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Pluses and minuses

Minus - We're snowed in again, just as we were this time last year. It's knee-deep out there, and STILL Molly expects to be walked twice a day.

Plus - Our kitchen is ... drumroll ... finally finished. Only four months late. I hardly know what to do with all that space. Which is why I'm typing this instead of moving everything back in there.

Minus - We intended having a massive celebratory roast today (if I can remember how to cook)but only managed to buy a chicken before vehicles were abandoned to the snow yesterday - so that will be our dinner. Ah well, who needs veggies?

Plus - Am churning out a good amount for words for Novel 2 most days.

Minus - I'm still not going to meet my end-of-December deadline. Succumbed to a cold/cough/flu type virus a couple of weeks ago and, coupled with a last ditch attempt to find an available kitchen-fitter who wouldn't run screaming when he saw what a mess the last guy had left behind, I got sidetracked.

Plus - Finally had a sto…

Libraryitis

We're all a bit jittery at work. Meetings abound and it's not good news.

Smaller branches of the library will probably close next year, and even if they do stay open - run by volunteers as proposed - the existing staff will be out of work, at a time when unemployment is already high and rising.

We've tried many strategies to tempt in new users (is that the right word? Sounds a bit addict-y) but the truth is libraries aren't *cool*. Add to that terrible faux-pas the fact that books are cheap and everyone has knowledge at their fingertips in the form of the Internet and you may well ask, "What's the point of libraries?"

In fact somebody did - huddled at the back of the village hall in his puffa jacket. Words like 'community' and 'public service' were bandied about in response, but he didn't look convinced.

In the interests of answering this question I asked around friends and family and discovered that out of everyone, only my Mum uses…

Splashy Web-Thing

I'm happy to do my bit today in helping fellow blogger and writer Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

If you don't have a Kindle you can download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

About THE HATING GAME:

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose c…

Statistically speaking

I've just discovered Blogger Stats on the design page, and had to stop writing (no really I DID) to have a good rummage around.

Quite illuminating - if you've nothing better to do. It tells you which of your posts has been looked at the most during a day, week, month or of all time and rather surprisingly my most popular post isn't about writing or anything remotely profound - not that I've written anything remotely profound.

It's this one called Turkey Fatigue, which has been viewed 3628 times to date, and is being viewed by 48 people at this very minute.

The magical Blogger Stats informs me that all these visits have been referred by people searching for turkey cartoons. But why? To my knowledge turkey is only ever relevant at Christmas and Thanksgiving - not on the 3rd of June. It makes no sense.

Second most popular post - understandably - is Cally Taylor and her Writing Highlights with 682 page views. Quite a lot less than the turkey I think you'll agree. I h…

NaNO

This month I decided I'd 'secretly' take part in NaNoWriMo as a way of motivating myself to get the first draft of novel 2 finished. Boy am I glad I didn't make a song and dance about it on the blog, as I've done naff all. Well, a few thousand words, but not the 20,000 or so that would be required by now.

It's weird, because external deadlines I'm brilliant with - I'll stay up all night writing if I have to and get the work finished on time, but when I set my own it hardly ever works. This is when RT (Resistant Teenager) takes over.

The second I woke up on November 1st she said, in sulky tones, "Sorry but I can't, like, do much writing today, like, 'cos I've got, like, other stuff to do and that. Innit."

One of them involved forcing me to bake a cake in the microwave (no, the kitchen still isn't finished). It wasn't a success. Ever tried eating a rubber chicken? My maths isn't good but I know I could have written…

Ooh I Say!

I’ve a short story in this week’s Woman’s Weekly called Private Dancer which is, ahem, a little … saucier than my usual fare. I’m not talking full on raunch, because as I’ve mentioned on here before I’m absolutely no good at s-e-x scenes – plus I wouldn’t want the readers to choking on their coffee and going all unnecessary.

I’d challenged myself to rustle up a story that was, shall we say, hot-blooded but subtle, as I’d never tried it before, and I must have done something right as the editor said she liked it - a lot.

