Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Season's Greetings

It usually happens around this time. I go into panic-mode. There're still presents to get, there's food to buy, flies to kill (why are we inundated with flies at the moment??) friends to visit in order to drop off presents that are yet to be bought, and a mother to collect from Up North, who'll be staying until the New Year.

There's no time for reading, writing or blogging.

Having said that, Mother lies in until ten each morning (she stays up late) so I'm hoping to wake up early and sneak a couple of hours on Netbook while she's here. Mind you, best laid plans and all that...

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas lovely readers xxxx

Friday, December 19, 2008


Came back from Christmas shopping earlier (thought I'd better make a start) to find a letter from Best magazine, accepting a short story I submitted ages ago.

Bloomin' marvellous! They'd changed the title, so it took me a while to suss out which story it was, but when I did I was extra glad as it's a humorous one that I didn't think stood much of a chance. I rather hope they haven't changed it too much.

Anyway, it will appear on the 17th February if you happen to be slinking past a newsagent's. Not that I expect you to write it in your diaries or anything...

On the downside, I've been told by an expert that I have a tendency to 'meander' in my novel's early chapters. I think I need to start applying the principles of short story writing there, because I don't meander when I'm writing a short story. There's no time. Every word has to move the thing forward. I KNOW this, but with 80,000 words or so at my disposal I seem to fall into the trap of digressing like Ronnie Corbett (that dates me) and it's got to stop. I rather like the word 'meander' though - it sounds quite gentle. I'm sure it's a polite word for 'ramble' but sounds much nicer - as does perambulate.

I think I'm digressing again. Time for a nice cup of tea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three things...

First thing...

This is me, playing with my new toy. Now, last year I know I rhapsodised long and hard about Laptop and our 'getting to know each other' sessions in the bedroom - which just goes to show how fickle I am. In a shot, I've traded him in for a Netbook. Laptop was just too big and unwieldy for me to cart about - I like a gadget I can pop in my handbag (don't even go there...) Plus the battery kept running out every five minutes. Hark at me, slating the poor chap behind his back. Sadly, like a boyfriend whose habits endear you in the beginning, he soon started to annoy me.

I got a decent price for him and he's gone to a good, manly home. (He's blue, which is why I refer to him as He. Either that, or I've gone bonkers.) ANY-way. My new love is Acer, the shiny, white Netbook. Small but perfectly formed she fits in my bag, looks gorgeous and is sturdy enough to bash someone round the head with, should the need arise. Which it probably won't.

And yes, that is proper grown-up novelesque writing on her teeny-tiny girly screen.

Second thing...

I finally found a festive mood as our new Christmas tree arrived. I put it up with This Morning burbling in the background (it's traditional for me, okay??) and slung some new eco-friendly, red berry LED lights, which I bought a while back, round its many branches, before attaching all the baubles and trinkets garnered over the years - thankfully not chucked out for the bin-men - but the problem is I don't like the new lights, after all that. They don't look properly festive to me, and I'm worried that the red glow emanating from the window will send out entirely the wrong message....

And the third thing...

I've received another super-duper award, this time from those lovely ladies Lily and Leigh and JJ - I feel very spoiled at the moment but as a condition of acceptance I have to reveal five addictions. (Only 5??)

They are, in no particular order, cake, America's Next Top Model, writing, chocolate and my lovely slippers. (No, I'm not ninety I just can't bear having cold feet).

Did I mention cake??

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bugger off all Ye Faithful

I thought I'd put the Christmas tree up today, as I had the house to myself for an hour, then remembered I chucked it away last year in a fit of resentment. It was an artificial one (I'm allergic to real ones) so there was nothing remotely wrong with it. I simply couldn't be bothered to stuff it back into its box (which mysteriously shrinks every year) and cart it all the way up to the Cupboard of Crap in our bedroom. I know, I know I'm awful and wasteful. I like to think it was rescued en route to the dump, and is now resplendent and twinkling in someone else's living room. Sorry little tree.

Anyway, unable to face buying a new one in person I ordered something online (it looked like a Christmas tree, so fingers crossed) and thought I'd work on my latest chapter instead. Trouble was, Christmas thoughts kept barging in on Writing ones like unwanted guests. No sooner had I got to grips with a tricky paragraph than in they came; taking their coats off, flicking the kettle on and making pertinent comments like,

"Weren't you supposed to track down that perfume your Mum used to wear in 1970?" and "Don't forget to order a Torchwood calendar for your nephew," and "remember you have to post your niece's present off, and you haven't bought it yet." Even more chilling were the words, "there're only seventeen days left until Christmas, you know."

Seventeen days?? Jeez-Louise. The only writing I should be doing is, "To Your Lot - Happy Christmas, from Our Lot xxx" except I haven't bought my cards yet.

Must be upbeat though. My daughter said to me yesterday, "For god's sake Mum, stop putting a big, fat dampener on Christmas. I'm trying to look forward to it."

I wouldn't mind, but she's nearly twenty.


Also, received this lovely award from the feisty BFS at Boomer Baby Bliss for which I'm most 'umbly grateful. Only thing is, I think it's spelt wrong ;o) Might have to build a virtual shelf for them all now (she bragged unattractively).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Choo Choo!

I've always loved travelling by train, but don't do it very often these days. Yesterday I travelled up to York to meet my mum and sister (they live in Scarborough) for some chat and some shopping, although rather more chatting than shopping got done, which suited me fine. Lordy, it was cold though.

Getting to King's Cross - the first leg of the journey - at rush hour was an eye-opener. I've never done it before. Once everyone was stuffed into the carriage it became a home from home. These people were clearly professional passengers. The minute we set off laptops were fired up, newspapers flapped open, books raised, folders dragged out, noses picked and breakfasts eaten (the last two counted as one activity in some cases).

