Thursday, November 30, 2006

Conf 279: New Distractions

Science lecture at the National Physical Laboratory last night put our minds at rest about mobile phones microwaving our brains. Experiments included microwaving a CD, microwaving a brain, (actually a pyrex jug with a brain amount of water) and microwaving an egg (SPECtacular DON'T do it at home!!I). From previous experiments, like electrocuting gherkins, I now understand that heat is a jiggle jiggle and hotter things jiggle faster than cooler things. We were therefore able to translate the jiggle-relativity of the phone signals and see how low it is. We were shown how mobiles work and given copies of the Stewart Report, the scientists' conclusions. It clears mobiles on the jiggle jiggle front but potential biological effects, i.e. long-term tumours, are what we don't know, and why they advise cautionary approach for children. 'Hasn't anyone done any experiments on tumours?' somebody asked. 'Well, yes,' said our man, 'someone said let's put mobile phones into every house in the country and sit back and wait 40 years and see what happens.'

There's a website, which I can't link to properly as I haven't worked out how to do it yet, but it's www.sitefinder.radio.gov.uk where you dial in your postcode to get the information on masts and what they're giving out. The nearer you are to a base station, the better, because the less radiation your mobile needs to give out to reach it. We were asked if we'd looked at the SAR of our mobiles when we bought them. WHAT? He said when we all looked blank. This is the Specific Energy Absorbtion Rate, the microwaves that go to your brain, and in old phones it was about 2 watts per kilogram, in newer ones it's 1 watt per kilogram (which is, I now understand, TINY). By law they have to be declared in the booklet you buy but never look at after you've worked out the on off buttons. In the mini discussion group we were in, with our own expert to chat to, someone mentioned a famous experiment to do with rats and depression & he told us this one experiment had been replicated over and over, and replication is the scientist's keyword, tens of thousands of experiments, they're looking for these things but nothing's come up yet.

Nearly 10 an no writing done yet. I'm expecting work to come in any moment so not much point in starting. Might as well play with the computer.

A post-browse PS: SKINT (Link to the right. WHERE'S the linking thing on this beta blogger?) has a priceless link to Confessions of a Book Reviewer re the Rachel Cooke bloggers daring to review books article.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Conf 278: Double No News

Now it's a daily no-news situation feeling. Doubled, because the query letter to development producer re novel 2 hasn't brought a response either. But, never mind, the final draft is still in progress & a request for the whole MS would bring on mass panic. Might put a bomb under me to get it done once and for all though.

Writing group last night had us raising glasses of bubbly to L, who has just been longlisted for the Carnegie. Our first lister! There were 4 of the 6 of us there last night; 2 of them are being published well at the moment, and 2 of us are having to make ends meet in other ways as we keep on searching for time to finish our (me 3rd, her 4th) novels. We discussed the whole work getting in the way thing. I am actually quite happy with the work I do at home, TV post production scripts & interviews, because it's usually light entertainment, doesn't require any braincells or office politics or dread commuting and I choose however many hours I want to do. However, I am always trying to think up ways of pulling in more & announced my latest website idea last night. A literary version of You Tube, writers put up their first chapters, people vote, the best rise to the top etc etc. H tells me it's already been done.
The Frontlist looks good, though, & I might put something up. The other novel, perhaps, which I abandoned two thirds of the way through for current novel.

PS: Having read Caroline's experience, link below in comments, will not be going down the Frontlist route.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Conf 277: ROSY APPLES ROTTEN MICROSOFT

Have been going through the usual new computer confusion traumas. But here I am, bloggering on our deliciously spacey iMac. The panic of on-line withdrawal has abated, though I'm still attached by invisible wire to the PC and will be writing on that for a while longer, if I can ever get beyond calling helplines. Microsoft this morning, with Windows disc at the ready, yeuch (in tidying up old PC managed to delete an important icon). It's also our writer's group tonight so have to do some more work on Chapter 4. Now 3 weeks since I submitted to favourite agent and it's beginning to feel like it's not going to be good news. Beginning to wonder if it was cheeky sending the 3 chapters and synop by e-mail. I do know that most agents work to e mail as a matter of course. Certainly with their clients. And with submissions they're interested in. But not all.

