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Showing posts from 2007

A New Love

I got a shiny, new laptop for Christmas. I'm not bragging, I'm just thrilled to bits. It's an item I could never justify buying myself, what with a fully working PC in the house and three children to indulge. Lovely Husband thought differently though, (he probably wants the PC to himself now I think about it!) and I'm now the proud owner of a gorgeous creature that fulfills my fantasies of myself as a Carrie Bradshaw type (see left), gazing wistfully out across Manhattan before settling, cross-legged on the bed and bashing out a pithy observation about life/relationships/friendships - pink nails dancing across the keyboard. Wearing tiny pants and a vest-top. Okay, so the reality is slightly (alright very) different, but it's surprising how inspired I feel by my new gadget. We've already spent a little time together, lolling about in bed, getting to know each other, which can only be a good thing, non? Even though my mum's staying this week, I couldn't re…

Festive silliness

"All the other reindeers

used to laugh and call


him names."





To put off rushing round the shops, glassy-eyed and panic tinged (I've run out of wrapping paper - aarrrggghh) I thought I'd have a festive browsing session instead (as you do) and came across this, which made me smile - not laugh you understand. I'm far too frazzled for laughing at the moment...

"Christmas Cake Recipe
Ingredients:

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
Nuts
Bottle of Vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

1/.. Sample the vodka to check quality.
2/.. Take a large bowl, check the vodka again.
3/.. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
4/.. Repeat.
5/.. Turn on the electric mixer.
6/.. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
7/.. Add one teaspoon of sugar.
8/.. Beat again.
9/.. At this point it's best to make sure the vodka is shtill OK.
10/..Try another cup ... just in case
11/..Turn off the m…

Soup Strategy

Look at my new soup mug. It's as big as my head. Only £2 from the store formerly known as Marks & 'Spensive. It was to be part of a cunning new strategy for Getting On With It, which would involve keeping a flask of soup to hand (preferably tomato) for top-ups, and a plate of homemade flapjacks - for energy and being Worthy - to stop me circling the kitchen with a lustful gleam in my eyes every ten minutes, looking for sustenance. Brilliant!
And I have to say, it went quite well yesterday. (Novelty value, clearly). On a bit of a high, I thought about turning the phone off as well today, to avoid further distractions, but worried that if the school rang with Alarming News I'd be forever known as The Mum who Turned the Phone off When the School Rang with Alarming News, so that wasn't a go-er. I nearly switched the radio off, but I wanted to know who was playing in the Live Lounge on Radio One so that didn't happen, and I rather like hearing Loose Women in th…

Shush!

Donna Reed, spinster librarian
"It's a Wonderful Life."


Shock horror. The dress code at work has been “relaxed.” In other words, we’re now allowed to wear jeans, so that we come across as more approachable. Jeans!!! Librarians in jeans? What the hell’s going on??
The news has divided the staff. Half (mostly, but not exclusively the younger members) are thrilled to bits and have immediately swapped their hairy skirts for boot-cut denim, while the rest of us, (me included I’m afraid), have come over all old school, tutting and mumbling about respect and keeping up appearances, which is odd considering we’re keen to try and shake off the old, fusty, po-faced, smelling-of-lavender stereotype.


I’ve now realised what my problem is, and it’s nothing to do with presenting a respectable front (or back for that matter)at all. It’s about having an excuse to Dress Up. I live in jeans when I’m not at work, and rather like picking out a smart skirt/shirt/jumper/knee-boots com…

Another distraction

This is fun:-

http://nine.frenchboys.net/

It almost makes me want to write a fantasy novel.
This description, under Character Description Creation, made me laugh...

"This delicate, depressed woman has stringy strawberry-blonde hair, grey-green eyes and a small tattoo. She wears a violet tank top." I want her in my novel!

Or this one...
"This man is burly, with small dark brown eyes and kinky bleach-blonde hair worn in a mohawk. He is wearing a brown sweater and seems vague." (He's probably just met the depressed woman and doesn't know what to say).

I was quite taken with the name Maudetta la Frostheim, in the Villainess Name Creator, too.

(Ok, Karen, step away from the computer. You have Christmas shopping to do and you're not even dressed. Ed.)

How old is your name?