I half expected a television in the corner to start blaring out GMTV and someone to pop their head round the door and shout "Right then! Anyone fancy a cuppa?" Which I would have, as it happened. What I didn't hear for the entire time I was on that train, was anyone utter a single, solitary, humanoid word. At one point, I felt like jumping up and shouting "Nik nak paddy whack, give the dog a bone!" (what does that MEAN by the way?) but worried they might have a system for dealing with tricky passengers, and I hadn't factored in being flung from a moving train.

The National Express to York, however, was a different story. Nobody could shut-up. Not talking to each other, mind you, but into their mobile phones. The man sat opposite wanted his secretary to download a crucial PDF file for a meeting he was running late for, but didn't want her showing anyone until he got there. I didn't want to know that, but had no choice. Call me ruthless, but I switched my phone off the second I boarded. Apart from a couple of texts about arriving safely, I didn't want to make contact or be contacted. So there.

What I did do while I was being transported forth and back was work on a synopsis for t'novel, to keep me on track, and read a whole book - The Missing Person's Guide to Love by Susanna Jones. Very good it was too. That's what I really love about train journeys- you're absolved of all responsibility for a good few hours.

It would be criminal NOT to make the most of it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wood and Scribbles

Fancy a house made of books? Me neither, although this bed looks rather nice. The rest of the rooms look a little bit creepy to me. I'm not sure what I'd like a house to be made of, apart from the obvious. I'd say cake, but it wouldn't last long. I'd be homeless in less than a week and fat and nauseous to boot.

Fur? Ours practically is at the moment, what with all the rodent activity going on in the walls. I swear I can see them moving in a certain light. (shudders)

Lego? I'd be forever building extensions. Could be useful though. Obviously the children are never going to be able to afford to move out, so at least we'd be able to knock up something at the bottom of the garden in double-quick time. Waterproof too, I'd imagine.


What's this got to do with the price of fish? I hear thee ask.

Er, nothing. In fact, I feel guilty accepting this award from the delightful Dumdad on t'other side of Paris, after such drivel. But I'm going to anyway. The law says I have to pass it on to seven more so without further ado...


Lorna F

Jumbly Girl





I could go on. You're all superior scribblers to me :o)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tools of the trade

As you can see, I'm all prepared for writing inspiration to strike in the dead of night.

Notepad? check

Cheap biro? check

Tiny clip-on torch to avoid waking the dead? check

Drink of water to refresh sleep-addled brain? check
(actually I'm scared of having a choking fit in the middle of the night, that's why the water's there. Not that it's ever happened.)

Reading matter in case I can't get back to sleep? check

Stuffed bunny rabbit for...er? It's not mine, obviously.

Now, I'm normally away with the fairies once my head hits the pillow and although I dream about writing when I'm in full flow, and occasionally wake up in the morning with an Idea, I'm rarely, if ever (okay NEVER) roused enough to fanny about scrawling things down before sunrise...until last night. I can't even remember what time it was, only that I woke up knowing I'd had a writing thought SO PROFOUND it had to be committed to paper.

I got up this morning feeling quite excited, like I do on Christmas day wondering if Santa's been...ahem, I mean like I USED to do on Christmas day.

What pearls of wisdom had dribbled from brain to note-pad? Would they be so inspirational that scholars would study them in years to come, saying, "my god, I wish I'd thought of that. It's so...profound!"

I picked up the pad with bated breath and read...

...that'll be a no then.

One thing was clearly missing from my bedside check-list - a brain.

Also, I spent so much time fiddling about with that stupid tiny torch that I dropped the pad on the floor and apparently woke the dead anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Earnings envy? Moi?

Huzzah! I've sold another story to Take a Break for their January Fiction Feast, which means that 2008 has been my most productive writing year, EVAH. (Tried to do a complicted, gangsta type finger flick there, but it didn't work and hurt quite a lot.)

We're not talking retirement-fund earnings, but I did consider a small, cake-based celebration...

Until I saw this....

Hmmm. Quite a long way to go then. Good job I write for love not money I suppose... (stifled sob.)


Ratwatch update - No sightings today, so fingers (and toes) crossed. I'm still as jumpy as a frog on a pogo-stick though.

Friday, November 14, 2008


***Rat watch update 15/11 - sleepless night due to mysterious scrabblings in bedroom cupboard - found some trousers with mouse-shaped holes chewed in them this morning (too frozen with fear to investigate in the small hours). Braved the kitchen to make tea this morning and came eyeball to eyeball with another rat, sitting as bold as brass on the boiler. They're taking over the world - well our world anyway....

Once upon a time there was a beautiful and talented writer lady.** Possibly the most beautiful and talented writer lady the world had ever known.

One golden afternoon, as the beautiful, talented writer lady sat at her wooden desk, typing words of wit and wisdom (more wit and wisdom than the world etc.) into her Word document, she heard a sound on the stair and froze.

Unusually, the house was silent. The dog slept soundly at the writer lady's delicate feet (the most delicate etc.) Her daughter was resting in her downstairs bedroom. Her sons were out foraging for food, and her husband was at the coal-face. It could only mean one thing.

There was a mouse (where? there on the stair! where on the stair? right there! a little mouse with clogs on etc.) Writer lady had recently suspected the gingerbread house was infested. There had been Signs.

Another noise. She gasped and braving the doorway peered round to see, on the stair (where on the stair? there on the stair etc), staring back at her boldly...not a mouse but a RAT. A big hairy fellow with beady eyes.