It was fun actually, and it felt good to write something outside my comfort zone. I won’t be taking it any further than that though – my blood pressure couldn’t cope.

My daughter steeled herself to read it, saying she hoped it wasn’t ‘pornographic’. I reassured her that I'd never had an impure thought in my life, but even so she could barely look me in the eye afterwards. “It’s good Mum, but it’s weird that you wrote it,” she said sidling past, and went to wash her h…

Fact or Fiction?

A friend of a friend happened to mention that she doesn't read books. Not fiction ones anyway. She said that she'd "rather be living life than reading about made-up ones," and anyway "it makes you dissatisfied with everything, especially all that romance stuff." Which rather begged the question, "How do you know if you don't read books?"

I kept schtum because I don't know her that well and didn't want to upset my friend by suggesting her friend is clearly a bit poorly in the coconut.

Okay that's a bit harsh, but I was miffed by the implication that because I've read a love story or forty(thousand) in the past, I'm as bitter as an olive that men in real life tend not to be brooding, chiselled, tousle-haired heros in tight-fitting trousers, waiting to sweep me off my feet and ravish me. Well, not the ones I've met anyway. (All right, so I'm a tiny bit bitter.)

Neither am I limp with disappointment that I don'…

Keeping up Appearances

In the interests of motivation, I treated myself to a fancy new notebook this week, to jot down notes for my latest - ahem - masterpiece. (Look, if I don't believe in it no one else will.)

Now that I've taken to hunching over tea in our local Costa's every week, slurping from a giant cup and staring into the middle distance, tapping my pen against my chin, I decided I needed something more swanky than the 99p recycled reporter's notebook I was using before. Plus the reporter wanted it back. Ho ho!

Trouble is the new one is far too posh to write in, and I don't want to spill tea on it, so I have to slip an old, tatty one inside for the actual writing.

It's all about appearances dahling. But the words are flowing, which is the main thing. Whether or not they make sense is a different matter.

In case you're wondering, the story of our kitchen still hasn't got its happy ending. In fact it's becoming a misery memoir.

Business as usual

Now, I can't keep saying "no news on the UK-book-deal-front" every time I post.

Well I could, but it would get a bit boring - not to mention embarrassing - so lets just say it's a No until you hear otherwise. And you will hear because I'll be shouting so loudly.

Instead I'll mention that I've just been to Ghent in Belgium with Lovely Husband for a weekend break, which was nice. Sunshine, music, canals and fireworks (and that wasn't a euphemism, I literally mean fireworks) and lots of yummy (fattening) food.

Very relaxing it was and plenty of writing inspiration too, from the woman crying into her mobile phone on the train on the way over, to the pretty American girl who couldn't understand why the elderly couple she was sitting opposite to on the way back were so rude to her, to the group of guys who talked about nothing but beer the whole journey. I guess you had to be there ...

I'm not an experienced traveller as anyone who's stuck with my r…

How Time Flies

Illustration byKathy Hare

Is it really September? Tut. I turn my back for five minutes and another month flies by. I must be having masses of fun.

Still no UK book deal. Still no new kitchen either. It's getting there slowly, and am sure will be sparkly and lovely when it's finished. In the meantime I'm getting rather used to cooking spuds in a pan of bubbling water on a camping gas-ring in the living room, with the dog looking on in a rather confused fashion.

I've not given up on the UK book deal dream. I've just shelved it temporarily, otherwise I'd never get anything else done. I suppose my natural state is 'unpublished novelist' so it's relatively easy to slip back into that shiny, well-worn groove. The new novel is growing slowly and I've sold some more short stories, so it's all good.

I drove my Mum back up to Scarborough yesterday and discovered for the first time how brilliant talking books are for long journeys. Not on the way there …

Distracted

Well the news is ... no more news. Well nothing good anyway. Lovely Agent is away for a fortnight now and explained before she went that a lot of editors are on holiday during August.

