammer drill might be useful, I already know that I don't want one of those...

Monday, 7 December 2015

It's not just a big one with bits taken out...

I'm really amazed by how well 'The Art of Christmas' has been going. If, perchance, you haven't read it yet, go ahead, I'll wait, it won't take you long...

Right.  When Choc Lit asked me to write a novella, you should have seen my face! In fact, as you were likely pressed against my front window at the time, you probably did - no, it's no good denying it, I know you stalk me from time to time.  Well, if it's not you, then who is it? Somebody has been trampling through my undergrowth and I don't mean that in a euphemistic way because I distinctly heard the cries of 'ow, ow, ow!' as somebody limped away through the waist high nettles.
Does this look familiar to you?
Anyway.  I'd never written a novella before. In case you're not sure, a novella is usually somewhere between 20,000 words and 50,000 words, much less and it's a long short story, much more and it's an actual novel, which is pretty much how Wiki defines it. I've done short stories (a few for Your Cat magazine particularly.  They tend to have quite a lot of cats in them).  And, of course, I've done novels.  But a novella is a strange beast.  It's got plot enough for a book,  and it runs across the savannah grazing on bushes...oh, no, wait, that's antelope. Novellas are the ones where you concentrate on just the central characters and their journey and don't wander off into subplots and additional characters and, like a short story, you have to tell a lot with very few words.

It's tough.  Not enough words to explore everyone's backstory (no, that's not a euphemism either), and half way through I started thinking 'why don't I just make this a novel?', but I was determined to write a novella, so I refused to be sidetracked by motivations (although I was sidetracked by many HobNobs and cups of tea), and I stuck to writing the story of Harriet and Kell and whether her marriage to the deceased Jonno had ever been quite what she thought it had.

It's a bit like...say a novel is like a film.  You've got three hours (or more if it's Lord of the Rings, but I'm presuming that you aren't writing Lord of the Rings because I think that one's taken) to tell a story, so there's plenty of time for lots of loving panoramic shots of the countryside and sunsets, and telling close-ups of people's faces.  In that case, a short story is like a photograph, a snapshot of a particular moment, and you have to get a lot of detail in to that one frame; a single tear on a cheek, a figure in the background staring longingly in through a window (yes, I am seriously affected by your stalking me, you can tell, can't you?).  And a novella?

It's like one of those three minute adverts on TV.  Like the one where the boy mends his father's scarf and then loses it on the bus when he's grown up and the lady finds it and brings it back, or the boy delivering bread through the century.  Or the girl sending a Christmas present to the man in the moon (and yes, all of the above make me sniff and get something in my eye, I am so suggestible it's almost frightening. But, in my defence, I can't tell you what any of them are advertising. Except the bread one, that's pretty obvious. It's bread. No idea what kind though).  A small story, but enough of one to tug at the emotions.
It's John Lewis, apparently. I looked it up.  If John Lewis ever decide to bring out a novella, this will be it..

And I hope The Art of Christmas gives you a good tugging...

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Procrastinisation and even my writers' block is running late...

Well.  Yesterday was my birthday, during which I attempted to double my bodyweight with a judicious application of lemon cheesecake, preceded by a Friday takeaway of proportions so massive that several people had to be carried out in shock.  Today things are back to normal. So, if there is a redolence about this blog, it may be due to broccoli.  Pretend not to have noticed.

Anyway.  The whole thing was a giant excuse not to do any writing, which is an art I have been perfecting lately.  I even moved all the furniture and hoovered underneath! I've been saying that it's writers' block, but it really isn't...

The fact is that it's cold in the house and my brain doesn't work well in the cold; it's hard typing when your mouse hand is numb.  Also, I have reached a point in my WIP (Living in the Past, otherwise known as the Bronze Age Time Slip one) where I'm three quarters done, I know how the story goes from here to the end and yet...somehow...I just can't squeeze those words out.  You know toothpaste, right?  When you leave a tube so the end gets all crusty and then one day you give it a really good squirt and you get this little plug of dried toothpaste before the proper stuff comes out? 

That's my brain, that is.

But in fact, I know what the problem is. There's a little bit, right at the end of what I've done so far that I need to change.  It's written from the wrong POV.
So, all I need to do is go back in and change the last little bit. Easy, right?  Yeah, that's what I thought. Turns out, it doesn't matter how easy it is to change, if your brain just can't get around changing it, you had better resign yourself to really clean carpets for a while...  But I know I will get there, because I go through exactly the same thing with every single book.  Usually it strikes earlier, of course, at the 'Pile of Stinking Pooh' stage, but this time it's late.