We were discussing at work today, how much your name can date you – specifically a name from the sixties. For instance, a lightening survey of the Teens (I can’t keep calling them children - the word implies something far more smiley and wholesome) has just revealed that there isn’t a single Karen in their whole school. Nor has there been for many a long year. There’s no Barbara, Sandy, Linda, Patricia, Susan, Jane, Wendy, Anne, Pamela, Dawn, Janet, Terry or Darren either. I wonder why they haven’t stood the test of time, in the way that Victorian names have? There’s always going to be your, what my grandmother would have called ‘outlandish’ name creeping in, like Storm, Mercedes or Haribo (ok, I made that up) – but most of those sixties names are dead in the water, baby. Apparently Arthur and Enid are becoming popular again, but Lesley? Or Beverley? Kenneth, anyone? Apparently not. I did consider calling my daughter after my grandmother, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. …

Can you tell what it is yet?

These are the very same fairy lights that I...not folded exactly, because I don't think you can fold fairy lights, but arranged, shall we say, last year, so that they'd be ready to drape elegantly around the Christmas tree with minimal effort, unlike previous years. So what in hell's fiery furnace happened?? The same thing that happens every year, by the look of things. By the time I've scrambled everything out from the back of the cupboard and into the living room, it looks like we've been burgled. I've been at them for about half an hour now, and could cheerfully throw the little effers out of the window. I was sorely tempted to nip out and buy one of those collapsible affairs that I've seen advertised. You simply pull the entire thing out of a box, plug it in and step back in relaxed admiration. Luckily, common sense prevailed. We can't afford such fripperies, plus I suppose it's traditional to spend hours wrestling with the damn things u…

Good fun

If you fancy a fast, funny read coming up to Christmas (who’s got time for reading??? – Ed) I’d like to recommend Alison Penton-Harper’s new book Housewife on Top, which made me laugh out loud. Not many books have made me do that, since Adrian Mole, many moons ago. Alison was a runner-up in the Richard and Judy first novel competition a couple of years ago (inhale…I’m not jealous at all, no really I’m not…..and exhale). This is the third in the Housewife series and, in my opinion, the best and you don’t have to have read the previous two to appreciate it.
Her characters are so well-drawn, particularly best friend Leoni, that you feel like they’re in the room with you which, I'm guessing, is what good writing’s all about!

But what does it mean?

Started to feel today that my writing is about to veer off into the wilderness, which is a tad worrying. Obviously, you should know what your novel’s about before you start, that goes without saying. According to legend, you should also be able to sum up the story in a sentence and try to stay focused on it while you’re writing, to keep you on track. Not the plot, as in A meets B, C happens and it goes horribly wrong, then D turns up and everyone lives happily ever after (blimey, I wouldn’t read that story would you?), but the theme underpinning the story; the meaning you want to explore, the message you’re hoping to share, the answer to the question that compelled you to write the sodding thing in the first place, so that a conversation with a Top Agent might (in a parallel universe where you meet Top Agents face to face) go something like this:-
Top Agent - So… what’s your book about?
Writer 1 - It’s a tale of self-discovery via the medium of reality television.
Top Agent – Hmmm…

Doggy distraction

How the heck am I supposed to concentrate, when every time I turn round I see this?

She's definitely trying to tell me something!

NaNoWriteOff

Well, I didn’t manage 50,000 words by the end of November. Not even close. However, I did do more writing during that month than the rest of the year put together, and that was the idea really. I like a deadline, it seems to focus my attention, and I’ve proved to myself that when I put my mind to it I CAN sit down and Get On With It, which begs the question – why don’t I?
My new strategy, I’ve decided, is reverse psychology. If I tell myself I can’t do something, I immediately want to do it - for instance, if I mentally decide not to eat chocolate for a day/week, (Hah, as if!) I simply can’t think about anything else and I always give in. So, following the same principle…I’m not going to do any writing AT ALL for a week. I’m banning myself from going to the computer, from opening up the BOOK file, from re-reading my work, from doing a bit of editing and from deciding what’s going to happen next…I SIMPLY WON’T ALLOW IT.

I can feel it working already.

Word weeding

A handy tip for editing, I’ve discovered, is to use Edit, Find and highlight, at the head of my document, to hunt down and destroy those pesky adjectives and favourite words I keep bunging in. I had a distinct feeling that I’d used the word just …well, just too many times recently and, sure enough, after firing it in, I found that it cropped up – well, far too many times, same as the word, rather, another of my favourites. To check for superfluous adjectives I typed in the letters LY and was directed, like a heat-seeking missile, to an overabundance of really lovely but ultimately unnecessary adjectives. Obviously, (oops, there I go again) you have to be subjective here and not just (aarrgh) start to dig them ALL out, like weeds, but it really does help me to tighten up the old manuscript.