PS: So, I call Microsoft as instructed by internet provider and tell them the problem.

Q: Which system do you have?
Me: Windows 98.
Reply: Windows 98 is an obsolete product. You'll have to look for the solution yourself via our support website.
Me: But the computer won't connect to the internet, that's the problem.
Reply: You'll have to upgrade to a newer product, then.
Me: WHAT?
Reply: Then call us back.

There followed a mini-rant, punchlined with I've just bought an Apple & plonk of receiver.

PPS: Sorted! Suggestion from (seriously computer illiterate) partner worked & was back online in minutes. Can now transfer novel from floppy old PC to Apple via e-mail.


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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conf 276: Diversions

Saturday morning, 8.30 am. I get up early to write.

Saturday morning, 8.53 am, onto 2nd morning cuppa, still playing on internet.

Notes waiting: mostly from yesterday's waiting room Country Life binge:

Alan Cotton, painter

Private indoor pools - sinister.

Bad form to turn up to pony club meetings in a lorry - 4 x 4 and a trailer's the thing. Multi-coloured saddle cloths better than a made-to-fit sheepskin numnah.

www.aylesford.com

Ithaca, Greece, a rare opportunity to aquire a magical paradise on the beach. Breathtaking views of Skonos Bay to the North and out to the Ionian Sea. Condé Nast Travellers 50 best villas in the world.

Bay Watch, near Looe, Cornwall, terraced gardens with steps to rocks and beach.

The World's Worst Website.

DKNY dress & baseball cap

Neon nylon

tiny belted trenchcoat

washed-out whites of the prom.

Boats-knots-wind-telescope-corduroy.

wwww.yourprovence.com



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Friday, November 24, 2006

Conf 275: Rotten Apples

New computer doesn't take the old software! This means we have spent way over the odds and have a stupendously gorgeous looking computer that doesn't do word processing! The one thing I need. This was one of our main questions we had when we met with our new best friend at the computer shop. I Google some stuff and learn the iMacs have new brains which are incompatible with the old software, it's a known fact. Also means partner's movie editing software won't run. He's furious because he's spent an age reading up those boy magazine computer things and asking questions and all. Fortunately there is an educational Office package we can get at a discount, but even so.

And as for wireless, Kate Figes says it makes her feel ill. This, in the Standard last night:

AUTHOR: I FELT SICK AND TIRED WITH WI-FI

A woman claims she was made ill by wi-Fi. Kate Figes spent hundreds of pounds (first question: HUNDREDS?? I was told all I needed was a 60 quid router) installing wireless internet in her Stoke Newington home but had to scrap it when she felt tired and nauseous. The 49-year old author (they have to get the age in don't they) and mother-of-two (and that) claims she is sensitive to wi-fi's electro magnetic waves.

She said 'The day we installed wi-fi two years ago was the day I started to feel ill. At first I could not work out what the problem was. I had no idea why I felt so sick and run down but I knew that when I walked through the front door it felt like walking into a cloud of poison. Imagine being prodded all over your body by 1,000 fingers - that is what it felt like. I started getting rid of anything I thought might be causing the problem such as our cordless phones, but that did not make things better. The feeling got so acute that I could almost tell when I was being sent an email (WEIRD!) Then I started to think it might be the wi-fi, so we scrapped that too and that was when I felt better. Telecommunications expert Chris Guy said:'The amount of power emitted by wi fi devices is about a 10th of that given out by mobile phones. It is very, very unlikely that it is harmful.'

Our science course is on microwaves next week, so will hold off on the wi fi for the moment I think. No way we can afford it now anyway, what with the software business.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Conf 274: Onwards & Backwards

Work in progress rewrite: Chapter 4

No news from Favourite Agent. Posted query letter re novel 2 to TV development producer today.

