Saturday, September 30, 2006

Conf 254: Lost and Found

No. of skips today: 0

Maybe I should just face the truth belly up and get one of these.

Didn't feel too tramp-like at the ball, even though there were lots of dresses and hairstyles floating around. There were a few men in kilts which is always nice.

The long silky black cardigany thing was v. useful, I scraped my hair back and wore my glasses, not a good look but better than frizz and not seeing what I was doing; the shoes held out, I only spotted one other person with them, a teenager auction helper. We weren't put in a kitchen with a formica table, but shared a dressing room with the band (including a very very large lady who has just been on You Are What You Eat and lost 2 stone and a white rasta guitarist with manners); the magician who didn't stop doing tricks even when he was 'off' and did materialising dematerialising stuff I'd only ever seen on the telly; and 2 opera singers dressed as policemen who were so good, spoofing in after the auction pretending policemany things before suddenly breaking out into arias; and the charity auction helper teenagers. Met a few friendly friends I hadn't seen in a while out front, one of them just back from Toronto where she'd SEEN MY NOVEL 1! (nearly 4 years old now) in a bookstore. Now we wait and see how the photos come out. They're already asking for them urgently for the local newspapers. This has happened before and the press invariably end up not publishing them after manic racing around.

A bit of a traumatic weekend after that. I lost Hilary the hamster and found a dead fish. I blamed the Trump Towers hamster cage, too many doors, but didn't stop utter distress of daughter, trying to put a brave face on it and all. We overturned living room, rattled food bag for hours and hours at the kitchen cabinets, and then became mystified when a dead Guppy suddenly appeared in middle of the floor. Daughter slept downstairs on Sat night. No noises until midnight when little scratchy scratches came from the computer cable box. Phew.

Been trying to get opening chapter into some sort of semblance today, as it's writing workshop tonight, first one since summer break. More work work coming in morning, comedy characters which will take rest of week, and, more newspaper stuff too so will be back at end of week.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Conf 253: Panic Balls

No. of Skips: 150

No work done at all today. Examined writerisms and other sins with breakfast & made yet more notes, but that doesn't count.

Am in mild panic mode about the ball tomorrow. Black tie and posh frocks, even though we're only the photographers. It's Kew Gardens and they're all very nice and grow plants for the planet and keep seahorses. Doesn't stop the panic though. Going Out? It's unheard of. Posh frocks is all very well if you've got one, and you're sipping the champagne and dancing and spending silly amounts of time at the hairdressers, and silly amounts of your disposable income showing off at the auction. But we have to hang around outside to take pics as they arrive, and it will probably be raining and cold. Have dug out long glittery dress and silky black long overjacket thing which hides the bulges, but all I have for feet is walking boots and flip flops. So off I went today to Favourite Shop to see what I could find in pointy footwear that didn't make you wobble. Also had to buy new make-up, another unheard of luxury these days. I did buy one of those lipsticks that's supposed to stay on, it was rubbish and lies and just left a horrible pink line around edge of lips in crazy-old-woman style. Am experimenting with this one and so far the pink is still there, but it feels like my lips have had woolly socks put over them.

Complete bingo on the shoes, though. Am totally in love with my Primark flatty pointys and now wish I'd bought 2 pairs. And you know what they say, if you want to know where you're going, wear pointy shoes.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conf 252: Delete

No. of skips: 150
No. of days to Value Float Day: 6

It could be valve? I could have made a date with somebody on October 3rd to float valves on the river. Is it a TV show? My life has become so sad I sometimes write TV shows on the calendar. Dragon's Den one of current favourites. Partner says it's more reality humiliation rubbish but I like it, and he does secretly I know.

More editing of chapter 2 today, and made a start on the new chapter 1. More a lesser of two evils option as I (ha ha so I think) finished chapter 2 and balked at chapter 3 rewrite. Got back to it eventually. So many decisions, decisions the character makes, just too bland for words. 'Oh, I know I'll do that!' Delete, delete and delete.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Conf 251: Revision

No. of skips: 150
Pilates: Warm up, 75% of mini program, no warm down.

Daughter got very excited on return from school, '150 skips today!' I boasted. She opened the larder expecting to see 150 packets of Skips.

Day 2 of novel rewrite.