Or maybe my brain is slow...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Prickliness and how to handle my hero to not say 'I don't believe it...'

No, not like that...

I'm talking about prickly heroes.  Now, I'm a huge fan (along with a majority of the female population) of Kate Johnson's hero, Harker, from The Untied Kingdom.  He is probably best described as 'a little prickly'.  Jack, my male lead in Star Struck, is another one. 

I got to thinking about this, because in my Work In Progress (provisionally entitled, at the moment, 'Living in the Past'), my hero, Duncan, a Scots archaeologist (he's from Dundee, he doesn't deal solely with fossilised kilts, if you see what I mean), is prickly.  In fact, at the beginning, he is downright rude, and it got me thinking...

At what point do our characters cross the line?  I am well known for my dislike of the Alpha Hero (oy, mate, nobody tells me what's best for me...), but at what point does the person trying to get you out of the way of danger become a bossy, overbearing idiot?  Likewise, at what point does the prickly, touchy hero (Duncan is under permanent suspicion by the police for something he may (or may not, I'm not giving away my plot here) have done.  It makes him a little bit...tetchy, shall we say), become obviously rude and unpleasant?  At what point does a character lose our sympathy and gain a smack around the face (and/or laxatives in the coffee, if one is a non-directly confrontational person)?

At first I thought it might be down to how the heroine handles him.  If she seems to sweep away his remarks and dismiss his bossiness, can we overlook it and see if for what (presumably) the author intended?  But then I thought about all those books I've read where I have wanted to seize the heroine by both shoulders and shake her until she wees herself, whilst shouting 'run! Run far, run fast, this man wants you compliant as soon as possible!' while she is simpering at the hero and going along with his, usually quite frankly scary, suggestions.
No, love, it's not erotic. It just means you can't run away very fast...

So, come on everyone, tell me.  Is it your own prejudices and experience that makes a hero cross the line?  Or is it the writing?  When does that attractively irritable hero become an abusive, angry man?  When does the protectively commanding behaviour become bossy oppression?

And you'd better let me know fast, before Duncan degenerates into Victor Meldrew...

Sunday, 15 November 2015

I mention the C word.

Go carefully.  You may want to look away from this blog. I am going to talk about a subject that might have you wincing, shouting 'NO!', running away with your head under a blanket or vowing that now and forever more you are going to live up a bare mountain with only a small goat for company.  And, bear in mind, this is coming from a woman who showed you pictures of slugs WITH NO WARNING AT ALL...

Are you ready?

Here it comes...

Those of a sensitive nature - look away now....

I've been Christmas shopping.

I know! I know!  There's x amount of days left (depending on whether you count up until last posting day, last possible delivery day or Christmas Eve), the weather is unseasonably warm and I haven't even had my birthday yet.  But, even so.  With so many family members (and that number is increasing day by day), I need to get a head start on buying things, so as to avoid that last minute panic, where I dash into a shop and sweep things from the shelves with little or no regard for who might receive said gifts and end up with nine spare socks (I know, I can't work it out either) and people outside the family get things like snow shovels and blankets embroidered with the name of NOBODY THEY KNOW.

So, this year - no more.  Controlled, contained panic instead.
This screenshot is for illustrative purposes only and does not mean that anyone is getting anything from any of the indicated sites. Or...maybe they are...?

So, DD1 and I sat ourselves down at the table, armed with laptops, and opened loads of sites, and then spent about an hour staring at one another and saying things like 'Does Blank like Coal Mining? There's a really nice Coal Mining present on Amazon...' (name and present likewise for illustrative purposes only, I don't know anyone called Blank, let alone anyone who might be sufficiently interested in Coal Mining to welcome a thusly themed present, which I am not certain that even Amazon could supply).

Some One Clicking resulted.  Largely motivated, I have to say, by panic.  But I have hopefully, and with my pathetic and meagre budget, managed to choose things that I hope people will like.  And, of course, shopping early enables me to have many more 'panic' days, when I clutch my heart in the middle of a York shopping street, convinced that I have forgotten someone, dash into a shop and do the 'shelf sweep'.

If you get nine, non-matching socks this year, you'll know it was you I forgot.  Sorry.


Whoops.  Still, if I have to suffer, so do you.