Have mostly been work working this week (until 1.15 am last night)... And collecting new computer! (The two are linked.) The Apple store is a shop which makes people happy. 'Heeeey, I like your scarf!' says a cheery man as we pass at the door. 'Spooky', says partner, for it was his scarf, not mine, and I had just said the same thing to him as we left the house. He's been wearing it for years and nobody's ever commented on it before. 'Hey, look at this!' Daughter keeps saying to my left. She's making a movie, running through sound effects now. Not sure how blogger and e mails and stuff will settle so have parallel screens running downstairs now until wireless is sorted.

Not much writing this week, but have finished the rewrite on the first 3 chapters and have started rejigging Chapter 4, which was Chapter 17 in the last draft. Brings a strong main character right forward into things.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Conf 273: Converted

The Apple store has been visited and a computer chosen. A warehouse on a trading estate, but the tiniest little corner shop. I eventually realise that the warehouse bit is hidden away behind the cosiness. A (heyday 40ish) Donald Sutherland lookalike catches my eye and I get the first inkling of Apple Cool. Major upheavals of house are underway to accommodate. The spare room will no longer be, and I must clear music stand, bead boxes, clothing, books, stones, files that are never used, and the rest. Getting Started is very like getting started on novel after a time away.

The work work is out of the way and I have done my novel quota, completing and about to print chapters 1 to 3. Will not allow myself to look at them again and it'll be onwards and upwards with Chapter 4 rewrite. No news from Favourite Agent. It hasn't been two weeks yet but feels like much more. May mean she likes it and has passed it on to a colleague for a second opinion. Could equally mean she hasn't got round to it yet. I am ready to send it out again anyhow, when I do hear, and onwards with the rewrite.

Am falling for Jewish men all over the place right now. First there was Jonathan Sacks, the voice of, don't know what he looks like (hooray must be maturing!); a picture of Sasha Baron Cohen wobbly-knee'd, and then David Guest in the jungle gets my vote. Even though Desmond Morris says I'm being manipulated. We're only mildly addicted to this one, however. Didn't at all like the immediate bush tucker trial landing on the new guy the other day, and actually managed to watch the far more cultural chimpanzees attacking and eating each other instead last night.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Conf 272: Remainder Reminder

Novel progress: none (have been working)

A letter from publisher in the post. Not fiction, but non-fiction publisher who I never, ever hear from. Not even royalty statements because I get no royalties. Both of my non-fiction books were written for a flat fee, which authors are told never to do, but it was much-needed bread on the table at the time. It's just as well I did, because one of them has provided me with a steady income from the related newspaper column for several years now, earning me more than the novels (if you've seen my royalty statements, you'll know this isn't difficult).

So, what can it be? A thank you for promoting the book in national newspaper every other week? A new commission? The editor did promise, PROMISE in a really thespian grovelling cheesy double-barrelled way, that she'd give me more work and pay me better for all the extra effort I put in to completing the second non-F to deadline. I reminded her about a year ago, but got an abrupt no thanks, nothing suitable has come in. Which could be the case - this is not a winge, am just trying to tell it how it is.

Anyway, the letter is to say they're reducing stock of 2nd non-f and will not be reprinting. Therefore they're offering me the opportunity to purchase up to 300 copies of my book at the discounted price of 10% RRP. Hmm, that makes it 79p a copy instead of £7.99. It's a bloody good book as well. Maybe I could do boot sales. Brilliant idea (not mine) and, even if I say it myself, well executed. My friend Jean helped me write it, as the deadline was bonkers & I was getting extremely stressed out. She should have had a credit, it was promised, but never appeared. Wonder how many I should order? Must contact Jean, see if she wants some. I check the Amazon ranking: 1,300,523. Ah well, it never got the publicity you see.

