Monday, April 30, 2007

GUESTFESS: Confessions of a Chatroom Freak

Love it! Thanks, Biffo, I want this book.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

ON CRITICS

From Maggie Gee's article on on Vonnegut:

'Let him have the last word against those who scorn him. Taking the long view, he sees that people who "express rage and loathing for a novel" simply look "preposterous", "like a person who has put on full body armour and attacked... a banana split."


Saturday, April 28, 2007

CONF 349: SWAMPED

OK, sorry about that. I've calmed down now. Don't get out much you see. But it was good. Now I'm inside again, back at the desk, panicing. I have a few chapters of the novel I want to sort out this weekend before mailing the rest of it to the agent. Of course what's happened is I've opened the file and am now going through the whole thing from beginning to end, tweeking words here and there, cutting out unnecessaries. And then the work work, which I expected on Wednesday morning finally arrived this morning, so it's a mad, insane weekend of working like I've never worked before.

But an agent really enjoyed the opening chapters of my novel and loves my writing. And his colleague! That's something. Have been repeating to myself don't get too excited, don't get too excited, don't start imaginings of book deals, but of course I am.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

CONF 348: I GOT THE BADGE

I was in a nightclub last night and I didn't feel out of place. It had flouncy flirtings and bouncers and a compere and a DJ and a stage, all under darkness so well-lit that you could see everybody but we were all in shadows too. I haven't been to a nightclub in eech years. Strangely the very same place as last night which used to be my local & was known as Subterrania. Lots of memories, I've left that bar with strange men in hats with girlfriends screaming at me and once had a (very welcome stomach-flipping) surprise encounter with an ex-lover in the entranceway. Anyhow, fast-forward 20 years. It was couldn't-get-a-seat full, but not packed uncomfortable. A bit like the opening bit of Seinfeld set. Around the stage were some very inviting-looking mega sofas. Some of these sofa'd earlybirds were getting little bags of Chinese food delivered! I loved that. Anyhow I was very happy with my spot standing at the side with my writer friend and hers. Ewan Morrison was first up, reading a rude bit from Swung. Reading extracts is always tricky, I felt for him up there with the audience in front of him and all. My friend said that her Arvon teacher told her she always read the first chapter, which is where we all come in cold to the characters. It was all so interesting, like writing is cool. When we all know it isn't, it's sitting at home in baggy clothes day after day & not seeing much of the light. Then there was music from Paloma Faith and the Unfaithfuls, a very exotically turned-out Amy Winehouse/Billie Holliday
like singer, who was very good and then the star of the evening, the fantastic poet Lemn Sissay. I'd never heard of any of these people, being that as far as I usually get out is my local writers' pub nights. I've been cruising around their websites this morning, dropped an e-mail into Lemn to say just thanks and love his work. He sent me this sweet reply

Hey Amanda

Cheers for your message Amanda. Last night was enjoyable for me too. The set up at The Book Slam is absolutely perfect. It’s always a good sign if the previous evening stays with me the following day. Cheers. Lemn

Will definitely be getting some books & taking daughter to hear him at the South Bank. And absolutely certainly will be returning to the Book Slam.

And an e-mail just in from agent - my colleague and I both love your writing and we're enjoying the novel very much - if you'd care to email us the rest of the script we'll read it and come back to you as quickly as we can (more quickly than we have done so far!).

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

CONF 347: COMING OUT AND GOING OUT

Blogfriend GrannyP has just come out and revealed her real name - Penelope Farmer, the author of the classic children's novel Charlotte Sometimes. I've been hearing so many strong and fierce reactions of love and passion about this book that, even in my non book-buying mode, I had to have it. Daughter is reading it now then it's my turn.

I am still Amanda here, which feels odd sometimes. It was a name picked in a milisecond when I started this little blog distraction experiment. Once I was back with a deal, or at least an agent, which at the time I really thought would be a matter of a few months, I was going to reveal myself and be like most everybody else. After one mailing I had 2 established agents interested in the (since abandonded but soon to be resurrected) novel, plus another newer agent who even called me into town and bought me a coffee. But there you go, the years tick by and here I still am Amandaing away.

Today I've been working on Novel 5. Finally got down to it after mega-self-distraction-procrastinationitis. I booked our holiday with virginal credit card I'd successfully banned from myself (but not quite snipped into pieces) for over a year. A bit scary but French campsites don't seem to want to know about NatWest Switches. (I will I swear pay it off in full as soon as the horrid white window envelope arrives.) Then I cleaned hamster cage & put in a very important call to Sainsbury's to sort out my Nectar points, then I made 5 thousand cups of lemon tea whilst reading e-mails, blogs, you know, one of those sort of writing days. No sign of the work work, which is distracting, because it could come in by bike delivery at any moment, which isn't help in the hunkering down stakes I suspect.