Sunday, 8 November 2015, that's not the size of my brain...

I've never done NaNo before.  Guess what, I'm not doing it again...

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (to give it its full name) is National Novel Writing Month (to give it its even fuller name).  During the month of November, anybody can sign up (it's not an 'offical' sign up, they don't give you numbers and a sponsorship form - it's more of a declaration of intent and a way of measuring your achievement) and write.  It is, apparently, a great way of forcing your bum to the seat - and there's a lot of mutual encouragement that goes on, it's all very friendly, you're only competing against yourself, etc.

So why don't I join in?

Deep breath.

Because I would sabotage myself.  I know I would, I do it already.  And I can't bear the thought of doing it whilst being watched.  Although, saying this, I did, informally, 'attach' myself to NaNo a few years ago, so many people were posting their word counts that I was inspired to try to beat them (or at least keep up), and I ended up writing the book now known as 'How I Wonder What You Are' in six weeks.  But that was cheating slightly, as I'd already got the idea, the characters and most of the storyline worked out in my head, NaNo was just my excuse for actually sitting down and writing the bloody thing.

 For some reason, as soon as I hear the phrase 'NaNoWriMo' I discover that the inside of my wardrobe MUST... MUST and I cannot stress that too heavily, be cleared out.  Or, whilst I may have started, full of good intentions, there is a SOMETHING UNAVOIDABLE that simply cannot be put off any longer and must be attended to.  It's like procrastination taken to the nth degree, in that, not only do I have to clean the bath, but I have to clean the bath and spend all month doing it.
Just one of the ways I arrange to sabotage my writing
So.  Whilst it is NaNo month, and whilst I am writing as fast as I can in order to try to finish this novel by the end of November, I want to stress that I am not doing NaNo, and any appearance to the contrary is merely an illusion.

And good luck to everyone out there who is NaNoing. DO NOT CLEAN THE BATH!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Some Interesting Things about my book, I Don't Want to Talk About It, that you probably didn't know.

As you may or may not know, depending on how relentlessly you stalk me, 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' is shortlisted in the e-book category of the 2015 Love Stories Awards.  This is all the provocation I need to tell you some Interesting Things about the book.  You may or may not know some of them already, because I am well known for my inability to shut up about my books, but anyway.  Here goes:

The churchyard setting was inspired by the view from the side of my house.
It's the shadow of a post and rail fence, not an enormous ladder propped against my house. In case you were wondering.
The church has a Saxon sundial, you know.  I'm not quite sure why, perhaps they consider that time was more accurate back then and just refuse to come into the 21st century.  But anyway. I have spent a lot of time walking through that churchyard (which is actually tiny, and you can't really walk through it, there's only one way in.  So more...around). A lot of the names on the graves are local (as are the graves themselves, we tend not to import dead people round here. There's no call for it, you see), and the whole place is what set me off thinking about Winter - the girl writing a book about gravestones.

The setting of Great Leys is based on Stokesley, about 30 miles north of where I live.
As far as I am concerned it is a positive metropolis - having a supermarket, two schools (primary and secondary), a whole host of shops and lots of houses.  Which is why I am baffled when the book is reviewed and the reviewer starts with 'Winter Gregory has moved to the remote little Yorkshire village of Great Leys'.  Because Stokesley is neither remote, little nor a village. It is, however, in Yorkshire, so...points for that.

There is a strong theme of sibling affection running through the book.  Winter is an identical twin, separated from her sister Daisy by a lot of miles. Daisy, you see, lives in Australia, and Winter struggles with the distance between them.  I, too, have a sibling, however we are not twins, nor are we identical, on account of him being nearly bald.
This is he. His name is David, and we are separated by a lot of miles, which is probably for the best because I smell.  He lives in Exeter, and is, as far as brothers go, pretty wonderful.

In the book, Scarlet gets a guinea pig called Bobso. We had, during the children's growing up years, many many guinea pigs.  My eldest daughter was quite a dab hand at sexing them, but even she would occasionally get it wrong and we ended up with about twenty at one point.  But, on the plus side, I didn't need a lawn mower.  Or a burglar alarm, because if anyone approached within twenty feet of their enormous run, they would all set to squeaking like tiny little cars being broken into.
So. There you have it. Some Things you Probably Never Knew about I Don't Want to Talk About It. Ironically titled, since I just did...

Sunday, 25 October 2015

I am inundated and I need a plastic bin to hide in.