Andrea Semple has listed me in her top 10 writing sites, alongside the Grumpy, Miss Snark blogerati. Thank you Andrea, has made my week.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Conf 271: Nobody Told Me

Rewrite: Chapter 1, page 3

Nearly broke down in the newsagent's this morning, eyes stinging, throat welling. Hadn't heard the Desert Orchid news break, so it was more of a shock somehow, seeing his mug-shot on the covers of the newspapers, like everybody already knew. Went to see him race at Cheltenham & stood melting at the paddock rails as he clopped round and round. I once got into a Desert Orchid conversation with a stranger at a bar. He turned out to be Van Morrison. I kind of ruined what must have been my supreme ultra-cool later by going back, well sloshed by then, and shaking his hand up and down 5 thousand times and guffawing about not realising who he was. He looked skywards and said he'd talked enough, his throat was dry and he'd better be going home. I particularly love the Sun's picture of the elderly Dessie and will have to go out and buy it later.

After reading opening of chapter 1 last night, some small rewrites, clarifications,to do and so on it goes. I gave L a lift home and she said she'd love to hear something other than the beginning. So would I, I can hardly believe the whole rest of the novel exists. More work work arrived this morning so back it goes on hold.

Have been enjoying Humphreys in Search of God of a Tuesday morning. Each week he talks to different religious leaders and asks them to argue their case. This morning it was Sir Jonathan Sacks. When asked if he could convert Humphreys to Judaism, he replied, 'I'm sure you've got enough problems already.'

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Conf 270: Fiddle fiddle

Novel 3 rewrite: page 9

Will I ever get past chapter 1?

Am rewriting partly to stave off the misery of another rejection when it comes. Knowing that I've improved it will give me the impetus to send it off again quick. Also, writer's group this evening. Am looking forward to it, not least for the chatter which seems to be getting longer and longer until someone sighs and says 'oh well I suppose we'd better read then,' and then it's usually all right, so long as am not feeling pulped to a rubbish pile by people going before me. Actually, going first, which nobody ever wants to do, is pretty failsafe. Maybe I'll put my hand up.

Not too much writing today, however. Hosted coffee morning for 2 of partner's friends, which was fine, nobody seemed to notice I produce crap coffee, or if they did so they weren't letting on, and the caramel biscuits were unbeatable. They all used to work together, so I didn't have much to contribute. Then there were hamster food, fish food, milk, bread day to day demandables that I'd put off over the weekend, which meant different shops and different parkings, all v. exciting. Actually, it was because I collected photo disk and found a stray hyacinth smelling all blue which is now permanently wafting around the computer.

We are getting a new computer. This one keeps threatening to conk out, and the disk thingy is full. It's so old it doesn't take powerpoint or have chart graphics or any of the stuff daughter needs. We keep fighting for control as well. Also, partner is around much more which means open plan room not ideal for getting novels done and dusted. So this computer's going up to the spare room (SANS internet! until we take the wireless step) and a bells and whistles APPLE will be arriving soon. Was very anti, in a scared kind of way, but am now looking forward to it. I deeply desire a laptop, but then decided had to get the most basic old PC World PC which somehow partner has negotiated into the all in one screen thingy.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Conf 269: Poperall Meanderings

After a morning's rewriting - the new synopsis done and dusted and final fiddle with c's 1 - 3 - I decided to give myself some time out in the sunshine.

Melvyn Barg on R4 whilst doing my pilatesing this morning - talking about Alexander Pope. He was the first English person ever to make his living as a writer. Because he was Catholic, he wasn't allowed to live in London and so lived 10 miles outside in Twickenham. Have been meaning for ages to revisit his Grotto gardens, haven't been there since I moved here, and so, after dumping off the library books, took a wander. He was not a pleasant character so it seems, and didn't leave home without his great dane and loaded pistols. Took a stroll down the cobbled lanes to the river and along, stopped off in Langton's, our independent bookshop. Serge Lourie, the leader of the council, he of the salutory coshing the 4 x 4's in there, being talked at very loudly his companion. It's also a coffee shop. The mad mini Roman fountain, all dripping maidens and and rearing horses v. good value for a dip out of the high street. Then back to the library feeling all full of the past so I've brought home some fat photographic history books. Am reading 2 novels already, some proofs an author friend gave me of contemporary women's stuff, which I really must read more of to get up to speed a bit. I'm still wandering off into paragraphs that meander and explain too much too often instead of the short, snappy chatter stuff I'm supposed to be doing.

