Sunday, December 30, 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 resist getting down to a spot of editing in the bathroom (don't ask). Whether it was viewing my less than perfect prose on a spanking, new screen, or seeing it with fresh eyes after the distractions of Christmas (lovely, thanks for asking) it was surprising how many sentences I realised had to go. I even found the courage to cut a paragraph I truly loved, but was doing nothing to further the story (sob). Maybe I can sneak it in somewhere else. I can't bring myself to throw it away just yet.
So - although my word count has now gone down, instead of up, due to some uncharacteristic ruthlessness (what is the oppositie of ruthless?? Ruth?) I view it as a Positive Step. Not for long, of course. If I carry on cutting (sounds like a bad film starring Barbara Windsor) at that rate, I'll be on the verge of having to start over, and I'm simply not doing that again. Not for at least another month...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

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 mixerer.
12/..Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup and dried fruit.
13/..Pick fruit off floor.
14/..Mix on the turner.
15/..If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.
16/..Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.
17/..Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?
18/..Check the vodka.
19/..Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
20/..Add one table.
21/..Add a spoonful of sugar, makes the medicine go down
22/..Greash the oven.
23/..Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
24/..Don't forget to beat off the turner.
25/..Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and go to bed."

Might give it a try later ;)

This raised an amused eyebrow as well...

What not to say if he buys you tacky underwear for Christmas...

  • If I hadn't recently shot up three dress sizes, this would fit perfectly!
  • These are like the ones my ex bought me - but cheaper.
  • Thanks. Now all I need is a tattoo.
  • Ooh, I hope this never catches fire or we'll all be dead.
  • You're so funny! Now what have you really got me?
  • They might look nicer if I put my glasses on.
  • To think -- you bought me these the very year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
  • I really, really don't deserve this.

I've never been bought tacky underwear (can't decide whether or not to be offended by that) but it did make me think of my worst ever present. Aged eleven, I received a pair of brown, polyester trousers, straight out of of my paternal grandmother's wardrobe. Really. She hadn't even washed them - they had a stain on the knee. Top that!

Right, I can put it off no longer. Time to join the March of the Last Minute Christmas Shoppers. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

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 the background (don't even go there) around lunchtime, because their arguing, sorry, debating, sometimes sparks an idea for a story (I might even get round to writing it one day) so naturally, the TV had to stay on.
To be honest though, if a friend hadn't called round, and Molly-dog hadn't unexpectedly sicked up in the living-room and I hadn't suddenly remembered some parcels that needed sending off that I hadn't even wrapped, I reckon I would have written loads .
Mind you, with all that bloody soup sloshing around inside I did find myself, ahem, popping to the Little Girl's Room more often usual, so that wasn't entirely helpful.
Actually, thinking about it, maybe I should have invested in a pair of ear-plugs, some blinkers and (look away if you're squeamish) a commode, instead of a stupid soup mug.

Monday, December 17, 2007

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 combo (especially in summer – just kidding) for work, and making an effort with my hair and make-up. God knows, I don’t get out much these days. Where else are my nice new, almost designer label, trousers going to be admired, for heaven’s sake? Not in my living-room that’s for sure. I’m sure I have a different persona when I’m wearing jeans, and it’s not one I’d care to take into work, quite frankly. She’d keep making cups of tea and browsing the web and ignoring phone calls, which wouldn’t do at all.

I say Down with Jeans (metaphorically speaking). I reserve the right to Dress Up if I want to, and if I look unapproachable it’s got nothing to do with what I’m wearing. It’s because no-body’s bloomin’ noticed I’m wearing Prada. (I wish).

PS - In 1905 Robert Louis Stevenson called a librarian a virgin priest of knowledge. Wonderful! Maybe we should change our name instead of our dress code.

Friday, December 14, 2007

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.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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. Even as a middle name. Knowing how cruel children can be, I just couldn’t saddle her with Ethel as a moniker.