Anyhow, although no wordcount progress, feels like I have done some constructive work today. The research notes were getting unruly, so I've put everything on one document under different headings in areas which crop up in different parts of the story. I've also 'dialogued' some of them, so that instead of pages of facts and ideas I have made little conversations that drop some of the clues and bits in, though they're not part of the body of the main story yet. This will probably take a few more days. But then, all being well, I'll have a chunk of writing which is in order which I can then thread throughout as I go. Have decided to stay with this novel for now, and aim for a first draft complete before the summer holidays mid-July. Haven't worked out how many words that is a week yet, but a quarter are there already.

Going out, with a writer friend to one of Patrick Neate's Book Slam nights. Should be fun.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CONF 346: MOVEMENT

Non-fiction publishers replied fast with name of the person I should approach re new non-f idea. And reply in today from fiction agent apologising for delayed response to ms e-mailed in December & will be reading it soon.

Getting 4 more query letters out to agents now before am swamped down with more work work, due in some time this morning. I have rewritten it to include a brief pitch for both novels, instead of extended blurb on haglit one; plus info on past publications, newspaper column and related new non-fiction idea. Have left out the current wip children's novel which seems like one confusion too far.

When is there time to write? And plant my herb garden? And book our summer holiday?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CONF 345: CONFUSED CONFESSION

After sudden bursts of business-like industry yesterday afternoon I don't know where I am.

Firstly, last week I contacted non-fiction publishers. Referring to the publication of my Decontamination Bible in China I asked for the name of the person I should contact about my proposal for a follow-up book. I will have to contact the Person at the Top. Many People at the Top still have the communication gene in place, perhaps because they're not as horrendously overworked as anybody in employment these days seems to be.

I've also had a re-think about the novel situation. The appalling reviews of the musical
- I can't bring myself even to name it's such an awful awful title - aren't going to help my haglit cause any & will have terrified publishers even further away from the subject matter. Trying to be ahead of the genre game perhaps was a risk too far. So I had a look at the treatment for the 55,000-word-complete novel I abandoned to write the now finished, but quite possibly, for now at least, unsellable novel 3. Or should I now call it novel 4? And I really liked it. And am quite keen to get back and complete it. But now I've started another one (which I've been calling novel 4 but is now I suppose novel 5). Am 26,000 words in of first draft and I love that one, even though it's a totally different genre. First thought, or rather last thought last night was I'd do 500 wds a day on each. But would that be just too confusing? Argh.

Now I'm off for coffee with a friend, that's the thing to do. Yes. And more yes.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Post-post addenum: On my way out of the door, I find a surprise package in the postbox from very publisher. It's a copy of the Danish co-edition of the book, entitled Pletfjerning! Not what I asked for but extreme and kindly progress. There's a comp slip with a name on it and everything. Today is turning out to be a good sort of a day. I have eaten fresh-baked banana cake with friendly old friends; I have been called over and smiled at in the supermarket by old playground distantly acquaintance-mum and told I look gorgeous and tanned; I have been smiled at in the petrol station and said goodbye to and then had a door held open. I have read a very interesting blogpost about plotting. I am on a roll. I am going to write so many bits of so many books this afternoon I will be smiling to myself...

Monday, April 23, 2007

CONF 344: MOODY MONDAY


D'you think coming face to face with hundreds of wriggly little spiders when you're reaching for the weekend sunbed is a good or a bad omen? If this morning's start is anything to go by it has to be the latter. Though am trying to tell myself that when there's an intensified run of bad things happening that means there must be a flip side of the coin lurking somewhere very, very close by.


In the post comes my six-month royalty statement. Between July and December Novel 1 sold 14 copies, and Novel 2, 15 copies. Leaving unearned balances of £968.83 and £1922.83.

And then an e-mail pops in from latest agent. Great trepidation as I open this, perhaps she's been reading Novel 3 over the weekend? They often do. But no, it's a note to say that because of the high number of submissions, the turnaround time is 2 months. Good idea though, at least it leaves you knowing how long you should leave off the nag.

And then behind my left ear partner's having his own bad day, grumbling down the phone to hospitals and doctors' receptionists.

Still, there were a couple of cheering successful failure stories around this weekend. The Sunday Times has an interview with Eddie Izzard who was 'a complete failure for a decade' - he did Edinburgh for 12 years before any light fell. In The Observer, Lynn Barber gets under the skin of 30-times-rejected-Orange-prizewinner Lionel Shriver.