There is only one creature on this planet that even the thought of makes me go all shivery and 'urgh' and want to run away or set about myself with a can of 'Everything killer' whilst making little squeaky noises of disgust and unpleasantness.  And no, it's not Michael Macintyre.
a man I know annoys many, but I think it's mostly his poshness and wobbly hair they find irritating, and, as someone who was once accused of being 'posh' (ha!) and who has, on occasion, been the possessor of wobbly hair, I feel for him.

Actually, it's cockroaches.  Blurgh.  Even typing the word makes me want to go and have a shower, then spray myself with flykiller, then have another shower. I'm not sure what difference the flykiller will make, but it's the only anti-bug stuff I've got.  I could spray myself with Pledge, on the grounds that any attack-cockroaches would just slide off me, but then I'd have to spend hours buffing myself up and, since I can't be bothered to polish the furniture, the chances of being sufficiently arsed to polish myself, are remote.

Anyway. Cockroaches. Blurgh.

But, coming in a close second on the 'things that I am going to eradicate from the surface of the planet and I don't care how bloody much that affects the food chain thank-you-very-much'.... slugs. Now, I've always been fairly amibivalent towards slugs, never had a particular problem with them, wouldn't want any of my daughters to marry one mind you, but since none of my daughters are invertebrates that's probably not going to happen anyway.  Until. The day I opened the dog biscuit cupboard and found....
this. Gah. You have, I put it to you, never known true horror until you shove your arm into a sack of dog biscuits, only to retrieve said arm with a handful of sluggy biscuits and your arm covered in slugs.  AND DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES TO GET THE SLIPPERY STUFF OFF?  DO YOU??  They could market slug slime as a non-water-soluble lubricant, is all I'm saying.  I scrubbed, people! I scrubbed with scourers, with Fairy Liquid, with hot water...and still the slime stuck.  It took days before I could pull my sleeves down without my cardigan sliding off my arms.

And yes, this is indoors.  Yes, it is in my kitchen. I don't use poison because I have a stupid terrier who would only eat it. But these things are in my house...

I'm now hunting for a bin to keep the dog biscuits in. But I'm afraid that, deprived of their usual diet of dog-food, the slugs will come looking for a new target, and. given the slime, they will be able to slide me out of bed and transport me to some sluggy backwater without me even waking up!  One day, I'm just going to open my eyes and find myself face-to-eyestalk with some kind of sluggy Godfather figure, and then it's a very short hop to one of those horror films you see on late night telly...
'Don't call me 'slugface''...

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Snow-Globe blindness and non-weeing characters in latest book shock!

Oh it's been a busy old week, what with the metal cages trying to kill me, writing a book during which I suddenly realised that a scene was in completely the wrong place, and doing a workshop...

The workshop, it must be said, was lovely.  Rhoda Baxter had found a fantastic place in mid York (when I say she found it I don't mean that she fell over it while out walking, she actually went looking first), and it was in a little attic room in Millers Yard, where we all sat around a table and Rhoda and I talked about Character-building (in novels, obviously, we didn't make our participants hang from trees over lakes full of crocodiles whilst shouting up at them that it was good for them.  That would have been expensive and probably not allowed - damn you Health and Safety!), Three-Act structure, Show Don't Tell ( we were quite forcible on this point, I believe) and Point Of View.  There were, for those of you concerned about such things, HobNobs.

In other news, my latest book 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' is still only 99 of your earth pence, it's a Kindle Monthly Deal (which I always think sounds suspiciously like the world's slowest card player), and it's selling really well.  So, you know, if you fancy a cheap read with a lovely cover, then go on over and buy it.  And, as if that weren't enough excitement for one person, my Christmas Novella will soon be available for pre-order!

It's a snow-globe.  I have to keep reminding myself that it's a snow globe.  For some reason known only to me and a few chosen friends, I suffer from snow globe blindness. I am physically unable to recognise a snow globe when I see one.  Others will see a snow globe when they look at the beautiful cover of my novella - me, I see a crystal ball with an inexplicable christmas tree inside it.  There are no crystal balls in the novella.  To be fair, there aren't any snow globes either, but snow globes are far more in the spirit of the story.  And there are christmas trees aplenty.  So why do I persist in being unable to see it as a snow globe?

Also in the story are (in no particular order), a man in tatty socks, artwork (some of it very valuable), snow, mince pies, and a dog called Frodo who looks a bit like this..
and whose main contribution to the story is to wee up a stairwell.