Writer lady screamed. She screamed like baby girl. Writer lady's daughter dashed out, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, not heeding her mother's warnings. The rat leapt gracefully off the stair, through the air, past daughter's hair, into her bedroom and hid.

Writer lady and her daughter clung together and trembled like little cowards. Writing, sleep and normal life was abandoned.

Time passed. Every sound was a Sign. Mice appeared. Another rat. Holes were sourced and blocked up. Scrabbling was heard in the walls. Traps were put down and ignored. 'We must be humane,' cried Writer lady, then screamed as a rat scuttled over the bread-bin.

The kitchen was disinfected. Husband crouched into the night with an airgun (any excuse.) The dog was derided for not being a cat.

Eventually, poison was purchased and scattered (safely - but not for the rodents!)

The beautiful, talented writer lady took to wearing her slippers 24/7. She no longer cared about being beautiful (though naturally, she was still talented.) She simply couldn't bear the thought of a rat running over her feet.

It had been quite a week.

**It's called artistic license, okay?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mills & Swoon

Feeling much better (thanks for your lovely comments) and finally got round to watching a programme I recorded on BBC4 last week, about literary novelist Stella Duffy taking on the challenge of writing for Mills and Boon, who are celebrating their centenary this year.

It was oddly fascinating. Probably because back in the day I - along with crime writer Mark Billingham, strangely, and lots of other people I suspect - thought it would be a doddle to write one too, and earn enough money to buy myself a flat. (I was young and stupid, okay?)

Anyway, Ms Duffy, who is extremely likeable by the way, was well out of her comfort zone as she normally writes about Gritty Real Life and The Seedy Underbelly (those aren't her titles by the way) but to give her credit she threw herself into it. She talked to the superfans - one woman admitted she'd spent over £20,000 on M&B novels over the years - met an established writer, went on a writing course in Tuscany, and forced herself to override her natural instincts. Mills & Boon novels HAVE to feature alpha males and a strong heroine who teaches the hero that love is all. Once Stella realised she could write for their supernatural imprint - albeit still within the guidelines - she started to care about her characters and the words flowed - although she needed a couple of stiff ones for the sex scene, as it were. The editor really liked what she'd done and would have asked for the full MS had Stella decided to continue, which I don't think she did.

It proved once and for all - if proof were needed - that it's nigh on impossible to write something for the sake of it. I can't remember what mine was about, but I know I called it The Valley of Clouds and my hero was a blacksmith I called Ben, because I fancied Ben Murphy from Alias Smith and Jones (shakes head at youthful self).

Actually, looking at that photo he wasn't half bad. I won't bother trying to find out what he looks like now...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sneezing and scary

I got sent home early from work today, because I look so hideous. Can you believe it?? Okay, nobody actually said that, but I do. I was scaring the customers with my giant, swollen red nose, leaky eyes and hacking cough. In case you think I normally look like that, I've actually got my first cold in nearly three years, and it's a corker. I'm single-handedly keeping the tissue industry afloat. Because I can't taste anything I thought I'd eat something healthy for dinner last night that would normally make me gag, but it didn't work because it was spinach and I realised it's the texture I'm not keen on (slimy.) Ho-hum.

My plan for getting on with it, now I've got more writing time, was given a boost at the weekend by my lovely mother-in-law flying off to Australia for a month. As she doesn't live far from us, and we're keeping an eye on the house anyway, I've been popping round there in the mornings with Laptop and being Productive. It's very peaceful there. There's no Internet. It's spotlessly clean and tidy. There are plenty of teabags. There are no teenagers lurching about demanding food and lifts. There's no Molly-dog nudging my hand for a game of grab-the-sock (we know how to live in our 'ouse), although I don't mind that so much.

The trouble is, it's bloody freezing. She lives in one of those lovely, big old rambling places that are hard to heat in the first place, with proper sash windows (none of the wussy double-glazing that we've got) and gappy doors, and only a couple of radiators. I tried wrapping up well in a big coat, fluffy earmuffs, fingerless gloves and thick socks and taking a flask of soup with me yesterday, but her neighbour (who's also 'keeping an eye out') peered through the window at one point, after spotting me propped in the 'old lady' chair by the window, and practically had a seizure.

So unless the weather warms up over the next three weeks I'm just going to have to brave it out at home. Maybe if I keep the earmuffs on I'll be able to ignore the distractions.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting on with it

How the heck can it be November already? It was only April the last time I looked. The sun was shining and everything.

I've been doing a lot of overtime at the library over the past few months due to staff shortages, but it's all finished today. We're staffed up to the max, and I'm back to my normal hours. Not that I mind. It's funny how you start getting sucked into the politics of work when you're there every day. In way I like being in the thick of it, part of a team etc. but on the other hand it can drag you down. I'm quite looking forward to being more peripheral again - letting the grittier stuff fly over my head.

What I'm also looking forward to is..ta-dah...More Writing Time. (I will not think about all the jobs that need doing at home.) What I'm not looking forward to is less money. Yes I know it's vulgar to talk about the M word, but I've never claimed to be classy. Anyway, after selling a couple of short stories recently I'm going to see if I can make some sort of living at it. Not a champagne swigging, designer shoe buying, white-truffle scoffing, chihuahua-in-a-bag holding, mixing with royalty, holidaying in the Maldives type living OBVIOUSLY, but enough to keep us in HobNobs. Worth a try. What's the worst that can happen? Gradual destitution, loss of dignity, depression, aggression, a brush with the law and an ASBO, I suppose. But it won't come to that. Or will it?

I'm making headway with the novel too, thanks to a fab new writing buddy with a whip and a Friday morning deadline, which has spurred me on no end. At this rate it'll be finished in...ooh, ten years give or take.