I got in touch with Favourite Agent who has agreed to take another look. So the fingers are all crossed every which way.

Not going to work too hard today and now off to have a cup of tea and sprawl with new lib. books.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Conf 268: Don't Look Down Don't Look Back

Not a good thing to do.

Have transferred energies back to novel 3. Yet more rewriting of early chapters. It feels like I've been stuck there for a long time.

Am moving on to the synopsis rewrite tomorrow and shall then start the business in earnest. Question is do I resubmit what is now a completely different novel to Favourite Agent
my friend highly recommends who liked the writing but didn't see a market. Now the market's moved on and the writing's better, probably worth a crack.

Away from the screen have become science student and loving it. Each week we go to a lecture theatre (with little tables that pull out from the side of your chair and everything) in the National Physical Laboratory. Where the time pips come from. This sounds like pushyparentdom gone ape. It wasn't daughter's idea, either, or mine, but partner who is a physicist type person and was mad keen to go himself so we reluctantly agreed. But the teacher is so good and makes it all one big game so we're hooked. Last week was all about electricity and the size of things. Electricity, we were told, is not about the stuff that comes out of plugs in the wall. It's in everything. We had our own mini science museum play area where we made salami sausages and water and glasses and bits of paper fly about and things like that. One of best bits was a film called Powers of Ten, made in the 70s by the Eames furniture company of all people. It starts off at a picnic in Chicago and, in one shot, moves out to the edge of the universe and then back in - to the tiniest smallest small of everything. It's supposed to be downloadable at the moment but I can't get it to work. Daughter's favourite bit was the elements song.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Conf 267: But What If It's Cack?

And so have done the Amazon thing. Called up novel 2 and clicked on 35 Used and New From £0.01p. Happily ordered up all the 1p ones, of which there were 3, then the price rose to a steep £1.25 and thencewards, but, still, bargain enough so I thought, until I got to the check-out and the bill was £29.36p - of which £5.62 was for books and the rest for postage. So had to laboriously go back to beginning and click through one by one. Ended up ordering 3 which have arrived.

I open and read the first sentence. Absolute rubbish cack! What was I thinking? There was a reason, of course there was a reason why this book was dead and buried before it had been born. Then I re-examine the reaction, or, as you're probably aware by now, the general non-reaction around publication time. You can't usually rely on relatives for an honest opinion as they'll shield you from the worst of it. Not mine. I don't have many relatives. Very few in fact. But my sister did say she didn't like it, and much preferred novel 1. As did my long-lost cousin. There were many more silences, not least from agent and publisher. But there was a review in OK which was OK, and another which really liked it and called it fun and intelligent, which, as a market marker, would do me fine. And a few friends said they really enjoyed it in a way I could, I think, tell wasn't just to make me cheer up.

HOWever mission embarked on I shall continue and send out some query letters to TV companies.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Conf 266: Negative to Positive

Am just back from long walk after delivering car to garage. It's a perfect autumn day, windy and golden and blue. I crossed through one of the locations for novel & made a few notes. Had a bit of a lightbulb moment about what I should do about my poor, neglected novel 2. Was thinking about brilliantly funny playground sketch on Catherine Tate Show last night & a friend's attempt to get a TV script off the ground around the same subject. Then thought, hang on a moment. I have the material, the story and the characters are all there, I should be doing something similar.

Had a look at the other book's Amazon page. It's got its first review, 3 stars. And this from the Publisher: A fantastic commercial concept, this is one of our most exciting women's fiction launches in 2006.

Film & TV rights are a bit of a cul de sac in the fledgling novelist world. They only get snapped up on the crest of a buzz created by the publishers spending loads of money on an advance and you soon forget about them as a beginner's fantasy. I did ask my agent on publication of novel 1 and she told me they had an agency and my book would be considered. So I shall now get all proactive and order up ten or so copies and send them out to some TV companies.

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