Sunday, December 30, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
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
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
4 large eggs
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.
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
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
"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
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
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...
Can’t see it catching on, somehow.
Monday, December 10, 2007
On that note, I'd better nip back to the madness.
Friday, December 7, 2007
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
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
Monday, December 3, 2007
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
Does anyone else have a well-worn word they have to cut down later?
You can also check at
Friday, November 30, 2007
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% contemporary fiction and 45% crime, science fiction, with romance their least favourite. (GULP)
Only four in 10 liked books with a happy ending and many said they had felt inspired to do something after finishing a book - travel, change jobs, go back to college, leave their partners or try to write themselves.
Maeve Binchy is the favourite romance author, but in the list of most favoured Ian Rankin, Patricia Cornwell, PD James and Dan Brown outnumbered romantic writers.
HOWEVER - The literary idol is still Mr Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Confused? I am now. What does it all mean?
Not a lot, I suspect, which renders this post somewhat pointless.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Trouble is, if you go for some cheesy black and white, soft-focus, head resting on cradled hands shot, you run the danger of no-one recognising you in real life - or being terribly disappointed when they do, along the lines of "oh, I was expecting your daughter/prettier, younger sister/a human being, couldn't they make it?" etc.
Apparently, a picture paints a thousand words, but I prefer the other saying. A photo only tells half a story.
Monday, November 26, 2007
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 gone back and changed the first couple of chapters because they didn't 'sound' right, I could have written three novels! I now realise it's best to get to 'know' them properly, just keep bashing away, before going back to the beginning, when they were saying or doing things you now know to be out of character.
Once you get going, the words will start flowing, even if it's rubbish to start with. So true, so true. If only I could get going more often!
You'll know you're a proper writer when you're still doing it, despite the rejections mounting up. After my first rejection, I thought, that's it, I'm rubbish, I'm giving up (sob). But I didn't. I couldn't. I do it because I love it.
Walking the dog is when most ideas come. A lot of writers said things like this - and there's definitely something in it. When/if I ever am published, I'll have to dedictate the thing to Molly-dog.
The more you write, the better you'll get. Looking back, my first novel was pretty awful. Fun and spontaneous, but a bit cringey. I think I've definitely developed an 'ear' (or should it be 'eye') for dialogue and flow now.
Most writers' first novels (the ones that usually stay in a drawer) are the closest to being autobiographical. I couldn't see it at the time, but looking back, it SO was! Maybe you have to get that out of your system first. Unless you're writing a memoir, of course.
Writers' should read - a lot. I kind of knew this already, and have always been an avid reader, but reading as a writer is a different skill and surprisingly useful in terms of studying structure and pace. I'm able to separate reading for pleasure and reading as a writer now - no wonder my brain feels scrambled!
You don't feel quite like 'you' unless you write. That's true. I tried other creative outlets over the years (photography mainly) in a sort of extended form of procrastination, but finally succumbed properly to the writing urge about five years ago. Better late than never (though some would disagree!)
Any other insights I might have missed?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
I'm The Great Gatsby apparently!
This is a lovely song (not if you're feeling weepy though).
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.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
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??
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
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. Changing the first chapter. Changing the title. Changing the theme. Changing the whole thing. Another year went by with not much to show for it.
Yet, reading through my very first effort last week, for the first time in months, it struck me how spontaneous it sounded. I had great fun writing it, and it showed. The dialogue was...well, quite sparkly in parts, and I laughed out loud a couple of times. Yes, lots of things needed tightening up, but basically it was miles better than anything I've produced since. What's that all about???
So now, I've gone back to basics. I'm resurrecting my original masterpiece. It needs a lot of re-shaping and it still might not work, but I'm actually having fun with the damn thing again.
I think I've found my Mojo.
Friday, November 2, 2007
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 an original and witty way, there's no doubt that plenty of subsequent authors have jumped on the bandwagon, with less successful results. There are many insubstantial efforts languishing on bookshelves, but it's unfair that the whole genre has been tarred with the same brush. Chick-Lit fiction is deemed to be something you should be ashamed of reading, never mind writing, yet popular fiction is defined as being 'suited to the understanding of ordinary people', and what's wrong with that? Not all books need to be literary affairs, featuring drab characters battling inner demons; neither do they need to be judged on the way they reflect the cultural identity of the author. Popular fiction is just as capable of saying something about society and there's no shame in doing that in an entertaining, or even light-hearted, way, by speaking to the reader as if they were a friend. Half the population is struggling with inner demons; maybe they want to be taken away from all that and be transported by a story they can't put down and be left with a sense that somebody understands how liberating laughter is, especially when it's at ourselves and our quirks.
Admittedly, years ago, there was quite a sizeable division between literary and 'popular' fiction, but these days popular fiction has become increasingly intelligent, while literary work is more accessible. Maybe it's time to drop the labels altogether."
Right, I'll get off my high horse now! Back to the 'feel-good' book...
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! Right?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Actually, I'm sure the gutters need de-leafing. The fridge needs a good soaping as well...
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've hit on a good bit for my novel. It's as if I want to savour it, mull it over; marvel at my perspicacity and dry wit and generally delay getting it on-screen - because once that's done it means (cue dramatic music)...the love affair is over. (sob) It's time to move on.
What's your excuse?
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.
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. Libraries have long been an integral part of the community and what they'll continue to offer is a public gathering space, local information, and the diversity not necessarily offered by the current "one-size-fits-all" approach of supermarkets, bookstore chains and music/video shops. Hopefully the public will continue to support us.
Arguably, people don't need libraries any more - but it would be hard to imagine a world without them (or is it just me??)