Day 1 comPLEte waste of time. V. exciting E-mail in middle of my hopeless flounderings from J with news that my grandfather was an accountant tobacconist and my grandmother a manageress tobacconist. Sent me off on a Google/ancestors.com via friendsreunited trail which was just the distraction needed. It ended on one of my ancestors appearing at the Old Bailey in 1726 - a squabble about the theft of 2 bales of hay. He wasn't the thief but a grass. (WOOPS that really was not deliberate.) Another had his black mare nicked. Boy did they hand out death sentences in those days.

Today was slightly better. It's finding a work pattern that I can stick to. Have abandoned new chapter 1 until I'm well under way and have moved on to c's 2 and 3. Think I will be printing out each one as it's complete, structurally, for further rewriting by hand.

Worrying new aspect of getting old has manifested along with lardy waist, crabby toes and the other delights. Have started leaving notes on calendar I don't understand. On October 3rd have written 'Value float'. What can it be????

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Conf 250: A New No

Have been expanding sideways and allways at alarming rate. This has no connection at all with new chip, I mean tempura, fryer. Into 2nd week of New Regime, not allowing myself to switch computer on until completion of Darcey's Pilates and skipping 50 skips.

The rejection came in from the agent in the middle of last week. It was a quick and friendly response. I wasn't too despondent because I knew I was sending it out too soon. It's finished, in as much as I've reached The End, but a further rewrite is necessary. The fact that this was one of the super-agents e-mailing me so fast means the subject-matter is on course and sellable, and I have some really good feedback I can address.

HOWever, the exercise takes priority now, and then if there's any work I have to do that first. I am so grateful that survivial (day to day anyhow) isn't dependent on whether the fiction sells or not. I don't know how many years the novels have taken priority, about six I guess. I have been determinedly one-track about it. The thing is to rise above it and keep on going and enjoy it for what it is, for the doing of it. Journalists get a lot more respect. And it can nearly all be done via e-mail. I can send queries and get answers and all is done and dusted. I've never even spoken to my editor, but I occasionally get e-mails like 'man - you're good' which really perk me up and get printed and stuck onto the fridge door for weeks on end.

Am also doing some more photography this week,for the Kew Ball which will be fun in my favourite, outsidery kind of way.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Conf 249: Water & Horses

Fiddling is over, and the MS has gone to agent. I suppose I could have e-mailed it by return, but it seemed better manners to print and post. But then I worried about it getting lost amongst all the other submissions, so I wrote REQUESTED MATERIAL on the envelope and attached a copy of the e-mail. But then didn't enclose SAE thinking he'll bin it if he doesn't like it & will e-mail if he does, but then afterwards wondered if I should have.

Have been busy with work work, up till midnight last night as had to surrender computer for homework in the afternoon. Got VERY grumpy. It's getting to stage where we will have to buy a second computer and do all that scary wireless stuff. Then the arguments start, I want a laptop, partner says desk ones are a better buy as less likely to go wrong. I can't justify the mobility argument as I never go anywhere.

Writing that makes me spit with envy:

Have just finished Carol Shields' Unless. A book about a writer writing about a writer. Yum. Noted this handy hint:

'I passionately believe a novelist must give her characters work to do. Fictional men and women tend, in my view, to collapse unless they're observed doing their work, engaged with their work, the architect seen in a state of concentration at the drafting table, the dancer thinking each step as it's performed, the computer programmer tracing a path between information and access... ...I've read novels about professors who never step into the classroom. They're always on sabbatical or off to a conference in Hawaii. And artist-heroes who never pick up a paintbrush, they're so busy at the local café, so occupied with their love life or their envy or their grief. Does the brilliant young botanist with the golden back-swept hair, one wisp loose at her neck, wander up a grassy hillside and fill her pockets with rare species? No, we see her only after work or on weekends when she goes to parties and meets young novelistic lawyers who have no cases to work on, no files, no offices, no courtrooms in which to demonstrate their skills. That husky young construction worker does all his sexual coupling bewteen shifts... ... Just once I'd like to see him with the pneumatic drill hammering against his body, shaking him stupid. But what if the novelist is a Yale grad, and his father before him? What would he know about how that drill kicks and jumps and transfers its nerves into the bones and belly of a human being? We might see the poor guy reach out for humanistic understanding, discovering Shakespeare-in-the-Park or French cinema, something like that, but chances are against seeing him work.'

Also love this, from my favourite blog of the moment:

'I can't properly explain why I think about horses when I eat undercooked green beans. Whenever I see a jersey, I think about the way someone once showed me how to put on a duvet cover. Vogel's bread makes me think of the Beatles. The Telegraph is Edinburgh in 1985; red lipstick, thick black headbands; all cats are Chiswick, and fax machines are Irish squirrels. But most importantly, and most regularly, squeaky beans are horses.' Non working monkey.

