Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One thing leads to another...

We were supposed to be having some floorboards put down at the weekend. When we cleared the room out in preparation, we realised it needed decorating. Badly. Well, not badly decorating (although now you mention it...) but - oh you know what I mean. Then Lovely Husband suggested that now might be the time to get rid of the Hideous Stone Fireplace, circa 1979, that we've lived with since we moved in.

Within minutes, he was wielding a mallet. He doesn't need much excuse. An hour later it was gone. Which was just as well as it turned out. Whoever installed it had done a terrible job. The wood-burning stove wasn't fitted to anything. All the stuff we'd burnt over the past six years (wood and paper mostly, you'll be relieved to hear) had piled up behind the Hideous Stone in a giant sooty heap, waiting to poision us, one day, with its noxious fumes. So now, as well as painting the walls, the fireplace has got to be Sorted Out. It'll be worth it in the end, I'm sure. Not least because we'll still be alive to tell the tale. Plus, like I got an idea for a story out of it, like womagwriter.

I wonder it that Beatle's LP is worth anything??

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Meanwhile, lovely Kerry tagged me for a bookish meme so here it is...

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Well, there are books all over the desk at the moment due to Room Upheaval, and the nearest is "You Must be Sisters," by Deborah Moggach (one of my favourite authors). So the fifth sentence and following three are...

"They were sitting on the verandah, and over the grizzled head she could see all the people standing around in the garden. Actually it was rather peaceful with Miss Price, because one didn't have to make an effort.
'...so I tried the green ones,' Miss Price was saying, 'and quite honestly they were the size of saucers. Never was anything so huge.'"

I hasten to add she was talking about the size of the tablets she'd taken after lunch. I'm hopeless at swallowing tablets myself, so that sentence fills me with dread.

I think lots of you may have already done this one, but if not consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Distraction






This is fun, if you've got a minute. Quite addictive, actually. (Like I need any more distractions.)

It's rather like Countdown, without Carol Vorderman. Or any numbers. Which is just as well, in my case.

I'll tell you my best score if you tell me yours...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sticklebooks and tea

It must be the silly season. I ordered a couple of things today, just because I liked the look of them. One is a bookshelf that looks like this...

Groovy, isn't it? It's a Sticklebook apparently. "An alternative to a regular bookshelf, it comprises an aluminium bracket and combed strip that grips the cover and pages of paperback books. It is totally secure and fall-proof." Well, I need somewhere to shove my Enid Blytons'. Not to mention all those upcoming novel-racer novels...

I also ordered a completely unneccessary mug. Unneccessary because we have tiled floors and it'll be smashed to smithereens within a month. Probably. I'm Classic British, in case you can't sleep for wondering.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The sun has got his hat on...


...hip, hip, hip-hurray!

I had to attend a training course this morning, designed to increase my understanding of the new library computer system, which involved sitting in a room for three hours, staring at a screen and pressing keys. What's so different from being at home? you may well ask. Well, for a start, we were cooped up in a basement room, deprived of natural light. Not a window in sight.

It was pouring with rain on the way over, so imagine how pleased I was to emerge, blinking like a bat, into blazing sunshine in a clear, blue sky. I dashed home and got myself outside with a mug of tea, notepad and pen and m'daughter's slippers (no, they are hers, really...) and nearly did a bit of writing. Very nice it was too.

I know the pages look blank, but that was the angle of my camera. Honest. I was trying to take a picture of Molly staring at a pigeon, but she spotted me and slinked (slunk?) away, which is what she generally does when the camera comes out. I half expect her to slap on a wig and sunnies, like Britney avoiding the paparazzi.

There's something about sitting outside in warm (ish) sunlight that makes me feel like falling asleep and dribbling unattractively super-creative, and as well as drafting a short story, I doodled a pretty picture. The sort a psychiatrist might ask you to look at before asking, "what does this remind you of?"

I was clearly in that basement room too long.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Library eye-candy

The library I work in is due a much needed face-lift (aren't we all), which should be happening sometime in the next, ooooh....ten years, but it's going to need more than a splash of Magnolia to compete with these world-wide beauties, spotted here.


Canada

Australia

Boston


Dublin

New York

Paris

Maryland, USA

Manchester


Prague


That picture at the bottom is a dead-ringer for our living room. Not. Imagine the cleaning though...