While conducting a spot of research about my name - Danish in origin, apparently, and a derivative of Katherine, which sounds a lot more timeless to me - I came across this:-




Your Japanese Name Is...



Akina Inoue




Can’t see it catching on, somehow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

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 until your arms drop off. Worth it to see the children's faces, I suppose. Yes, they are 18, 16 and 16, but they still expect to see something approaching Santa's Little Grotto when they get home, as opposed to Mum In A Grotty Mood.
On that note, I'd better nip back to the madness.

Friday, December 7, 2007

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!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

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. Interesting. Writer 2, what’s your book about?
Writer 2 - It’s a coming of age story, with vampires.
Top Agent - O-kay. Writer 3, tell me about your book?
Writer 3 - It’s about love, loss and redemption in the Arctic circle.
Top Agent – Right. And Karen?
Me - Um, well, it’s a cautionary tale about trying to be something you’re not. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds, I promise. Or…it might be about a woman’s journey from Geek to Goddess and back again. I’m not sure. It keeps changing.
Top Agent – I think you’re losing the plot, dear. I’m going with the vampires.

I know a theme doesn’t have to be set in stone, that it can develop and evolve as you go along, but it bothered me that I’m not entirely sure any more. Does it matter? Should I stop until completely clear about what the blimmin’ heck it is I’m trying to say, or go with the flow and hope that the mist clears along the way? Maybe I’ll end up with a completely different meaning, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as there is one. Sigh.
Luckily, there’s a great “check-list” I came across a while back, by author Stephanie Lehmann, that I'm compelled to refer to at moments like this (yes I've had them before). A bit like a shopping list. “Ah yes, I nearly forgot the conflict.” It usually does the trick.

Romantic Fiction, 8-part structure
The eight-part structure works like a timeline. Remember, it does not need to be slavishly adhered to. Use it as a guide to the extent that it helps you conceive your book.
1. The set-up. The beginning of your book sets up who the main character and what she wants. Both her outer need (an action in the world, like a career or ambition) and her inner need (her feelings, her psychology) are established. The outer need is what the heroine thinks she wants, and the inner need is what she really wants.
2. The love interest. Our main character meets the guy who is going to make her suffer for most of the rest of the book. Or do they already know each other? If so, what’s wrong with the relationship, and why can’t they take the next step, whatever that is.
3. The stakes. Opportunity presents itself. Something happens that makes the situation more exciting. The main character’s expectations are raised. Her inner problems (what are they again?) make whatever is going on in her life become even more intense. And/or… something happens in her outer life that makes her inner problems more intense.
4.
She rises to the occasion. Most likely, she is experiencing early success. Things seem to be going her way. She seems to be achieving her outer need.
5. Things start to go wrong. The antagonist makes things more difficult for the main character. Her inner need may be preventing her from achieving her outer need. You are weaving together the storylines so that they all are inevitably crashing towards…
6. The Crisis. Everything falls apart. The antagonist seems to have prevailed. Your heroine hits rock bottom. She is losing everything. Her love interest doesn’t want her. The worst happens. I like to have a crisis in mind from the beginning – a scenario in which I can imagine everything that I’ve been setting up going wrong. It needs to be the “right” crisis, in that it needs to be an event that helps the heroine learn something about herself.
7.
She takes a risk. Your heroine does something extreme, acts totally unlike herself, goes beyond the call of duty, does “the right thing,” finally tells the truth… She is facing down her demons.
8. The resolution. Our main character has changed – or, in a more Chekhovian ending, perhaps she just learns to accept the highly imperfect way she is. Or perhaps a mixture of both. In any case, she either ends up with the guy or she doesn’t.

Phew, I feel better already.

(If you’re not writing romantic fiction, forget I said anything.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

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!

Monday, December 3, 2007

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.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

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/

Change of address...

To coincide with my 10th year of blogging (TEN YEARS??!!!) I've decided to move my blog over to my website, where I hope to update...