My novel is still out with publishers, but I've been warned it could all take a lot longer than expected due to the current 'difficult climate.' Uh-oh. There have already been some passes, the reasons mostly being of the 'budgets/timing/we-loved-it-but-have-no-available-slots' variety. Oh dear.

All rather disheartening. Lovely Agent did say it took the agency 18 months and 30 rejections to get one of their authors published, and she's doing very nicely indeed now and that I mustn't give up hope, but still ...

All this waiting and hoping and dreaming has rather drained my enthusiasm for further writing, apart from a couple of short stories, so this morning I dragged my carcass to a local coffee shop with a notepad and pen, and managed to scribble a few pages of my new nove…

Update

Well...the good news is that I've been offered a two-book deal in Germany.

Apparently my novel went to auction over there and Goldmann's won. That doesn't sound quite right, but I don't know how else to put it!

I'm really thrilled, not least because I'll be sharing a publisher with Sophie Kinsella, Cally Taylor and Stephen King, among others. My husband's particularly thrilled because he lived over there for a while and speaks fluent German. So at least he'll be able to read it.

The not-so-good news is that there's nothing on the UK front - yet. It's still out with publishers though and I'm probably being FAR too impatient. I had no idea that waiting could be so tiring. All that email checking and the effort involved in trying NOT to email-check. It's messing with my chakras.

I urgently need to take up yoga.

Wii not so fit

It's funny how some bits of technology we get along with and some we don't.

For instance I love my PC, netbook and get along ok with my mobile phone, but the e-reader I bought recently I ended up selling because I didn't like it.

The same thing's happened with my Wii console and Wii Fit thingy. I was drawn to the shiny, white set-up, lured by the promise of toned thighs and sculpted thingummies from the comfort of my living room, until I tried it and was told - rather rudely - that my fitness age was 85. Just because I couldn't get the hang of balancing on one leg during the initial assessment.

To be fair, once I'd stopped sulking I did give it a go, but to be honest it made me feel silly. I'd rather be out walking the dog than bobbing up and down on a board in front of a screen wondering if the postman's going to walk past the window and catch me at it. Again. It's now gone to someone - hopefully - more appreciative.

My mum adores her mobile …

(Im) patience

So Lovely Agent has finally submitted my novel to publishers. Excited? Moi? If you looked the word up in the dictionary you'd see my face grinning out at you in a rather alarming fashion. Being patient is the hard bit as she won't hear anything back for roughly 3 weeks. I may have to start biting my nails for the first time ever.

Or I could get on with the next novel. Hard to focus though, somehow.


*************

A timely distraction came in the form of this Honesty award from the lovely Amanda at Writing Allsorts and the equally lovely Kat at Wright Story which requires me to tell you ten things about myself that you don't already know - and probably don't want to know, so here goes ...

1) I love Big Brother and don't care if you all despise me for it.
2) I DO care if you all despise me for it, so I won't mention the BB thing.
3) I like cooking but am actually not very good at it and often burn things.
4) My doctor informed me this week that my cholest…

Just a minute

New management at the library has decreed that we start having staff meetings once a month at 8.30am, to stop us looking gormless at the counter. I missed the last one. I forgot about it. I did write it on my calendar then forgot to look at my calendar, which is nothing unusual.

I was so thrilled by the small miracle of not only remembering, but turning up in time to make myself a cup of tea that when we all sat down and our lovely manager said, "Would someone mind taking the minutes?" I accidentally put my hand up. Several pages of A4 were instantly flung down the table.

Panic flared for a couple reasons. a) I've never taken minutes at a meeting before. Hell, I don't think I ever BEEN to a meeting before. b) With all the typing I do I've practically forgotten how to use a pen. What if I couldn't keep up?

"It's just making notes really," said the manager kindly, sensing my bewilderment, so I gamely gave it a go.

I had to resist the temptation to f…

Give us a kiss

Another area I had to address during revisions was "passion." As in, insert some (pardon my French) during a particular scene. Not something I find easy, especially when I imagine people I know having to read it.

I did write a bedroom scene earlier in the book, but the emphasis there was very much on humour. Now it was time to up the ante (why does everything sound like a euphemism?)