Don't hold your breath or anything.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Talk talk

I did a marathon library-working session on Friday - four hours in my usual branch followed by five hours in a smaller one, and it struck me afterwards how different the staff conversations were in each.

In library A there're a lot of us - ages ranging from twenty-two upwards (I'm the twenty-two year old in case you were wondering.) A couple of sample conversations from Friday:

1) "If we still lived in Victorian times, I wonder what we'd all be doing?"
"You'd have several children by now."
"I'd have died in childbirth."
"We'd be upper-class, so I wouldn't be working. I'd have servants."
"I'm going to marry a rich man."
"Why not?"

2) "I've got this great recipe - melt a 400g chocolate bar, put it in a baking tin crumble four chocolate digestives in, no more than four or it goes wrong, add two bags of white chocolate buttons and two bags of maltesers - or you could make it healthier with nuts and cherries but I perfer chocolate - and leave it in the fridge to cool. It's gorgeous, I could live on it. I've got another one as well...."
"I'm having a heart attack just listening. But, go on."

In Library B, there were just the two of us - ladies of a similar age (twenty-two obviously) :

1) "Ooh, that's a nice cardi!"
"Oh thanks! M&S. They're good aren't they?"
"I don't know. I tried some jumpers on recently, but the sizing's all wrong."
"There's home-made cake by the way, so help yourself when you go down for your tea-break.
"Ooh, lovely!"

2) "Can't believe the clocks go back tomorrow."
"I know. It'll soon be Christmas."
"I'm just popping down to make some tea."
"Why don't you bring the cake back up with you?"

I enjoy working in both branches for different reasons, but did you, per-chance, spot the common thread running through both conversations??? And it's by no means unusual. (What do you mean NO?)

I wonder what men talk about at work?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lovely Booky-book

I received my copy of Della Galton's How to Write and Sell Short Stories in the post today. I was very excited. I love new books. Especially ones containing Knowledge.

Actually, I was lucky enough to sell another story to Take a Break this week, so at first I shouted, "Pah! Advice? Moi? What was I THINKing?. Ay'm a fully- fledged short story writer now, donchya know? Children! Peel me some more grapes!" (As if)

Then I got over myself, and had a flip through. I'll sit down and read it properly over the weekend, but I can see already that it's jam-packed with tips, wisdom, advice and inspiration from one of the most prolific short story writers in the UK, and is a great tool to have in your writing belt (ooh, hark at me. Haven't a clue what I'm on about.) Highly recommended.

More importantly, it looks pretty. And SMELLS great! Does anyone else sniff new books like an addict? No?

O-kay. Neither do I...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And the award goes to...

...ME! (and lots of other people.) Thank you lovely Debs in your cosy shed.

I was going to post something meaningful about the novel that won the Man Booker Prize and ask if anyone had read it/was planning to read it, or mention the fact that it's Blog Action Day (the subject this year is Poverty) but it's been covered beautifully on several other blogs, so I figured...I know. I'll talk about me. Don't all fall asleep at once.

The rules of the award state that the following questions must be answered in one word (they don't all have to be true do they?)

1. Where is your cell phone? Heaven
2. Where is your significant other? Wardrobe
3. Your hair color? Forgotten
4. Your mother? Camilla
5. Your father? Charles
6. Your favorite thing? Cake
7. Your dream last night? Incomprehensible
8. Your dream/goal? Immortality
9. The room you're in? Hot
10. Your hobby? Taxidermy
11. Your fear? Incontinence
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Outside
13. Where were you last night? Stringfellows
14. What you're not? Manly
15. One of your wish-list items? Clothes-horse
16. Where you grew up? Scarborough
17. The last thing you did? Breakdance
18. What are you wearing? Stilts
19. Your TV? Beloved
20. Your pets? Damp
21. Your computer? Busy
22. Your mood? Mischievous
23. Missing someone? Non
24. Your car? Filthy
25. Something you're not wearing? Spandex
26. Favorite store? Staples
27. Your summer? Sorry?
28. Love someone? Oui
29. Your favorite color? Strawberries
30. When is the last time you laughed? 1974
31. Last time you cried? 7.44am

Now the hard bit - I have to pass this on to (only) 5 other bloggers, who haven't already been tagged. I choose:-
Ernest - because he'll hate it (I do love your blog though)
Fionnuala - a fellow Lost-lover and talented flasher
Spiralskies - she makes me laff
Lily - 'cos she's lovely
Womagwriter - for having all the answers (well, most of them)
Tom Foolery - she's good with words AND pictures

I love you all though.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Outraged of Tunbridge Wells

Occasionally a library book will upset a customer due to its, ahem...content. I remember an elderly woman shouting about unnecessary references to the male member in what she'd assumed was a harmless story about horses. She thought it should be removed in case it fell into the wrong hands (the book not the male member, for heaven's sake.)

Of course we're not there to make judgements about the stories on them there shelves, but common sense prevails. We're not allowed to stock men's magazines like Zoo and Nuts due to the proliferation of brazen hussies lolling on the covers in frosted lipstick (and not much else), and ex Big Brother contestants talking about getting mobbed in nightclubs and having boob jobs - which is fair enough. But we can hardly go through all the books, scribbling out rude words.

Once, someone kindly stuck a Post-it note inside a book, pointing out various uses of the F-word and which passages to avoid, which was quite thoughtful. Customers have ripped out pages they've found repellent before now, which isn't so good. Especially for the reader left wondering what happened and whether they're going to get blamed.

Today's offender was Crown Jewels in the Sun by Nora Roberts. On pages 104 and 105 someone had written in pen, "for gods sake", "kick him in the balls" and "ugh!!" as the heroine was taken masterfully by the rather overbearing hero. We couldn't work out if the reader was a feminist horrified by such boorish behaviour, or someone who prefers decent writing. (Mee-OW!)