Mine is raw cabbage, which is Melanie, a drony 70s folk singer.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Conf 248: The Agony and The Ego




Toby Young from Friday's Evening Standard:

'Whenever I hear about actors complaining about having to deal with constant rejection, I always thinks 'you should try being an author.' Actors only have to get over one hurdle - the audition - whereas authors have to run the gauntlet of rejection. First you have to submit a book proposal to your agent, then, assuming it gets the thumbs up, it does the rounds of various publishing houses. In the unlikely event of getting a book deal, you have to write the manuscript - and then face the possibility that your editor won't like it. Even if it's published, you have to await the verdict of the critics - and they are nothing like as hard to please as the general public. The probability of getting through all these hoops and ending up with a bestseller is vanishing-to-zero.'

Whilst agreeing there is widespread post-publication depression awaiting most authors who do finally make it into print, followed by the zig zag of having then to impress the agents and publishers with their next effort, not too unlike getting into print in the first place, I've always thought we have it a bit better than actors who have to physically turn up and look rejection right in the eye, as it were, time and time again. You can also remain anonymous.

I'm sometimes asked why I'm not 'me' here, and plugging the books and newspaper articles for all they're worth. The reason for this is so that I can write about my clamberings to get back on the publication ladder without jeopardising my writing with my blog, or, it must be said, vice versa. After a recent run-in with a literary agent, so awful I haven't been able to blog about it, where I inadvertantly upset said agent, I have upped the anonyminity stakes and no longer reproduce rejection letters. Most e-mails now have privacy disclaimers which means you could get into trouble for doing so. This is just a bit of tea break fun here, the last thing I want to to is upset anybody, not least myself.

Talking of agents, I received a very welcome comment from Susan Hill on my last posting:

'Agents are not God. Remember, they don`t stand to lose any money on you - well, a bit of postage; publishers put up real serious money and take the risk of losing it. Agents just want to earn 15% of you. And each agent is an individual so what they say about your book is one person`s opinion each time. Just like reviewers.
Publishers, oddly enough, tend to agree.. when a really good book comes up for grabs out there, they all want it... or at least enough of them to make it more likely they are right than wrong
'

I was very pleased to hear from her. Her advice in The Agony and Ego helped me in my writing. She is, in fact, the only author I ever quoted in the talks I gave to my old college students. It's this bit:

"Don't look down. That's the trick. I never do. And as for the dull bits, I realized, with even more glee quite some years ago.. ... the novelist can do anything, is all powerful. As the child says at age 4 or 5 "you can't make me do anything I don't want to". It's as true for the novelist. I simply do not have to do the chorse, write the dull bits. I leave them out. Leave the reader to make huge leaps. And the best thing of all is that is works far, far better. It is boring to read a book in which we are made to plod anxiously all the way from A to B. Even more boring to write one. Hop, skip and jump, like Alice over the hedges bewteen the chess squares. Simple.

Heady stuff. Writing is. Gets more so. That's why. That's all, really.

Otherwise I would not dream of doing it. Not even for ready money.'


Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Conf 247: Legal Pets



We're getting a hamster tomorrow. Not strictly legal. One of most annoying things about renting in this country is you're not given the same rights as other human beings. You can't have pets, you can't put pictures on the wall (well, you can put hooks in but have to take them out and somehow cover over the holes before you leave), except you can't paint walls. And you can't have the type of cooker you want (12 years now of rubbish electric hobs), you're not allowed to leave the house for longer than 3 weeks at a time, it goes on and on. However, we are caving in to the hamster demand. We did ask the landlord when we took this place if we could have a guinea pig and he said we could. Felt like kids asking the teacher. This will be our 3rd hamster, (the last 2 were never official residents)& daughter is already worrying about its demise. The Where to Put It argument also in full swing. We want it beside the fridge in a little house-like cage with upstairs and downstairs. Partner wants it put neatly away under fishtank (fish were also given special leave) in one of those boring single storey cages.

