Friday, September 28, 2007

CONF 485: NEGATIVES & GOOD HEAVENS!

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I'm getting very fidgety. How long do I leave it before I ask? It's a busy time of year for agents, the Frankfurt Bookfair starts on 10 October.

Quick addenum, Bowie album eBay check shows £132.08p with 20 hours/24 mins to go.

Sat eve addenum, frantic last minute bidding brought the final price, for one old LP, to £343.00!

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CONF 484: SUCCESSFUL FAILURES No. 427

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A slight variation here on our usual theme. At the height of his powers, Quentin Tarantino has just had his first tasting of failure. Though based more on the US box office takings than critical slamming, which must hurt a little less (lots of people still loved it after all), he has suddenly had to confront a stall in his ever-onwards and upwards career. In an interview in last weekend's Telegraph he talked about how he handles the openings of his films:

He has developed a ritual for the all-important opening weekend of his films. Unlike most movie folk, he doesn't get sent the box office figures as they come in from the East Coast then roll back across the time zones to Hollywood. Instead, he drives from cinema to cinema in LA, seeing how his film plays in different areas, to different demographics. So when Grindhouse opened in the US in April, that is what he did. After each screening he called Robert Rodriguez in Texas, telling him how well the audiences were responding. Rodriguez, meanwhile, did have the figures. And he already knew that they were both looking at their first flop.

In hindsight, Tarantino says part of him knew that if the news had been good, Rodriguez would have told him. But it wasn't until Monday morning, when he opened the industry rag Variety that he realised just how badly they had fared. In total, Grindhouse took just $11.6 million on its opening weekend. (In contrast Rodriguez's last film, Sin City, took more than $29 million, Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume 2 more than $25 million.) 'It was… shocking,' Tarantino says. 'I was depressed for a month. It was like I had a broken heart, like somebody broke up with me. And somebody did,' he laughs. 'The American public!'...

Surely the film director's version of the novelist lurking around their books in bookshops waiting for someone to pick one up, open to the first page, read, smile, nod, smile some more, turn the page, laugh out loud and sigh contentedly as they take the book to the cash desk. I liked him even more when he summed up what went wrong:

'...it was too expensive. That's the bottom line. And part of that was my fault. I got too precious, I got too into the characters. I kept adding more and more to it. And all that shit is now in the trash. I should have f***ing known better.'

But what I loved most of all about this interview is the advice he got from pals on how to deal with it.

"He turned to friends for advice. He called Tony Scott, who took his True Romance script to the screen. And he called Steven Spielberg, who has been there himself with 1941. They both said pretty much the same thing. That filmmaking is a long game. And that now, having dropped the ball, he could count himself a real player. 'I can now officially say I am in Hollywood, that I've done the thing.'"

Still no news from the agent. I haven't written properly for months now. I could have done today but haven't been able to decide whether to go back to Novel 3 or Novel 4. If Novel 3 gets the deal there'll be the rewrite as based on the new plot outline. It makes sense to wait until the agent gives me her verdict. I was enjoying Novel 4 (quarter of the first draft complete) and want to get on with it. But I've been so wrapped up in Novel 3 maybe I should steam in there. Or continue clearing the garage and doing all the moving things. The Bowie album on eBay is finally getting some bids, it's up to £26.95 with 3 days and some hours and minutes to go. And the hammock went!

I've taken so much stuff to the charity shops they can see me coming now and lock the doors and hide behind the counters. I'm learning to spread my loads. The friendliest charityshopladies in our neck of the woods are Scope and FARA, the snootiest, Cancer Research and Shooting Star. The animal pet rescue place lady is downright frightening. As I was taking my 3 or 4 binliners out of the car, she came out in the street to yell at me, 'I've got no room for THAT! WHERE do you think I'm going to put it! Go on - you tell me. What do you think I am?' I had the strange experience the other day of driving down the High Street and seeing a dummy in the FARA window wearing all my clothes. I was quietly chuffed (they were only Primark) and started driving past every day, a la Quentin, to watch them trickle away.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.








Saturday, September 22, 2007

CONF 483: WAITING, WITH INTERRUPTIONS

Still waiting for the agent's verdict.

I take this not to be bad news, but then again it's not a very good idea to think it might be good news either.

Meantime, this house is on the market, for sale or to rent. We have a Board outside, which means all the neighbours know. As nobody talks to me anyhow, this isn't of much consequence. A bouncy young bloke came round to take photos the other day. I'd polished, of course, and made sure daughter's teenage clothing scatterings were cleared. We happened to have flowers in, which is very rare these days, and, to please my little mind, I scattered my friends' books around the rooms, just to see if any make the webvert, in which case, I shall show you. I might show you anyhow, but am confident one will make it in.