Or an ex-editor perhaps....

Anyway, the writing style rather reminded me of the Mills and Boons I used to devour as a teenager, when men were forever "thrusting their manhood" at a lady's "sex."

I don't know how I survived in the real world.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Who am I?

Looking back over my WIP, which I haven't done for a while (I've had to wean myself off editing constantly as I tend to get stuck) I was struck by how influenced I seem to be by what I'm reading at the time - and I do read a lot.

My first few chapters reflect the humourous women's fiction I was reading at the time, then I got hold of a couple of psychological thrillers and the style gets darker. After reading a memoir recently I realised I was writing shorter sentences and being all poetic. Literary novels make me lyrical and magazine stories more pithy (love that word).

It's quite confusing and made me think that I should probably stop reading while I'm writing altogether (D'ur!) Maybe I could harness the various influences in a constructive way, but at the moment I'm danger of smothering myself, as it were.

I seem to have lost my Voice.

Monday, September 29, 2008

NOT a librarian

I got told off for referring to myself at work as a Librarian. Apparently I'm a Library Assistant or I Work In A Library. I am NOT a librarian. Librarians have to have a master's degree in Library Information Science or something, which I definitely do not have, so by calling myself a Librarian I'm Failing to Recognise Achievement.


I have worked there for almost nine years though. If Lorraine Kelly can be awarded an honorary doctorate from Dundee University for her services to charity surely I can be awarded an Honorary Librarianship for services to oldies demanding bus timetables and James Patterson novels?

In the spirit of things, I was looking for a suitable photo to go with this post and stumbled upon the following...

What the hell?

If we carried on like this in our branch, we'd be called something else entirely.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wife in the North

I'm probably a bit late to the party on this one, but I read Judith O' Reilly's wonderful memoir at the weekend and decided to recommend it for my newspaper column this week. Looking for an image of the book cover, I stumbled across her blog and this post and was surprised by how mean some people can be - to the point that she felt the need to respond to her detractors in this way.

What is wrong with them?? Have they even read her book? What stood out for me was the quality of her writing - almost poetic at times. It's billed as 'hilarious' - which it is in parts - but it's much more than that and I'd urge anyone who hasn't already, to give it a whirl.

I wonder if it's envy because she got her book deal in record time?

On that note, I started wondering if any publishers might be interested in a blog about a demented library assistant wielding books by day and words by night, while eating her own body weight in golden-syrup sandwiches?

Non? What about, a mother-of-three driven to the edge (of her chair) juggling thirteen different novel ideas with the varying demands of her family and dog, while keeping her grey hairs at bay?

God, I lead a boring life. But surely as a so-called writer I could at least make it sound interesting....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lightbulb moment

Had one of those illuminating moments while reading this article by Robert Harris on the Guardian website. (I don't spend all day reading that pesky website by the way. Honest.) Over the years he's been given advice that's really helped him, and I must say there were a few tips there that helped me see my WIP in a different way.

The first tip he was given is that you should always know how your novel is going to end. A novel "recounts something that has already happened; therefore you cannot just make it up as you go along." The advice helped him finish his first novel, Fatherland.

Sounds blummin' obvious when you think about it, but it really helped clarify something for me.

The second tip was that "the shape and style of a novel is determined by the thought you give it beforehand: that the way you approach your material is at least as important, maybe more important, than the material itself and that this process of settling on an angle of attack may take months, even years of frustration and false starts, during which many writers - and certainly most writers' families and friends - believe the author may be going slightly mad."

Well that certainly rings true. Especially the months and years bit. Oh, and the slightly mad part.

Thirdly, "you develop a tolerance for your own crudeness. And patience with your own crap. Belief in your crap, which is just 'stay with your crap and it will get better. Come back every day and keep going'."

Or, it might just stay crap...

Sound advice methinks. Although much better advice would be "stay away from the Guardian website Clarkey, and get on with it."

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's your story?

I love this idea, pinched from the Guardian website of arranging some of your book titles so that they tell a story. Like I need any more distractions. However after much over-excited fannying around I managed to come up with the the rather badly photographed ...

Not rocket science, I think you'll agree, but fun nonetheless. Of course it depends what's lurking on them there bookshelves, but I'd love to see what you lovely lot can come up with.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ask a silly question

I've just noticed that lovely Lane has beaten me to this topic (great minds think alike etc) so I changed my template in a fury. Not really. More as a distraction. I couldn't think of anything else to blog about you see. My mind isn't that great.
Anyhoo, I had a look at my stats today (as you do) and under Keyword Analysis noticed that the following Google searches had led people to my blog...

what is putty face in plastic surgery gone wrong ??

sun hat hip hurray youtube ???

karen clarke writing - well, that makes sense

grime name generator - hmm, don't know about that, but my mafia name is Stella the Assassin. Apparently

colin firth
- That makes sense too

grannies wearing slips - What the...?

where to buy bloater paste - Pur-leeze. I feel sick.

brande roderik
- Well. She looks no better than she ought to be. Appeared in a film called 'Bunny Whipped.' Need I say more?

i was born under a wandering star lines - I wasn't born, my grandma knitted me. So there.

I sincerely hope they all found what they were looking for.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who wants to be a millionaire...?

..."I do!"

Here's a hypothetical (and rather attractive question). If you were to inherit one million pounds, which was dependent on you spending it within 48 hours, what would you do?

Sadly, this hasn't happened to me. Do you think I'd be blogging about it if it had? Actually you're right, I would.