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sound advice


Some great writing advice from successful authors over at…yes you’ve guessed... The Guardian. I know you won't believe me, but I do read other stuff as well. Honest. Anyway, I particularly liked the following…

"Don't be too hard on yourself if you end up writing less well than you'd hoped. Keep going, but remember there's lots more to enjoy in life." ~ Tim Jeal

"When you finish that first manuscript and send it off to a publisher and start your second immediately. It will be infinitely better and you will have it finished by the time you get a reply about the first." ~ Reginald Hill

"Don't be afraid to fail. Failure tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through." ~ Markus Zusak

"Forget the spelling, forget trying to put it into chapters and the layout. Just write the story from the heart. Let it flow, warts and all." ~ Josephine Cox

"The Three Ps: practice, practice, practice. Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get." ~ Iain Banks

"You should write a book as if no one you know will ever read it. Never share your book with your partner. They are the worst people to advise you." ~ Anne Fine

"Don't launch into your story until you are ready to; have a clear idea of the world you intend to create and of the characters who you intend to populate it with. " ~ Mark Mills

"Stick to it; keep persevering until you get something decent." ~ Barbara Taylor Bradford (I loved A Woman of Substance, back in the day.)

"Don’t get hung up trying to write the perfect first chapter. You'll never get it right, and by the time you get to the end of the book what you want from the first chapter will probably have changed anyway." ~ Val McDermid

"Always write as if you are talking to someone. It works." ~ Maeve Binchy

"Use your own experiences and then twist them a bit." Beryl Bainbridge

Phillip Pullman’s was my favourite, though. He says simply, “Don't. You'll never make it. You'll never earn a living. Get a decent job and forget all about it. It's a silly idea. There's no future in it."

The fact I’m ignoring such sage advice must mean I really want to do it. Which is nice.

Another, more relevant piece of advice, from me to me

“Karen. Stop reading articles about how to be a writer and Get On With It.
Capiche?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Opening lines


We all know the importance of hooking your reader with a great opening line.

This article in The Guardian states that "if the author can't take the trouble, or hasn't got the nous, to sculpt those words from which all the rest flow, they probably haven't taken the trouble in all those other key moments of the text when the interpretative pressure is at its highest, when the duty to capture a whole fictional world in a single breath is at its most pressing. Screw up the opening, screw up the book."

Blimey, mate. Calm down. We get your drift.

Which comes first, though, the idea or the opening sentence or paragraph? Louise Doughty is currently building a novel around the line "Muscle has memory..." which was said to her by her physiotherapist and struck her as the perfect starter. I'll gloss over the time I tried to write an entire novel based on a title I dreamt up in the bath, and mention instead that I was reminded of a tip I read somewhere, for getting your short story or novel off the blocks.

Type into Google the words, "It's a well-known fact..." OR "It's a little known fact ..."
and you'll come up with some, er, interesting opening lines.

For instance:-

"It's a well-known fact that many people have no finger-prints..." Could be a crime story?

"It's a little-known fact that cows were domesticated in Mesopotamia..." Comedy, perhaps? Sci-Fi?

"It's a well-known fact that with enough Tea the British can do anything..." Satire? Cosy drama?

On the other hand, the same search yielded :-

"Its a well-known fact that swimming regularly makes you look good and feel great..." Not if you're scared of water it doesn't.

"It's a well-known fact that urine is drinkable..." Er, pass.

"Its a little known fact that kids under the age 9 are made of rubber..." WHAT?

I wouldn't recommend this exercise if you've more than two brain cells, or something resembling a life, but it's a fun way to while away a minute or two while the kettle's boiling, and it might even trigger something. (An urge to stop reading this blog, probably - Ed.)

There's a list of the 100 best first lines of novels here and I even recognise some of them (alright, 2 for definite), but I was gutted that the following one was missing:-

"Now once, when Brer Rabbit was hard at work scraping the stones off his bit of ground, he heard a cry for help." Brer Rabbit's a Rascal by Enid Blyton.