I'm not talking full on rumpy-pumpy with heaving, thrusting, panting and glimpses of hairy buttock. God no. My imagination's not THAT good.

It was essentially an important kissing scene, which needed a bit more oomph.

Less, "Ta-ra love, don't forget to put the bin bags out" and more .... oh, it's no good I can't even do it on here. Okay, let's say kissing with intent. You know what I mean.

Naturally I thought about doing some research - picking a snake-hipped, broad-shouldered, taut-muscled, man-totty neighbour to practise on. Except we don't have any…

My name is ...

One of the things I had to do while editing was make one of my male characters more appealing. Trouble was I'd been writing about him for so long I couldn't get my initial image of him out of my head.

It occurred to me it was his name that was the problem. Names are so evocative, tending to conjure a certain type of person, and the name I'd chosen isn't one normally seen in chick-lit.

Okay, he wasn't called Pogo or Woopsie (apologies to any Woopsies reading) but I had invented a type of character to go with the name. In case any of you are ever daft enough the read the book - IF it ever gets published - let's say I called him Maurice.

Leading men are rarely called Maurice in romantic comedies. If they are you know they're going to be losers in love, gay or somebody's granddad. I might as well have written in ginormous letters "BY THE WAY, SHE'S NOT GOING TO END UP WITH HIM!"

I was reminded of a couple of films I've seen - can't…

Writing Frenzy

It's been a mad couple of weeks.

I had a mention in The Bookseller which got me in a right old tizz, and put me off my food for an hour I was so excited.

But back in the real world, Lovely Agent wanted me to rewrite some scenes from my novel - make them funnier. At first I thought 'how the bleepin' heck am I meant to do that?' but inevitably the writer's brain cranked into gear and began inventing.

I thought I learnt a lot with the last lot of edits, but by jove I've learnt more.

Looking back at some of my later chapters, I realised how much 'explaining' was going on. Characters telling each other why something had or hadn't happened - yet I thought I'd got a grip on show don't tell.

A better way for me to get my head round it is to think don't explain it, do it! and I believe this has really helped bring the novel alive.

I was advised to 'be brave' and remember that 'a great book is lots of mini-dramas leading to a huge drama'…

Library lady

At work today I was told that I looked like a proper librarian. And she didn't mean in the saucy sense, like the leggy lovely on the left.

"Look at you!" she chortled (we're friends so it's just about okay.) "Bun, check. Glasses, check. Cardigan, check. Snaggletooth - oh, okay you don't have one of those. If I didn't already know you worked in a library, I'd guess straight away."

How very rude.

I've run out of contact lenses, which accounted for the specs. My daughter says they make me look like the love-child of Austin Powers and Ronnie Corbett. If that were even remotely possible. The bun I like to think was more Penelope-Cruz-at-the-Oscars than Mrs. Pepperpot, and the cardigan was definitely quite stylish. Well, it wasn't baggy at the elbows or hand-knitted or anything.

Maybe we subconsciously dress to suit our environment, and I couldn't help myself. I reached in the wardrobe for a slinky top and my hand just fell on the cardi.

Writing rules

An early criticism of my novel (yes there was one - more than one, but we won't go there) was that there wasn't enough character description - the reader felt like she couldn't 'see' my main character clearly, and that I should include more physical description to bring her to life.

Harrumph, I thought. Sophie Kinsella, author of the popular Shopaholic series, purposely didn't write a description of her central character, Becky Bloomwood.

In a recent interview she said she deliberately never described what Becky looked like, partly because she wanted everyone to relate to her and partly because when she's writing, she's not looking at her, she's looking through her eyes at the world, and didn't think in real-life anyone would ever look look in a mirror and say, "Wow, my shoulder-length, blonde-streaked, shiny hair looks fab today!" though she might say "Wow, my hair looks fab today!"