It might be happening to one of my characters though, and I'd love your input. Theme: can money buy you happiness? money vs. meaning, can you buy meaning? etc. Apparently, making big decisions in a short space of time clarifies who you are. I'd love to have such a dilemma, but suspect it would be more difficult than it sounds.

In my mind, I can't get further than rampaging round Waterstones, having liposuction, buying Colin Firth, paying off mortgages and opening my own petrol station (20p a litre).

Could it be done??

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm hooked

This is SO addictive. It came via Caroline Smailes, whose new novel Black Books is out today (looking forward to reading it) and it's a genius idea for those of us who like our procrastination simply packaged.

It's taken me to blogs I would never have discovered, and for that reason alone I could do without it, frankly. I'm up to my neck in lovely blogs already. I don't need any more, for heavens' sake. Plus, I keep running back to the PC with random choices (Fish or Chips. There's another one.)

Give it a go, you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Dreamz 'r us

I had a very vivid dream last night. I bumped into Calistro in a school corridor. She was clutching a batch of bright pink folders and I said to her, "You don't know me, but I'm from the blog and my name's Karen." (Karen from the blog. Jenny from the block. No, doesn't quite work.) Anyway, she shook my hand politely and said, "the Novel Racers are around somewhere if you want to go and say hello," pointing down a corridor. Excited, I set off at a fair old lick, flinging open doors and peering into classrooms (why classrooms??) but could I find them? Could I heck.

What does it all mean? a) I'm a nut-job b) I should lay off the peanuts at bedtime c) Calistro's recent good news, along with my own increased writing output is starting to affect my remaining brain cell.

Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.

In spite of such nonsense, I've been awarded these teacups by lovely Debs who hangs about in a shed all day, but is quite normal (I think), so thanks for that, Debs. I never say no to a decent cuppa - or even an indecent one - although I don't do whole milk. Has to be skimmed, semi-skimmed if there's no other option. Apart from that I'm not at all fussy.

I'm going to pass it on to Fionnuala for making me chuckle (love that word) and reminding me that Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens v. soon, Helen with best wishes to Smudge x and L-plate for posting one of the oddest photos I've seen in a long time, and getting back on the horse writing wise, recently.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Call me deluded (I don't mind - I've been called worse) but sometimes, late at night before the sleep fairy descends, I imagine what sort of dedication I'll write for my book when it's published (I told you I'm deluded.)

There's a prime example in Agatha Christie's "The Secret Adversary, " which reads, To all those who lead monotonous lives in the hope that they experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure,' which I rather like as it seems to embrace all her readers. Another favourite is Spike Milligan who dedicated, "Silly Verse for Kids," to his bank balance.

I'm not so keen on those over-emotional acknowledgements that mention everyone the author's ever encountered, including the neighbour's dog, although I suspect if I was ever published I'd be so grateful I'd be emoting with the best of 'em.

Thomas Wolfe (not the Bonfire of the Vanities one) apparently dedicated his 1935 book, "Of Time and the River" to a great editor and a brave and honest man, who stuck to the writer of the book through times of bitter hopelessness and doubt and would not let him give in to his own despair." Undoubtedly another category I'd fit.

I realise though that it's a good opportunity to thank everyone who's supported you, and to reveal something about yourself. Personally, I'm torn between something Oscar-speechy, something devastatingly witty and clever, something simple and down-to-earth and something confusing that's open to interpretation. A riddle perhaps, or a symbol. Maybe an anagram. Or something retro like, Karen woz 'ere. Or something fun. A crossword puzzle? A quiz with a prize for the best answers?? A date with the author if you can guess what she was wearing when she wrote the final word???

There's only one downside. You apparently have to write a book first...

Friday, August 29, 2008


Mentioned during tea break at work that I’d sold a story to a weekly magazine. As you do. Well. I’m excited.

‘Oh dear,’ chortled a colleague. ‘Should you be admitting that out loud?’ Chortle, chortle. ‘You’ve obviously got the common touch! We’ll have to pretend we don’t know you in future!’ Chortle, chortle.

Reader, I was genuinely bemused.

‘What do you mean?’ I said.

‘Well. Come on. Surely anyone could write one of those stories?’

‘Have you?’

‘No. But then again I wouldn’t want to!’ Chortle, chortle. (I’m assuming the chortling was to take out the sting, but I could tell she meant it.) ‘I'm sure it's very good and I don't mean to be disrespectful (why do people always say that when they're about to be disrespectful?) but do you think anyone even reads them apart from the writers and their families?’ Chortle. 'I'm pleased for you though, don't get me wrong.' ???

Well. I was stumped. Everyone else was supportive but I couldn’t help wondering if they secretly agreed with her.

We’ve touched on literary snobbishness on here before. I’m sure it’s all been said and, to a large extent, I’ve developed a thick(ish) skin on the subject, but what annoyed me more than anything was the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me think of a decent comeback. Something cutting, but dignified. Witty but charged. It’s not as if I haven’t been here before, for heaven’s sake. I need to be able to whip out something I prepared earlier, Blue Peter stylee, for next time. With sticky-back plastic, if necessary. If there is a next time.

I’ll probably just keep my big trap shut in future.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blackberry madness

Got distracted from writing today and went blackberry mad. I'm not talking about the wireless handheld device either. I'm talking about the plump, juicy variety prevalent in the fields where I walk Molly-dog.

It started in earnest last year. Ooh, I thought. Shame not to pick some to fling in a crumble. Ten thousand kilos and forty eight crumbles later it had turned into a full-blown obsession. My eyes started gleaming whenever I happened upon a particularly plumptious beast and I would willingly fight my way through a bed of nettles to reach it. It got so that I could sniff out a fresh crop if the wind was in the east, and I'd happily tromp miles out of my way clutching what became fondly known as my Blackberry Jar. Oh happy days.