And now I must go back to the WIP, where nobody wees at all... well, obviously they must do, or they would explode, but there is no graphic weeing anywhere. *thinks*.  Although there may be a small case of pooh to take into consideration...Not a case of pooh, that's quite a lot of pooh, like, nearly a crateful, but...yes. Definitely some pooh.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Co Op and the Killer Cages of Doom

I'm sorry, this post is a bit late.  Weekend working and writing are not compatible it seems...

I know, I know, you like to imaging me lounging in a negligible on a chaise longee eating grapes peeled by my own personal..err...grape peeler, or Tony Robinson, whoever's turn it is to pander to my whims...
but, in reality, yours truly has to put her shoulder to the wheel of commerce and give it a hearty shove every now and then.  For which, read manning the tills at the local Co Op for between sixteen and twenty five hours a week.

I've no idea where this image of writers as 'loungers on loungers' comes from. Most of the writers I know have day jobs, whilst writing novels is extremely fulfilling in a creative kind of way, it does not in any way at all pay the bills to run a household.  So, there I was today, striving for National Minimum Wage by wrangling metal carts that want to kill me up and down narrow aisles, or being trapped in the milk chiller by other metal carts which also want to kill me.

The Co Op has sentient shelf stacking equipment, you see. Vendables (those things we are about to vend, and not to be confused with Venables..

...because there are almost no points of contact between the Co Op and upper echalon football) are placed in metal cages and pushed around the shop floor to be decanted elegantly onto their appointed shelves.  Only in my case, the cages gang up, circle around and pin me to the Ambient Produce, from where I have to be rescued by patient co workers, armed with stun guns and whips.
A cage in its natural state, before loading commences.  They also bite.
You know how badly behaved the average supermarket trolley is?  Well, these cages are like shopping trolleys that have been extended, had what little element of steerability they once had removed, and then they have been given toothache and the general temperament of a wasp.  AND they have access to freezers, chillers and the horrors of Ambient Produce, so I think you can imagine the terrifying nature of my job.

It's a wonder this blog gets written at all, quite honestly.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

An Author's Bits. With pictures.

This week I have found myself thinking about authors' bits.

Not like Neil Gaiman's dangly parts or J K Rowling's sit-upon, because that would be strange, and what possible reason could I have for such musings other than a strange sexual preoccupation, which I quite clearly don't have and no I don't need any more approaches from men on Facebook, thank you very much.

Anyway.  No.  The authors' bits that I was thinking about, are the bits that go in the back of books (or sometimes the front), where you get that heading that says 'About The Author'.  This is where the author (or, if they are a rich and successful author, their 'people') try to make up something that makes the author in question sound approachable and fun, yet wacky and interesting enough to have come up with a book that you might want to read.
Yes, it's a wetsuit.  For 'weekend pursuits'.
I'd guess, if you're the sort of author who has 'people', that you'd need to be quite nice to those 'people', just in case you suddenly find your books out there on the shelves bearing an 'About the Author' that says something like 'Blah is an author of inadequate comprehension, who spends his/her weekend at Interational Bitchathons and is regularly to be found naked and drunk in local gutters.'  Of course, since nobody reads the Authors' Bits, it's quite possible that my books already have this in, but I like to think that someone would have told me by now.

Right.  So my Author's Bits, mostly mention my animals, so I thought, what with 'I Don't Want to Talk About It' being on 99p Kindle Monthly Deal and my Christmas Novella coming soon, you may want a little insider peek at my bits.
Teal, the puppy, Cal, the stripey cat, and Zach the black and white one

Quentin, Helga and Helga...
Ignore the 'author in her slippers'.  Corvo the black and white cat, Abraxus the black cat, Big Dog Dylan, and yes, Teal the puppy again. She's photogenic, what can I say?
Tiggy, the terrier of such unmitigated scruffiness and grump that she rarely features in family photos. From her expression you can tell that she knows this.

So, there you have it. My bits.  And next time you pick up one of my books and read 'Jane has four cats, three hens and three dogs', now you know what they look like.  I'll be asking questions later, so I'll leave you to memorise these...

Oh, and anyone who came here for pictures of an author' know...bits... I'll see you later. Just have the money in used readies....

Sunday, 27 September 2015

So, you could write a book, could you? Better stock up on noodles...