It's a bit peculiar, being a tenant sitting inside someone else's marketing campaign. As I don't give a toss if it sells or lets? ARG - see? Moments ago an agent showed a couple round and left. I just got a call from the office to say there's another couple waiting outside she'd forgotten about, so would I mind showing them round? So I did. And they were very nice. I found myself calling our bedroom the master bedroom and immediately felt a twat. You can just about walk around and get dressed without hitting anything with your elbows.

What I was going to say is that these viewing appointments are not in my radar of urgent things to think about. So I'm sitting here tapping away and there's a ring on the doorbell and the room is suddenly full of people, which can be quite disconcerting. Like, yesterday a whole group trooped in - a big, round Chicago American, permanently talking very loudly into his the mobile; his very talkative wife, and some grown-up young people, it was like being visited from the cast of Cheers. And as I often forget they're coming and am absorbed in what I'm doing, it's almost like characters coming to life, except I'm not writing about characters at the moment, but stainless steel knives and damp cupboards.

As a humble tenant, free of domestic interiors ponderings for the last 14 years, I am also turning my thoughts to the flat we shall be living in. I have to treat carefully, partner's territory and all that, but I will be sneaking my own flowery florids atop the black leather sofas gently gently. Ikea hackers caught my eye the other day. Could possibly become my new pastime, if I ever in any time get any time to myself that is.

Another person interested in my eBay LP got in touch to say to let him know what off-auction offers I get before accepting, because he'll top it. I think that sort of thing is frowned upon by the Lords of the Bay isn't it? Anyhow I'm not. I'm holding out for the bids. He wrote back and said he thought I was very wise. So far I have one bid, at 99p. Deb, thanks for the assurance, you're my Noel on this. My sister and partner both said TAKE IT!

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

CONF 482: WAIT

I finally put my rare Bowie album up on eBay last night. A Dutch person has sent me an email, on another item I'm selling, cleverly. Meaning the news of his message doesn't get seen by all the other potential bidders. He offered £185 for it if I sell it to him now. I refused as I want the fun of watching the bidding. Then he wrote again saying his best offer is £200 and he'll give me 10 hours to think about it. Blimey oh. I am suddenly in my own game of Deal or No Deal.

No news from agent, except a little message about opening the attachments, so I know it's being read, like, right now.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

CONF 481: AND NOW THE WAIT


Lovely what you find when you're clearing out. This is daughter at my favourite Dorset beach, Eype, just down from the current literary location hotspot, Chesil Beach. Now my mother is in a home close to my sister's, we don't visit Dorset any more and I can't say I miss it. Those years were so fraught and stressful I never appreciated the beauty. It's also incredibly dangerous. There are some safe beaches at West Bay and Weymouth, but the Chesil shingle slopes steeply & there's a strong undercurrent. Freak waves come out and grab people. When we were there a few years ago, in the middle of August, on a calm enough day, a wave came and grabbed a child. A man walking along leapt in to rescue the child and drowned. I often think of him, just nipping out for a summer's stroll. I've written one long short story set on that beach, long before that happened, but have never done anything with it. And a poem. Just remembered the poem, The Beach at Eype. Arg, best forgotten, but I was doing a writing class at the time.

On Friday I finally got the plot outline off to the agent. I was sure it was a synopsis she asked for, and, having finally edited it down to 3 and a bit pages, checked the notes made from the telephone conversation, and there it said plot outline. So back to the long synopsis and another day's work. At least I could get more in. Now begins the wait for the verdict.

I'm not exactly short of things to do. Work work is coming in again, and the move date has been set for November 1st. By then I've got to have got rid of most of my possessions. Still at the liberating stage. Not even a whimper of regret as Parcelforce came to take away the saddle this morning, it sold on eBay over the weekend for £41.

After a visit to see The Boyfriend at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (magical - why have I lived in and around London all these years and managed to miss it?) on Saturday, we stopped by at the flat to work out how everything's going to fit in. There's no garden, but it does have a balcony and a key to a beautiful communal garden (with a GRASS tennis court, I'd forgotten about that). Daughter is most excited about living within walking distance of TopShop and Blockbuster.

With space at an absolute premium, have just sent off for my Bag Button. I wrote about them in my cleaning & household column a few months ago but never got round to buying one. I also signed this Plastic Bag Petition today.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

CONF 480: YET ANOTHER NEW SYNOPSIS DAY



The brief is to put in more emotion. But first, can I recommend the above, Kate Harrison's event at the end of the month in Salford. Tea, cake and a chocolate fountain is included in the entry fee.