Okay, so it lacks tension and emotional depth, but I liked it.
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(I've got visions, now, of Woman's Weekly receiving a handful of stories next month, beginning with the line - "It's a well-known fact that many people have no fingerprints..." )

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

6 word memoir

I've been tagged by lovely Yvonne. Yay! I have to choose six words that describe me. Boo! I thought I’d ask my daughter, seeing as our perception of ourselves is different to other people’s, but she doesn’t enjoy this kind of exercise, and it shows…

Serves me right for asking. She couldn’t even manage more than 3.
I’m a loser for blogging with ‘imaginary friends’ but I’m mad ‘in a nice way,’ apparently. She came up trumps with three though, so I forgive her.

Apart from that, I am…

1) Cake-loving
2) Loyal
3) Fun
4) Irritable
5) Perceptive
6) Self-critical

I’m going to tag Maddie, Tommo, Lily and Helen. So there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Identity

There's an interesting post over on missing mojo's writing blog about annonymity. She has it on good authority that agents and publishers don’t look kindly upon personal writing blogs — particularly ones that go into detail about their novel writing struggles, as it reflects badly on the professional conduct of the writer, especially at the point of seeking representation.

It did make me think. You might have heard the cogs whirring into action. I know a couple of you prefer not to have your details plastered all over the shop, for all and sundry to gawp at. Yet there am I, full name on display next to a recent picture, with details of nearly everything about me bar my bra size (small) and favourite colour (changes, depending on my mood).

If an agent or publisher were to stumble across my writerly wibblings (as if) it's entirely possible they'd be thrown by my unprofessionalism and possible madness, decide I'm a Liability and cut their losses without ever seeing what I might be like in Real Life. (Unprofessional and mad).

Or would they? To be or not to be, etc. I feel more ME when I'm being...me. Warts and all. I'm not daft (no comment please. ) I'm hardly going to be ranting on about agents or publishers. Why would I? I need them on side. I'm far more likely to be bigging them up (as the Teens would say. They say a lot of stuff like that), but I do take the point about seeming Flaky. Or easily distracted. You can tell a lot about a person from their blog, after all.

Gulp.

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On a lovely note I've been passed this award by poorly Lane, which doesn't mention flakiness or possible insanity at all and, if they haven't already got it, I'm going to pass it on to Yvonne, Kerry, spiral skies and Leigh. Of course, all your blogs cheer me up in one way or another :o)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dramatic lives

I glanced through a book, at the library today, charting the lives of some famous literary figures. Talk about tortured souls. Blimey. Mental illness, starvation, meningitis, TB, imprisonment, suicide, treason, drowning and heavy drinking abounded. And that was just Virginia Woolf. (Not really. She did drown though.)

The Elizabethan writer, Christopher Marlowe, was rumoured to have been a spy. There was also speculation that he actually wrote Shakespeare's plays for him. (Naughty).

Edgar Allan Poe married his 13 year old cousin, before descending into poverty and alcoholism at a young age. He also appeared nude, apparently, for a public parade, apart from a white belt and gloves, once. A fashion faux pas by anyone's standards.

The blind, 17th century poet, John Milton, only recieved £10 for his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. That's got to be the worst publishing deal in history, surely? Unless £10 then, was equivalent to £1 million now, which I doubt.

It made me think, though. Maybe I'm not eccentric enough to be a 'proper' writer. Not that I want to go down the raging-alcoholic-with-suicidal-tendencies route, of course, and I don't think treason's making a comeback this season, but...I don't know. Maybe I could start wearing a silly hat or something. Non?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Soundtrack Meme

Yay! I've removed my silly, fluffy lady head, and attached my no-nonsense techno one, and worked out how to do this Movie Soundtrack Meme that's been spreading through blogland like a bushfire. Okay, so it wasn't actually hard, but my brain goes into meltdown when a word like Winamp appears on-screen.

Anyway - it's made me realise just how weird eclectic my musical tastes are. All that's missing is an aria from Madame Butterfly.

So - If Your Life Were a Movie…What Would the Soundtrack Be?
Here's what you do:-

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)

2. Put it on shuffle

3. Press play

4. For every question, type the song that’s playing

5. When you go to a new question, press the next button

6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool…because you’re not!

7. Stick the soundtrack on your mp3 player and listen away during the day.

Here we go....

