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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…

Sunday, 6 September 2015

York Tea Party - an Official Report from sconeside...

Well, yesterday was the day... Actually is was a day, Saturday, but this Saturday was The Day of The York RNA Afternoon Tea..

And what a tea!  Into the York Guildhall (impressively filled with tables decked in pink, white and floral tableclothes, with table centrepieces of roses and that white stuff that nobody can spell),
A typical table. Picture courtesy of John Jackson, who thought to document these things...

 filed members of the RNA who had made the journey north.  Still linked by their ropes and hampered lightly by their pitons, they tethered their huskies outside, kicked the snow off their boots and came inside.
Another picture by Jobn. Huskies not pictured, although you can see the Pic n Mix table

Of course, one glass of Prosecco later, the filing stopped and a general uproar began as everyone found themselves a seat, a cup and began the general chat associated with such occasions, which is  now known as the 'RNA Hubub' and is probably audible from space.

We were called to order by Lynda Stacey, whose idea the whole thing was, and who masterminded such things as...well, pretty much everything, although I was mostly in charge of the catering and cheques, because of my affiliation with food and all things sticky.  Anyway.  Lynda kicked us all off, although not literally because she was wearing nice shoes.
This fascinating picture of Lynda and the back of Milly Johnson's head, was by me. You can tell, can't you?
Kelvin Woolmer said grace, for what we were about to receive, and out came the sandwiches.  Loads and loads of them.  These were then followed by the Quiche and Savouries Course. and then cakes..
many, many cakes.  In the background you can see the scones, jam and cream lined up waiting to go.. bowls of clotted cream!  BOWLS of it....

Between cake and scone courses, we were treated to a fabulous talk by the adorably lovely Milly Johnson, who gave us an only slightly scandalous look at the way Northerners are different from Southerners (and it's not only in their entirely appropriate use of 'eh oop' and way with pigeons).
Milly Johnson, again photographed by John. Because I had some lovely shots of the back of her head.
Then there were scones, much conversation, more tea drinking, and people helping themselves to bags of pic n mix sweets to take home for those Left Behind, to assuage their guilt.
Plus John managed to capture a rare moment in history - the Choc Lit inaugural Hokey Cokey club dance-off, where Rhoda Baxter, Henriette Gyland and I were shown the rules by Mel Hudson, while Kate Allen demonstrated in the background the correct art of 'putting one's left hand in'.  I like to believe that, on the journey home, the entire membership of the RNA who had attended the said Tea perfected the art of Shaking It All About.