Now back to novel 4 and thence more query letters.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, April 20, 2007

CONF 343: AWAY AGAIN

Was discussing plotting with writer friend the other day. So hard to get down to. The part of your brain you have to access feels very far away from the happy forward motion of the wordcounting storytelling. But if I hadn't stopped and got it more sorted there'd have been floundering later.

To get back into it after the school holiday break, I studied the character cards again, nailing what I thought were the most important traits to remember. To help with this I changed the 4 root characters to their element names in the text, which will hopefully remind me to keep them in line. At the end I'll 'find' and 'replace' back to their proper names.

I opened a Draft 2 file, and, starting at Chapter 1, made my way through 5 chapters, placing each on the new file after it had been checked . This, I trust will STOP me going back to C1 again until I reach the end. I also made notes of what I've revealed about the (?)mystery already so that I can now go away from computer and work on how and where to gradually reveal what's going on behind the scenes in a way that will create the most tension and hopefully keep the pages turning.

And so to the weekend already. Old friends catchup tomorrow evening, gentle and pleasant. Hoping to get to Pete Townshend's Planet Tree Music Festival at some point. Lots of it happening very here in Twickers through the coming week.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

CONF 342: STALLED

Writing day.

15.45 now & I haven't started yet.

19.57 now & I didn't.

The first time, I think, this has happened.

But some days are made for stalling.

The sun was out, I walked with a friend, I listened to poetry.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

CONF 341: WHAT TO WRITE

Easter is over. Work work quota for the month is on target. The house is still tidy. Daughter's gone to Thorpe Park for the day. Partner's gone off for a meeting. For the first time in a long time I have a whole spacey day in which to write.

I had it all planned out, printing off the novel for new agent, getting that in the post before settling down to a major sort out of novel 4. I am also going to pitch my non-fiction publisher. Asking them if there's any way I can get hold of a copy of the Mandarin version, gently reminding them of the continuing newspaper coverage of Book 1 and suggesting a follow-up, much as before but with the chemicals removed and the word organic in the title. I wouldn't do it for no royalty again, of course. I believe they rarely give their authors the option but it's worth a try. One percent of one percent in China and we'd be away.

So, here we are, 11.20 and I haven't started yet. Daughter left about an hour ago, I had to get some milk in, and play on the internet a bit. This is what always happens if I have any time away from writing, it takes for ever to get back down to it. I'm a bit scared of opening Novel 4, because in theory it's ready to go, all I have to do is print and send, but once I start looking I'll be off, tweeking, deleting, adding. It's the London Book Fair this week anyhow, so no agents are going to be at their desks. So maybe I leave that and use this chunk of day to carry on reorganising the secondary story in novel 4. Or shall I do the pitch letter? No, the pitch letter can be done with a house full of people (we're open plan here). As can the printing out. Or shall I natter on here a bit longer?

We went to London Zoo yesterday. Not a normal Sunday activity but meeting up with long-lost friends from France who are staying with friends in south London, which is a long way to go from west London, so we met in the middle. This will only be of interest to Londoners and those visiting, but Moneysavingexpert has clever advice on how to get 2 people in for the price of 1 with a £1.90 rail ticket . Discount London has a 20% off ticket you just print offline. (Both for lots of other London attractions too). We didn't do the rail thingy, too faffy and we had half price tickets anyhow, but the Discount London thing worked. Best handy hint of all was the parking. We were queueing for the Zoo car park (TEN quid), a hot sun, engines off kind of hopeless queue, and a bloke came up and waved to the road behind saying there were loads of spaces that were free. Turns out just one street away from the Zoo, Camden has free Sunday parking. Well, we were chuffed anyhow. It's now ll.46 arf, now, to WRITE..................

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

CONF 340: FAREWELL KURT

I love this bit of the Paris Review interview you did with you:

"INTERVIEWER

Let's talk about the women in your books.

VONNEGUT

There aren't any. No real women, no love.

INTERVIEWER

Is this worth expounding upon?

VONNEGUT

It's a mechanical problem. So much of what happens in storytelling is mechanical, has to do with the technical problems of how to make a story work. Cowboy stories and policeman stories end in shoot-outs, for example, because shoot-outs are the most reliable mechanisms for making such stories end. There is nothing like death to say what is always such an artificial thing to say: The end. I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don't want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that's the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers. "

Re my own little world of writing here, I got down to business immediately re new agent query. I spent ages finding the right words. 'It's out at the moment, but when they reject it I'd love to send it to you,' didn't seem like a good idea. I ended up with, 'it's currently under consideration' and 'if it's not taken up'. I then spent even longer composing e-mail to agent who had it.