Opening Credits – Boombastic - Shaggy (Oh Dear)
Waking Up – Lovetrain – Wolfmother
First Day at School – Everybody – Macy Gray
Falling in Love – Ironic – Alanis Morrissette
Fight Song – Na├»ve – The Kooks
Breaking Up – Is it Any Wonder - Keane
Prom/Dance/Ball – If Everybody Looked the Same – Groove Armada
Life's OK – Respect - Aretha Franklin
Mental Breakdown – Elvis ‘Ain’t Dead – Scouting for Girls
Flashback – Don’t Marry Her – Beautiful South
Getting Back Together – Gett off - Prince
Birth of Child – A&E - Goldfrapp (yikes!)
Wedding – When the Night Feels My Song – Bedouin Soundclash
Final Battle – A Little Less Conversation - Elvis
Funeral Song – Songbird - Oasis
End Credits – By Your Side - Sade

Surprisingly appropriate in some cases. I'd forgotten all about - ahem - number one. I must have had a blackout and hit the wrong key when I downloaded it. Just for fun, though, I answered the same questions using Teen Son's music library. If I tell you OPENING CREDITS was Drunk & Hot Girls featuring Kanye West, I think you'll get the picture...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Realism






YOU ARE A REALIST
You don't see the glass as half empty or half full. You see what's exactly in the glass.

You never try to make a bad situation seem better than it is...

But you also never sabotage any good things you have going on.

You are brutally honest in your assessments of situations - and this always seems to help you cope.


I was hoping for optimist, but being a realist is no bad thing.

After your kind and insightful comments re: The Dilemma, I've decided there's no point having a thrombo (as the Teens would say) or hunting down cake for Comfort. Actually, I don't need an excuse to eat cake, but I digress. No. What I need is a New Angle. A USP as they say on The Dragon's Den. When they're persuading Duncan Ballantyne to invest in an Anti-Eating Mouth Cage. Actually I could do with one of those (see Cake reference above...)

I've had a good old think today, and am fairly certain I've got a firm grip on the slippery beast once again.

I hope to Christ it's all going to be worth it in the end.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

AAARRRGGGHHHH!!

While shelving at the library today, I happened to pick up this rather attractive novel, by Sharon Owens. Glancing idly at the back cover I did a double-take. NO! It couldn't be... It was. The story is identical to my novel-in-progress. Well, almost. It's the same idea, anyway.

AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!

I mean. For heaven's sake. What's a girl to do? More to the point, what am I going to do??

This situation reminds me of an interview I read, a while ago, with the author Sophie King (aka Jane Bidder.) Apparently she wrote 11 - yes ELEVEN novels, before The School Run was accepted for publication, and the reason two of those novels were rejected was that, on both occasions, the publisher had just accepted a similar story written by someone else. How annoying must that have been? I simply can't imagine the frustration.

I suppose I should be inspired by the fact that, instead of giving up and sulking in a corner for twelve years, she just kept plugging away until she got it right. She's written another couple since then, I think.

Oh bum. I'd better get m'thinking cap on. I don't want to give up, but I'm going to have to do some serious twiddling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ritual procrastination

I was reading here about writing rituals, earlier.

All that talk of lucky clipboards, punching special pillows, listening to eighteenth-century music, building nests, roaming for miles (William Wordsworth) and supping ginormous glasses of coke made me think.

It made me think...isn't Ritual just another word for my Very Special Talent. PROCRASTINATION. Yes! All this time, I've been using the P word to describe the time I spend fannying about when, in fact, reading blogs all day long, dusting skirting boards and teaching Molly-dog to dance are just me and my Writing Rituals. Oh yeah, baby.

There was I, assuming that baking brick-like buns, buffing up my rubber plant with the inside of a banana skin (I read about it in Woman's Own, okay? It doesn't work) and researching ways to stop mould destroying the sealant round the sink, were merely avoidance tactics, when I was actually Preparing Myself To Write. That's what it's all about you see. To quote...


"Effects of ProcrastinationWriting Rituals"

What needs do they serve? Rituals reduce writing anxiety and increase power and control over the process, and enhance fluency.

The effort to write is inherently anxiety making. In some writers, it can cause a creative block. (tell me about it...) The problem is not surprising since writers must move from heaps of unorganized, perhaps even contradictory, perceptions, memories, and propositions to a clearly focused statement of what they think about a topic.

Writing rituals help meet the need for control.

So now I know. When I'm trying on my daughter's shoes to see if I can still walk in high heels (I can't) or scoffing a cheese bap in front of Loose Women, I'm NOT procrastinating at all. I'm simply enhancing my creativity. Got that?
Good.

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...