I had another one the other day.  All writers have had them, sometimes you get a lot of them and sometimes you are lucky and get away with only the odd one or two, but writers with a few books published tend to attract them in a similar way to the way that a horse attracts flies...

People who say 'I could write a book.'

Well, of course they could.  Anyone with a  working knowledge of words, and the ability to put them together one after the other into sentences could.

But let me tell you something about writing a book.  In fact, I shan't tell you, for, in the spirit of 'show don't tell' (one of the first Principles of Writing), I shall illustrate it for you.  Only I'll illustrate it in words, if that's all right with you, because my drawing skills are whatever a lack of skill is called.

Writing a book is like this:

Doing a jigsaw puzzle, in the dark, with only a tiny little torch that you got in a Christmas cracker.  A cat is sitting on the box lid, you very much suspect that the dog has eaten one of the corner pieces, and, very often, you are wearing boxing gloves.

The inside of a writer's brain
Someone will pay you for the completed jigsaw, which needs to be finished to a deadline, and the telephone rings every fifteen minutes - when you answer it, a very angry man wants to talk to 'Roger'. Who doesn't live there.

And all the time you are doing this, your well meaning friends and relatives will tell you how lucky you are to be living the life of a writer, how relaxing it must be to be at home all day and how they are sure they could never write a book, except that they've had a really interesting life and one day they will write it down and get it published.

In the meantime, you get letters about unpaid bills, your family complains about the number of meals you cook that consist entirely of noodles and the cat that isn't sitting on the puzzle lid has left home and only comes back occasionally to stare through the window at you in an accusatory manner.

Still want to write a book?  I'll lend you a dog that's already eaten several of my pieces...

In your own time...

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Christmas Novella News, Doctor Who and walking on stubble

This week I've mostly been writing.  Well, I say mostly, I did do some other stuff too, although most of it was quite dull and there was a lot of hoovering.  But several things enlightened my week.

1) Novella News!  I am just in the editing process for my Christmas Novella, which has been retitled to make it more 'christmassy' and is now called (drumroll please).... The Art of Christmas!!  And it's got a cover and everything! Hopefully it will be out as a natty little e-book just in time for you to sit down with a festive eggnog and forty five mince pies and get into the spirit of the season, but since I know you start doing that in October, it might not be.

There! Isn't it lovely!  It's about an artist who runs a graphic novel and Sci Fi shop, his dog Frodo, and a lovely lady who's lost rather a lot in her life... and it's a bit sad, and a bit funny and features a mis-shapen Christmas tree, lots of snow, a mysterious child and dog wee.

2)  The Doctor is back!  Lovely lovely Peter Capaldi, being all Rock God and then scaredy and then fabulous.
Everyone needs a bit of suspension of disbelief, and I sat on the edge of my sofa, with a dog (not sure which one, it was dark, but there was definitely a dog. Or a furry ghost) watching.  I was agog, I tell you. A Gog.  Handmines...

3)  Fabulous weather, during which I wandered out for walks with the dogs.  It's that wonderful time of year when there are stubble fields everywhere, which nobody much minds you walking around on. 
I'm very very lucky to live in such a lovely part of the world, where I can let two mad terriers run about without having to worry, and the big dog can lope along behind if he is so inclined (he has a wobbly back end.  I'm sure, after a late Saturday night, we can all sympathise).

4)  I started my new job today.  Lots to learn, and I may never get properly to grips with the lemons, and I'm not allowed to sell alcohol or cigarettes yet and have to get someone else to come and authorise them.  I think my till thinks I'm 12 or something.  But, hey, it will stave off the worst of the bills, although I don't think I'm going to be able to afford a pair of Manolo Blahniks just yet.  However, plimsolls are not out of the equation, so it's all good. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, Tony will be on soon, it's Time Crashers night, and I have to go and make myself beautiful in order to watch him.  He's a God, you know.  A veritable God.
True fact.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

My latest book and its connection to Haim, and how to know if Taylor Swift finally gets to me.