Does anyone else have a well-worn word they have to cut down later?

You can also check at
http://www.autocrit.com/

Turning to Crime

I work in a library (in case I haven’t mentioned that) and recent Public Lending figures have shown there’s been a massive shift, amongst women readers, away from romance towards crime novels, over the last ten years. This is definitely true of the branches I’ve worked in. I reckon most of our customers know how to commit the perfect murder and get away with it. Does this mean I throw in the towel right now (I’m writing humorous/feel-good, but still, ultimately, romance) or do they mean Catherine Cookson, Danielle Steele, Mills & Boon type romance? I need to know!!!!!!!

Another survey shows that:-

Married, working women aged 35 to 59 would rather read a good book than have sex, shop, or sleep. (No Comment)!

Nearly half finished a book in less than a week, 48% read more than one book at a time and, in the last year, one in five had spent £100 or more on novels. (Join the library you silly people!!)

47% of women said their favourite type of fiction was thrillers, 46% contemporar…

What's in a face?

After charging about in Blogland this morning, before zipping off to do some birthday shopping (twin boys, 16 on Saturday), I couldn't help noticing that those writers who've posted photos of themselves on their blogs look all lovely and, well...writerly, somehow, while I look like a fool. I mean, I am a bit silly a lot of the time, but I do take my writing seriously. You wouldn't know it, looking at that picture, now would you? Trouble is, I find it very hard not to pull a daft face in front of a camera (embarrassment I suppose). It made me think though, does appearance matter if you're a writer? It shouldn't obviously, BUT...how many times have you glanced at a book jacket and thought 'ooh, I wouldn't have imagined him/her to look like that?' Funny, isn't it? Not that I'm ever disappointed (she said, back-peddalling like mad), just surprised sometimes. I think we all like to put a face to the name though, even if said face is a tad gor…

Things I Now Know

When I started writing seriously (as opposed to laughing my head off at the very thought)I used to (and still do to a certain extent) devour books and magazines and articles about writing and authors, as if I thought they might reveal the secret to success - a sort of magical formula that would unlock the writing beast lurking within. Instead, all that was revealed was what I already knew in my soul. There is no magic formula. You simply have to Get On With It. In doing so though, there are some things I read at the time that I understand properly now, and plenty of things I've learned. For instance:-

Even if you start out with a definitive plot, it will sometimes veer off in directions you hadn't expected. I used to stick to a story religiously, like an architect with plans laid out, scared it would fall apart if I didn't, but now try to go with the flow.

Your characters often don't come 'alive' until someway into your book. The amount of times I've gon…

This can't be right!

Quite flattering, but I detect a prank somewhere.

Distractions

This is fun:-

http://bluepyramid.org/ia/bquiz.htm

I'm The Great Gatsby apparently!

This is a lovely song (not if you're feeling weepy though).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCeS-yorGtc&feature=related

Okay, back to the writing. I'm on 12,000 words with NaNoWriMo, which is way behind, but it's 12,000 more than I'd done a few weeks ago, which has got to be a good thing. Right?

First, I've got a photographer from the paper coming round to do a 'proper' picture to accompany the book review. Ooh, get me! Hope he's got a shatterproof lens.
I feel a bit embarrassed with myself, actually. There's something about putting yourself 'out there' (in however small a way) that smacks of showing off a bit, isn't there?

Still - it's hardly the X-Factor.

A great combination

I'm going to be doing a weekly Book Review for my local paper, from Thursday. I'm very excited. There'll be a photograph and a few sentences about me and everything (not like the ones on here, obviously - don't want to scare the readers away). I can't wait. Three reasons why it's a Good Thing -

1) I like the discipline - nothing like a set word count for tightening up.
2) Good exposure (I hope!)
3) It combines the two things I love doing most - reading and writing.
4) There probably is a fourth, but I can't think of one.

One thing springs to mind...is this just another way of Not Getting On With It??