I thought the novelty might have worn off, but no. Last week I became aware that there was something a-ripening in the hedgerows, and my mouth started watering. I could hardly wait to get out there this afternoon, although Molly got a bit fed-up. She doesn't like all the stopping and starting. It confuses her.

Trouble is, the children don't like home-made puddings of the crumble variety (I know. What are they like?) or any other variety for that matter, and even Lovely Husband's going to start feigning illness if I keep wheeling them out, but I'm buggered if I know what else to do with the blighters.

Any suggestions? Don't tell me to wean myself off picking them. I'm addicted.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On a roll

At the risk of sounding like a big brag-monster (nobody likes a show-off, Clarkey) I've sold another story - to Take a Break magazine this time. Must be something in the water. Or maybe it's just that I'm Knuckling Down and taking this writing lark seriously at last. P'raps I'll chuck in the towel with the novel and concentrate on the shorties. (It's the euphoria talking...it'll wear off soon.)

Doris isn't too happy, but I've assured her there's room for more than one muse...

The thing that's really helped is feedback from the Story a Fortnight group - constructive criticism really helps you see where improvements can be made, and a fresh pair of eyes picking up things you've missed makes a world of difference.

Talk about teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.* You already knew that didn't you?

*Has anyone ever tried sucking eggs? Doesn't sound like the most attractive party trick. Probably not recommended on a first date.

By the way, that's not a photo of me at the top.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Doris strikes again

Seems I'm still in touch with my inner pensioner - I've decided to call her Doris as she's so keen to be heard - as Yours magazine have been in touch to say they'd like to publish one of my stories in their November issue. Yay!

Or Top-Hole! as Doris might say. I imagine her as a feisty old broad with ideas above her station. Married 'up' and had tea with the Queen once, but doesn't talk about it out of respect for 'er Madge. She's rubbed shoulders with celebrities and once borrowed a book off Barbara Windsor that she never gave back. It was rumoured she had a fling with Tommy Steele back in the day - something she fiercely denies - but she does imply a familiarity with Bruce Forsyth bordering on the fanciful. Used to breed poodles, but stopped after one escaped, boarded a plane to Brazil and was never seen again, and she can often be seen in Waitrose buying sherry and shortbread for get-togethers with Avril and Bob next door.

Where was I?

Oh yes...the short story was one I wrote from a prompt on my sister blog A Story a Fortnight, and would never have been written otherwise - or sent off without the helpful comments from the other Story a Fortnighters, so it's all their fault really. And Doris's, of course.

It seems you can't keep a good pensioner down.

Nurse...I think it's time for my medication.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lost in translation

My mum (or mam as we say "oop North") has been staying for the past week and in that time I've heard the Teens ask her :-

"What's poompwatta?" Pump water

"What's dooityersen?" Do it yourself

"What does nesh mean?" Nippy "What's nippee?" Chilly "Chilli that you eat?" Cold for...heaven's sake. It means COLD

"What's a barmpot?" A silly person. One who doesn't know what "chilly" means, for instance

"What's an a'peth? As in, you daft a'peth?" Erm, a half-penny worth. A silly person.

"What's bawk mean?" To gag, or heave

"What's a bonnybairn?" An attractive child

"What's cackanded?" Clumsy

"What's bagsey?" (Bagsey me first) I want to go first.

Her answers were generally followed by a cry of, 'well why didn't you just say that in the first place??' Closely followed by them talking in cod Northern accents and rolling around in fits of hysterical laughter. I don't think they completely understand the intricacies of dialect, but it did make me think that there may be a gap in the market for a book translating Yorkshire into English.

One thing they DON'T say in Scarborough though, as far as I can remember, is the oft mis-quoted, "eeh bah gum."

But don't quote me on that. I'm "as daft as a brush I'll 'ave thee know."

Monday, August 11, 2008


Read in the paper today that author Lorna Page (left) has had her first novel, Dangerous Weaknesses, published at the grand old age of 93!! Yay, there's hope for me yet. The best bit is, she's spent all the proceeds on a house large enough for her elderly mates to move out of their care homes and come and live with her.
Altogether now.... Awwwwwwwwwww! Warms your cockles it does. Not to mention your heart.

Mum's here 'til Sunday so I'm posting this Surreptitiously. Not that she'd mind in the least, but you know what it's like when you've got visitors. You can't possibly sidle off to sit in front of the PC for eight hours straight.

Can you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Got family staying at the moment, and for the next week or so. Couldn't get this week off work, so I'm seriously strapped for time. I'm having blog-reading withdrawal symptoms. When I eventually get round to it (and I will - oh yes) it'll be like butting into a conversation that's carried on without me. Everyone will be chucking me filthy looks and wondering who the hell I am. Not that I'm insecure or anything...

Lovely brother and family have gone to a Dr Who exhibition in London this afternoon, and when I got back from the library I fell on the PC like a hungry woman on a Twix. (I had one of those as well.) I've been writing LOADS, weirdly, in between everything else (what's that saying about asking a busy person if you want something doing? Well, actually I think that is the saying...) so my progress bar will be making a comeback soon and I can hold my head up in the writing community again, instead of scuffing my shoes like a naughty child when I see everyone else's shooting towards the million mark.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sixteen year old neice asked if I'd have a look at some writing she's done. It's a fantasy type story, she said and I thought 'uh-oh, not my genre,' but naturally I said - rather patronisingly probably - that of course I'd take a peek. She's done six little chapters so I sat down with a coffee at 7.30 this morning, wondering what I was going to say if I didn't like it, and in seconds was hooked. BLOODY HELL, I thought enviously. She's Good. Too many lovely adjectives, naturally (see what I did there) but she has a flair for a story as well as a way with language and I'm not going to have to fib at all when I tell her later, it's Fab!