I like to write in total silence.  Environmental silence that is.  No background sound at all.  There's already enough noise in here, what with me tutting, randomly shouting 'what did you do that for?' and eventually slamming my laptop shut with the resounding cry of 'well that's a complete bunch of crap, where are the biscuits?'  I struggle to work when, from next door, comes the sound of the garden-landscapers radio, if anyone is talking outside or even if a cat is purring too loudly, which is why I often work wearing a pair of industrial quality ear-defenders.
My secret shame
And I am puzzled by people who say they write to music, what with me getting annoyed by the fridge for making random 'brrrrrrr' noises.  I know it's each to their own and everything, but...HOW?  Whenever I listen to music, and by 'music' I mean songs not classical because if you are the type who listens to classical music whilst writing then you are highly unlikely to be reading my blog, although I must admit to quite liking a shot of Ride of the Valkyries whilst hoovering, I find myself getting caught up in the lyrics. And, from there, there is a high probability that I will abandon whatever I was writing up to that point and start writing whatever story the lyrics of the song dictate. So, if I suddenly start producing a lot of books about women being deserted by their no-good, cheating boyfriends, you will know that Taylor Swift finally got to me.
I'd like to think I could take her in a fist fight, but if she starts singing I'm a goner
However, I do find myself sometimes getting inspiration from songs. Not directly, but sometimes there will be a 'mood' or a tone or even just a base line that makes my brain go off in a certain direction.  Random bits of lyric or melody get stuck in my head and my thoughts just seem to go off and do their own thing with it, and before you know it there's a book that's come out of one particular song. The instrumental break in Snow Patrol's 'How to be Dead' gave me ideas which found themselves in Star Struck, for instance. 

My youngest daughter is a huge Haim fan.  I mean that she likes them a lot, not that she's like seven feet four or anything. But this means that I have been subjected to many many tracks by the band, and, gradually, things have worked into my subconscious, so I now blame Haim's track 'Falling' for inspiring many of the ideas in I Don't Want to Talk About It.  Not the melody, not the words, but something about the general mood of the song ('Never look back, never give up')....

Currently I've got Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' stuck in my head, providing me with mood-music for the current WIP - it's the phrase 'Running through the shadows' that's doing it.  I just can't actually, you know, listen to the music while I'm writing, so I have to hum. Or sing to myself. And given my total lack of musical ability, I'm even annoying myself....
I do not look like this. Unless you factor in the onesie, the biscuit crumbs, the coffee stains and the cats.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Please Release Me, by Rhoda Baxter, released TODAY!!

Today, although it isn’t a Sunday, I am doing a post in honour of the publication (today!) of Rhoda Baxter’s latest release, Please Release Me…no, no, it’s all right, that’s the title, I offered to do it, she’s not standing behind me with a gun or anything.  Besides, it’s a great book and anything I can do to help it out on its way in the big wide world…just realised that makes me sound a bit like a midwife.  A book midwife.

Anyway.  First off, here’s the link to buy, and the blurb, to whet your appetites..
The blurb:
What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?
Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.
That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.
In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.
But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

To further whet you, Rhoda has given me some ‘prompts’ to write about. One of the themes of Please Release Me is people being stuck, so the prompts are as follows:
1.     The thing I’m stuck on now…
Reading.  I need to read more books before my bed is subsumed under the huge pile of paperbacks leaning against it.  One morning I am going to be buried, trapped beneath my duvet and unable to get out until I read my way clear of the pile.  Trouble is, I used to read one or two books a day. I always had one on the go upstairs (for reading in bed) and one downstairs (for reading whilst cooking, hoovering etc and yes, you can read and hoover.  You miss bits of both, but it never really matters).  My brain thinks I still read two books a day and buys accordingly.  I don’t like to tell it that I’m down to a book every few weeks, it might sulk.

2.     If I could be stuck anywhere (with anyone)…
I’m torn on this one. The answer is either…a desert island with interesting Bronze Age remains and Tony Robinson – and yes, I know desert islands are highly unlikely to have Bronze Age remains, unless it’s an island off the coast of Scotland or something, and therefore not really desert, but then, with Tony, keeping our woollies on will probably be for the best.  Or.. a desert island with interesting Bronze Age remains and Tom Hiddleston.  What? He’s got a double first in Classics, you know. The cuteness is merely an interesting side-effect.
3.       Stickers
No. Just. No.  I have three daughters, all of whom have passed (at least once) through the ‘sticker’ stage.  And unless you’ve tried to prise 141 cartoon pony stickers off the headboard of a pine bunk bed (top deck, naturally), because your daughter has decided they are babyish and she wants to replace them with 141 stickers of Thor and his Giant Hammer, you cannot comment. 
And, how come those stickers stick so viciously?  What do they use? Because my calendar falls off my wall at least three times a week…maybe I should stick it up with 141 cartoon ponies…