(As an aside, it's been a long time …

Guest post - Elise Chidley

Today I’m delighted to welcome author, Elise Chidley to my blog. Elise has written two wonderfully warm and witty novels, The Wrong Sort of Wife and Married with Baggage, and I absolutely loved them both. Intelligent and romantic, as well as funny, they’re peopled with characters you can’t help warming to.

Elise is giving away 2 free copies of The Wrong Sort of Wife and 2 copies of the American version, Your Roots are Showing. If you’d like to leave a comment below I’ll pick the winners at random on Sunday!

So, without further ado …


Elise, when did your writing career begin?

I’ve been writing for a living since my first job as features writer with a national women’s magazine in South Africa, but I started writing fiction after my third child was born. At that stage, I was telecommuting as a staff writer for a publisher of health care magazines, writing three feature stories a week. The pressure of these deadlines, coupled with looking after three small children, was just not sustainable. …

Teknology

Technology's a marvellous thing for a writer - endless info at your fingertips, access to lovely blogs and writing forums and groups - it's enhanced my career (if you can call it that) no end, as well as presenting me with online friends and endless ways to procrastinate. But in terms of telling a story, especially one with a hint of mystery, it can be a hindrance.

There were so many times when I was writing the novel that I thought ... hang on. All she has to do is Google him and she'll know everything there is to know. Because that's what people do these days. Or ... wait a minute, why doesn't she just whip out her mobile and phone him? Because EVERYONE has a mobile phone. It wouldn't make much of a story though. Girl meets boy, isn't too sure about him, checks him out on t'Internet and they live happily ever after.

It wasn't realistic to make my main character a techno-phobe, as she runs her own business. And that was another thing - I sudd…

AND ... relax

Well, that was ... intense.

I've finally emerged from the dark editing cave I've been inhabiting for the past month, peopled with characters from my novel demanding I make them better - more likeable, more believable with better hair. They even wanted their storylines strengthening with more bits added on, and new chapters for them to run about in, the cheeky devils. Anyway I listened carefully, thought hard, realised they had a point and got on with it.

Things I learnt from my time in the cave ...

A lot more about editing, even at this stage.

That when I'm up against it I'm not even tempted to procrastinate.


I CAN write thousands of words a day.


That having a wonderful friend - and husband - who can read your words and scoop up those pesky typos and inconsistencies (not that there were MANY, I hasten to add) and be supportive is a wonderful bonus.


Getting up earlier means there's time to squirt bleach down the loos and aim pots at the dishwasher occasionally.


Strangely, e…

The invisible story

I was thrilled to receive my copy of the Swedish magazine containing one of my stories this week.

I flipped through it a couple of times, admiring a recipe for what looked like cream buns on the way, but ... nothing. I expected to recognise my name, at least.

After a bout of prolonged confusion I emailed the editor and it turned out they'd sent me the wrong magazine. Allers, instead of Allas. They're going to send me the right one, which is nice, and I'm looking forward to translating their translation on Google and reading what they've made of it!

Also, the Lovely Agent has been in touch and thankfully 'loved' the rest of my book.

Bearing in mind she'd only read 3 chapters when I signed the contract, this came as a massive relief to say the least. There's editing to be done. It's 80% there, but needs work, so there's still a small mountain to climb.

I'm ready though - with walking boots and rucksack and a thermos of tea, and enough ca…

Still Snowing!

We thought it had gone for good, and then it came back - deeper and whiter than ever. We're snowed in yet again and STILL haven't learnt our lesson and stocked up on essentials.

My daughter and I put on our furriest underwear this afternoon, saddled up Molly and battled our way to the village shop, which is a good two miles away.

Despite advertising itself as The Heart of the Community, it was shut. Shut! You'd have thought they'd have been rubbing their hands at the thought of some local trade for once. The last time I was forced to shop there (when the car was off the road for a couple of days) the bread they gave me came from an enormous chest freezer out the back - I swear there was a dead body inside - the tins of dog food looked pre-war and I was told to "just take" the bag of self-raising flour as it was so far past its sell-by date they'd "only have to chuck it away."

Anyway, unable to accept we'd walked all that way for nothing we lurk…