Lost my Mojo

I'm really cracking on with the NaNoWriMo thing, and more importantly - enjoying it.
It made me realise how recently, I've been 'trying too hard' with my novel.
A couple of years ago I sat down and wrote a Whole One - 300 pages - and loved every minute. Being completely naive, I didn't do any re-writing or editing. I couldn't wait to sent it Out There. Surprisingly (because looking back it was pretty bloody awful - cringeworthy in many ways) I received some very positive feedback. The the main criticism were, my main character wasn't 'rounded' enough and one of the plot points was 'a little tired'. Basically, it needed re-writing.
And that's what I've been doing ever since. The trouble is, I found myself tied up in knots, trying to write what I thought agents and publishers wanted to read, but it soon became apparent that this technique just wasn't working. I kept faltering. Starting again. Thinking about giving up. Chang…

On the Defensive

Somebody yesterday, asked me what type of novel I'm (attempting) to write, and my heart sank. She's a bookish type, but thinks romance novels are a literary oddity. I don't much like the term Chick-Lit, as it tends to be used in a demeaning way, though I suppose I should look at it as a marketing term, like 'thriller' or 'blockbuster'. Personally, I perfer 'women's fiction' or 'feel-good', but when I said that she immediately came over all smug and said 'Oh, you mean Chick-Lit?' in a dismissive way. AAAARRRGGGHHH!
It reminded me of an article I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, and I wish I'd remembered enough of it to quote it to her.

"Mention the words 'Chick-Lit' and people immediately imagine rows of brightly covered covers, charting the lives of singletons counting calories and looking for love, in the style of Bridget Jones. Despite the fact that Helen Fielding's heroine was written about in…

Anybody NOT writing a Novel?

I know I'm supposed to be getting on with my NaNoWriMo attempt (and I did loads yesterday, which I'm quite proud of - must not rest on my laurels for the rest of the month), but I got distracted this morning, by having a look at some other blogging author websites, and one thing led to another...and another. My goodness, there are LOADS. Problem is, they're all really good - witty and entertaining and downright helpful in most cases. That's because the bloggers are all writers, I suppose. DOH!
Apparently about 16,000 people have signed up to NaNoWriMo (that word is starting to look odd) - a figure which inspired awe and resignation in equal measures. 16,000 people all writing novels???? Good heavens. And those are the ones we know about. For a nano-second I thought, what's the blooming point? Luckily, those thoughts are rare because, as all those would-be writer bloggers out there know, we'd write even if we never get published. Because we LOVE IT! …

NaNoWriMo

In the spirit of Getting On With It, I've decided to sign up to NaNoWriMo, which should be a kick up the backside if nothing else. I'm good with a deadline, but the key is not to edit or polish (something I'm rather good at, to the extent that I've re-written Chapter One so many times it's turned into a different novel) - but just to get the thing out there. 50,000 words is the target. Gulp.
Actually, I'm sure the gutters need de-leafing. The fridge needs a good soaping as well...

What I did today, instead of writing...

...apart from this, of course.

1. Jogged on spot for half an hour in front of TV, for intellectual stimulation and exercise.
2. Baked fairy cakes, for creativity.
3. Ate half of them, for energy. Baked some more for atonement.
4. Hoovered, for hygiene (paying particular attention to cobwebs, and dead flies on windowsill).
5. Walked Molly-dog, for more exercise and thinking time.
6. Put bright lip-stick outside my lip-line, for fun. Photographed myself from a distance, to see what I'd look like with implants (not good - think lovechild of Pete Burns and Hilda Ogden).
7. Took Teen Son to hospital with suspected broken ankle (okay that couldn't be avoided. It was just sprained, luckily).
8. Ate dinner, for sustenance.
9. Read newspaper and three magazines, for inspiration.
10. Watched television, for relaxation.
11. Went to bed, for sleep. (Well, I'm going in a minute).

What is with all this procrastinating? I know I'm not the only one. Bizarrely, I'm worse when I'v…

Who needs libraries?

I work in a library, if you haven't read my profile ( and why would you - time is precious...sob).

We're undergoing a lot of changes at the moment. Shrinking funds dictate that money is spread over a broader area in order to keep up with our ever-changing social landscape. In other words, we're being dragged, kicking and screaming into the 21st century, via a brand, spanking new, all singing, all dancing computer system. About time, maybe. But why fix what ain't broke, argue the Public.

Why indeed?

Well, like other institutions, libraries are not immune to a spot of re-shaping and if the end result entices more (younger) readers through our hallowed doors, that's a Good Thing. There are a lot of alternative resources out there, not controlled by libraries and if we don't get actively get involved in shaping the coming changes, we'd be cutting our collective noses off to spite our faces.

Of course, we don't want to alienate existing customers. Librarie…