The synopsis is done and edited down. I'm leaving it there for today. Am trying to work for 3 hours solid each morning and then do other things instead of spreading it out and wasting so much time on the internet. The work work starts coming in tomorrow as well, so expect will soon be back to pre-holiday exhasted state. UNLESS of course this agent likes what I sent him. That's the terrible thing. This hope thing. All's quite cheerful at the moment whilst I know there's an agent who is interested. My friend L thinks the fact that he likes the idea is more than half the battle. The 3 or 4 other agents who saw a much earlier draft have liked the writing but not the idea. But we shall see.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Conf 246: Out of Frying Pan



Yesterday I was considering the maple syrup diet, today I go and buy a FRIER!! Now I can make tempura and, well, yes, um, and chips. It's not so much that we love chips, you understand, more that we hate oven chips. They're never right are they. Fresh, organic spuds fried on demand, with no smell, has to be better. Not too often. No. No no no NO. Once a week, I guess it is at the moment, and so it will stay.

The synopsis is now written. 6 pages. At least 2 pages too many. I've printed it out and will take to edit down whilst lurking for 1 and a half hours outside korfball practice tonight.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Conf 245: Let's Get Dotty



Oooh it worked.

A pleasant day but not very productive. However, working out the picture thing here a small triumph of the day.

Must be the 10th time I've written this synop. Went back to look at really early version and found some good chunks which means I'm cutting and pasting all over the place and wondering about the storyline at the same time. Does she DECIDE that, or does it HAPPEN? A pro-active (sorry to me, I so hate that word) decision is a good thing, but life does happen all by itself as well. Am about to go back to it, but doing my 'blocked' thing of working from the rear end. Talking of which, for some reason woke up full of insane intentions to get down to the maple syrup diet, but after reading that, made do with lemon tea and a grapefruit instead. The some reason may be seeing the holiday video, all fine and fun until chinless Tubby the Tuba waddled into shot ARGH nightmare.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Conf 244: Synopsis

I finally did get down to it, in a rough kind of way, getting the notes I wrote on holiday typed up and sham-organised. Today was the last day of the school holidays, taken up with pen and protractor buying, annual clear-out of sock and knicker drawers, hamster hunting, Wagamamaing, ludoing and planting pansies. Tomorrow I'll do a good final rough and tighten it up, along with the 3 chapters, and keep at it for the rest of the week.

I do tend to waffle in my synopses. This one I want to get tight and right. On Paperback Writer I found Deborah Hale's synopsis sample , with pointers to hooks, goals, motivations etc written in, which might be useful.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Conf 233: Getting Started

Here I am, then, back at the workstation, ready to go into Microsoft Word and write up synopsis notes written on holiday.

It's 13.07pm.

So far have:

Delivered daughter to friend's house.

Done evil paperwork, paying credit cards etc.

Double-checked Guardian invoices. Fee still outstanding. Good.

Written complaint to travel agent about Hertz car hire service they booked for us in Marseille. Charged twice for extras, car filthy and damaged, forced to pay for upgrade by dragon woman or we'd still be standing there. On advice of our travel-savvy friends we were staying with, we rang Hertz head office in US, they, would you believe, said 'Nothing to do with us mate, it's a franchise.' Great service hm? Thinking of threatening the journalismo card, D suggested headline: HERTZ HURTS.

Booked dentist for daughter.

Had 3 cups of lemon tea.

Munched some dandelion leaves (Diuretic you know. They're not called piss on lit in French for nothing. D, studying herbalism, also recommends nettle soup.)

Removed washing from line.

Cleaned all the windows inside and out.

Cleaned front door.

Picked tacky bluetac from front door rollerblind (left by previous tenants nearly 1 yr ago).

Surfed 'how to write synopsis' sites.

Surfed blogs (Hiii! Good to be in touch again, & many thanks, Liz, for the greetings).

Replaced candles in candelabra.

Fed fish.

Sprinkled a few drops of my birthday lavender essence on sheets.

Moved swivel chair from upstairs to this desk.

Spoken to daughter on phone, now in Kingston shopping centre, discussed whether she should buy Most Haunted DVD for a fiver. Go for it I say.

Played my birthday Jack Johnson CD. New to me, very soothing. Also got Rolling Stones Bigger Bang CD which, surprisingly, partner likes, and hurrah, Seinfeld DVDs.

Spoke to sister on phone.

Spoke to daughter again. 'It's a 15'! I can't buy it.'

It's now 13.27.

Urrff. Time to -

Ooh, there's a bird fight going on in the garden. Crows and some squeaky sounding thing.

Must investigate.

Two crows on rooftop looking very pleased with themselves.

Oh, just before we left for France, the live music blogger pointed me to Youtube and Pandora & I haven't even started on them today! Maybe just a teeny peek at Mick Ronson on My Sofa....

Bye bye, thanks for visitng, come again soon.