On holiday I read Carol Shields on Jane Austen and made a few notes:

Important moments buried in paragraphs that pretend to be flattened asides.
Difference between appearance and reality.
Reader preparing for disappointment, fearing that Elizabeth has gone too far this time.
Separated from the mainstream, growing signs of independent thought.
Characterisation – not bodily posture – air about them.
Characters alive in their ambiguity.
Emotionally detached, looking forward to a life of disappointment.
Overheard on love.
Ballet of glances.
In the 2nd half of the novel she becomes capable of anger (when Henry refuses to believe she cannot love him, now she was angry).
Use of accident & near misses.
While he’s talking, she’s calculating.
The fusion of moral consideration and human drama, perfect pitch.

I went back to Lisa Gardener's excellent tricks of the trade essays.

I went back to my original Hero's journey list relating to this story.

I made a list (I think made from a Leonard Cohen interview about songwriting) and placed each in very large font at an appropriate point in the story breakdown:

Gain, loss, victory, surrender, sympathy, remorse, pride, envy, defeat (recognition of), apprehension, fallibility (the place where we all meet), fear, foolish.

After transferring notes from index cards back into one big, clumsy 11-page document, I took the lines I still wanted from the old synopsis and started a new "short synopsis" document which, at the moment, stands at, um, 10 pages.

Oh, and doing my exercises this morning listened to Great Lives on my all time favourite creative person (who'd argue with that of course): John Cage.

Oh and Susan Hill
's creative writing course looks great.



Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

CONF 479: TRAVELLING THEN AND NOW

Luiz Gonzaga - check the tack and that hat.

French caravan curtains:


Lunchtime already & haven't had breakfast yet. It's been like that since we got back the night before first day of term so sorry for lengthy absence.

We are definitely moving. Early November. Have given notice in and estate agent due in half an hour to get the marketing going, which presumably means he'll bring a little camera and take pictures of our interiors. The marketing of property is an odd thing when suddenly all and sundry can peek into your bathroom habits.

Moving from house with garden and garage to already overstuffed flat (partner's office) with only tiny balcony is going to be a challenge. It's back into central London, though, which I'm looking forward to. Am also enjoying paring my possessions down to the absolute minimum. Mainly clothes and rubbish so far. Clothes is easy because they're nearly all rags anyhow. Sadnesses will come later on when it gets to the book end of things. I'm not hugely possessive about books, I don't have many of my favourites because they've long been lent out, and if they've returned, they've been lent out again until they don't come back. I love libraries. I don't need all those books. But, but, yes SOME of them I do. Photographic books are hard, they're never looked at so they will go. All to charity it will be good. And records. Most to charity, some I'll sell. Was excited to discover my David Bowie pre-Space Oddity Deram album is valued at 200 quid. We shall see. Half a day has already been spent getting back into the eBay habit. Now have a lovely little Firefox list of six auctions going on, including one sadness, my saddle. When I was a child I was lucky enough to have a pony. He lived in the grounds of the mental hospital at the top of our road. We weren't rich. He lived out all year round, I never had a proper saddle so used to ride everywhere bareback. Years ago found myself in northeast Brazil filming the splendid legendary Luiz Gonzaga. He sat on his porch playing his accordian and lots of beautiful Brazilian people came and danced. The area we were in still has cowboys & we found an amazing cowboy hardware shop in the little town. Lassooes and all like you get peg-holders & washing lines in Twickenham. I got a bit carried away & came away carrying an intricately stitched saddle, which I then had to lug around South America. (I also bought one of those dinky hats, but back home it hatched!) I've kept it through countless moves, hoping one day I'd have a horse again. Arg, estate agent just called to say people coming for a viewing tomorrow morning (NOT EARLY! I said). At least I've tidied.

I haven't done any writing needless to say. Or work. I've announced my availability again but nothing's come in yet. Which is good. I need to get the revised synopsis to the agent. Managed to get quite a lot done in the caravan. Got up before everyone else & got down to some heavy plotting. There's a lot to be said for plotting a novel that's already been written. I had a really good time. A big chunk of story is going from the middle, bringing the end third batting up against the opening chapters & stretching that to two-thirds. Think I got on better with pens and cards than I would have done with a laptop. Am in LOVE with index cards. I don't know how I ever wrote a book without them. I don't know how I ever wrote a book without so much planning out. Mind you, I'm scared to get them out now, scared to see that what I've actually got isn't that much. Now the agent's due so I'd better make sure there are no embarrassing bits and pieces lying about anywhere.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.