'I'm really sorry to be a nag, but as it's been nearly 2 months now, could you possibly just confirm to me that my novel is still in your reading queue? My problem is I had a request in yesterday from another agent and I don't want to cross wires.'

I got a response later that day, a rejection, but a very pleasant one, saying how enjoyable my novel was and that the writing style was snappy and appealing but she has too many commitments at the moment etc etc. This was a lot more cheering than the last effing printed form telling me how to write a synopsis, and am feeling generally bouyant all round.

The weather helps of course, the UK is having the most brilliant spring. Have completed my work work and have been out and about meeting friends for long lazy coffees and picnics. Two days ago took daughter and friend to Richmond Park's Isabella Plantation & we're off there again today, if we can get a parking space. A friend went there on Easter Sunday and tried for an hour to park before eventually giving up. Why is everywhere getting more crowded? Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

CONF 339: DUST DELETE

That Amazon spend 15 quid for free postage is a good one isn't it. Like the Waitrose spend £10 and park for free, I always go for it and end up spending at least twenty. Partner, who hasn't been at all well, really wanted a fairly obscure CD, which Amazon had for a bargain 6 quid. So I had to make up the difference, didn't I. It took seconds. Blogfriend Lucy Diamond's Any Way You Want Me, went straight in the basket, as did Charlotte Sometimes, a book I've been wanting to get for daughter for ages and ages. In my 'Books I Want' bookmark I found Richard Ashworth's Feng Shui Diaries. Then I was suckered into the 'buy together today' thingy and in went Karen Rauch Carter's Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, How To Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness. I've tried Feng Shui before, after reading some book I picked up at a school fair, long ago lent out and never seen again. Lots of friends purse their lips and snigger at me, partner gets hopping mad and calls me a looney, but I definitely think there's something in it and even have my own little story. We were living in a tiny cottage where the front door opens onto the living room. Daughter was about 6 yrs old and her toys were everywhere. I'd blabbled on to a friend about this book, she came round one day and had to climb through the front door over daughter's toy drum kit. 'That'll be blocking your chi pathways,' she joked through the clashing cymbals. I took down the kit after she'd gone and went off to pick daughter up from school. Outside my house I found a tenner and a fiver, rolled up, just lying on the pavement.

So, Easter was dumping doormats, killing ants, buying bins, doorbells, deleting dust, moving mirrors, planting red plants outside the front door, finally doing something about the T junction we live on (shoved it up a few yards), rehanging curtains.. Sounds desperate, but then I guess I am. This past year we've been coping with bad health and consequently worse than ever financial stresses and something has to give! I have to say I am loving both the books, they've made me feel better and we have a very sparkly house and garden. This morning, an agent I queried a long long time ago e-mailed to say she's interested in the novel. She says she wants to see it if nobody else is considering it, so will have to wait for the verdict from the 2 who still have it. But it's been months now, how long do you wait??

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

CONF 338: CHILLY

The trail's gone cold and am feeling defeated. The MS is still out there with 2 agents who responded positively to my query letter but, as the weeks pass, it feels increasingly like I'm not going to hear anything good.

I put 4 new query letters out the other day. I had one nice e-mail reply yesterday thanking me but saying it's not her kind of project. And this morning, a circular printout with the 'due to the high levels of submissions we are currently receiving, it is impossible to answer letters of enquiry on an individual basis' start. Having rewritten my synopsis last week as a selling document I then read this: 'the synopsis should not be a pitch or a blurb but a simplified explanation of the plot in one or two sides.' I have explained the plot in two sides, but in a pitchy ,blurby style. Oh well, not for me and plenty more fish. Very possibly none of them are for me. Have to keep crushing thoughts that getting published was a BIG mistake, a big foot in the puddle error and instead remind myself only weeks ago I was getting serious consideration from superagent, friendly cuddly feedback from favouriteagent and another wanting the whole novel e-mailed immediately.

With work work completed yesterday, I have a whole day today to work on novel 4, moving it up from hobby status slightly, but it's a big plotty job. This is first book I've written that has several obvious layers going on at the same time, so I've stopped the wordcount progress until I've sorted out the deeper level of the story. The job today is to map this out and decide in which chapter, and how, the revelations will occur.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

CONF 337: NEW BLOG

I have a new blog and it has nothing to do with writing! Maybe there's life away from the keyboard, even if it is in grubby tissues and the remains of my breakfast croissant.

The first one I found was bottom pic, daughter's salami snack. I've been very tempted to go out and rearrange the daisies in the meadow, but that would be cheating. Just as you can't go out and hunt for conversations to crib from, they have to be found.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.