OBVIOUSLY she takes after her auntie...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Timewasting - part 58

Found some "fun" writing tips in an old magazine yesterday. One was to pick some books off your shelves at random and copy out a sentence from each one, until you have an "amusing" passage to play with (matron.) Like that party game where everyone adds a sentence to a story until it all goes pear-shaped and someone starts crying.

Ooh, I thought. I've got nothing to do today apart from working, shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, dog-walking, lawn-mowing, preparing the house for a family visit this weekend (including the redecoration of an entire bedroom ), shave my legs, wax my 'tache, lose ten pounds, negotiate the lowering of fuel prices with the Prime Minister before supper and - oh yes...do some writing - so I think I'll give it a go. Never let it be said I haven't got my priorities in order. Not within earshot, at least.

Anyway, this was the result:-

"It seemed to have completely escaped Mick Farley's notice that it was Harold Farley, his father, who had died.
'Who is that gentleman on horseback?' said she as they proceeded - speaking more to assist Mr Weston in keeping his secret, than with any other view.
He thought of the big man he and Stonewall had found, hung like a donkey, skin so white, dead like his attributes.
'Nicking some kindling,' he called. 'Don't want to freeze tonight, do we?'
When I think about it now, I think that our eagerness to assimilate the horrors and our desire to make everyone else aware of them was in fact repulsive.
In the hallway, someone's being sick and Dorothy, also ravaged by drink by now but still immensely practical, gets the vacuum cleaner out and starts hoovering up the vomit.
'I'd like one of those,' I told him."

Hmmm. So was it a useful exercise? Well, seeing me frowning busily surrounded by books the Teens have mowed the lawn and done some housework for me, so in a word, yes!

I was going to turn this into a Meme, but came to my senses in the nick of time. I am offering a million pounds though, to anyone who can tell me which books those lines came from...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The 'B' word

At work a colleague approached me in a manner normally reserved for bad news to ask in hushed tones about the book. She hoped I didn't mind her asking because she knows it must be annoying and put pressure on me, but she was just...well - wondering how it was all...you know - going?

Blimey, I thought, watching her wring her hands and wince apologetically, she's had to pluck up courage to ask me. My writing has become a topic Best Avoided. It took me back a few years to Mum telling people not to mention Wayne while rolling her eyes at me quivering brokenheartedly on the sofa.

Okay, so I was a tad overenthusiastic back in the day, when I told anyone who'd listen I'd written a novel and was waiting to hear back from a couple of agents. We were all overexcited and naturally everyone kept asking about it. That's when I was in Blabbergob mode.

When rejections and reality flooded in I soon became Evasive. I stopped mentioning the book, and mumbled things in a tiny voice if it couldn't be avoided until one member of staff actually shouted, "I bet she's got a publishing deal and isn't allowed to say anything!!" Oh dear God. I put her right on that score and things became Awkward.

There followed a reverential Silence on the subject.

Luckily since then, I've Wised Up. After realising, in a nutshell, it's going to be a whole lot harder to get published than I first thought, I was able to say to my colleague, "oh I'm still writing, still enjoying it although whether I'll ever be published's a different matter, but no there'll be no giving up, ha ha ha!" without sounding either demented or defensive. (amazingly.) Cue relief all round. "That's the main thing," she said gaily, shoulders dropping. "Don't all writers say they'd still do it anyway?" she added giddily. "I read an interview about it." I get the feeling she may even ask again one day.

And I probably won't mind.

Elsewhere, I'm embarrassed to say that lovely Lily Sheehan and fab menopausaloldbag (mob) have both given me awards recently for Excellentosity (it IS a word - in my head) while Milla at the marvellous Country Lite has tagged me as one of her favourite reads...too, too kind - I'm not worthy etc - well, only a bit. You should check out their blogs if you haven't already - they're much better than mine. I think I'm meant to tag my favourite reads, but instead I'll direct you to my Blogroll - honestly they're all great - with a special mention to spiralskies who has just been told off by non other than cuddly Keith Chegwin himself. How many of you can say that? Hilarious.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus have fallen off...

Horror of horrors, I was asked to assist with the aforementioned Bounce & Rhyme session at t'other library this morning. Unable to fake my own death - or even feign deafness - at such short notice, I had no choice but to help.

Don't get me wrong, I like children ( I used to be one) but I prefer them in small doses. Children en-masse scare the M&S support pants off me and, like animals, they can sense it. As soon as their beady little eyes settled on me knowingly, I guessed there'd be trouble.

Sure enough, as soon as the Big Story Book came out they started swarming all over it, snatching and pawing while I peeled them off one by one, horribly aware of the Mums weighing me up. Also, I had no idea how hard it would be to keep a smile pinned on with a Full Nappy under my nostrils.

Luckily, there was no sign of Experimental Mum today so there was no bashing, but Chav Mum was in full flow, charming her neighbour with tales of her 'arsehole' boyfriend, which were actually quite interesting (he's a 'waste 'o space, but a kid needs a farver). Her son, meanwhile, was being a bear - clawing the air with his hands and making horrid growling noises throughout Old MacDonald Had a Farm (ee-i-ee-i-oh-my-god-make-it-stop.)

The manager signalled something to me with her eyes, which I hoped meant 'Let's get outta this joint,' but actually meant Time to Open the Fun Box (matron). Out came the cuddly toys and rattles, followed by a fracas over who should have what and why and plenty of 'ooh be careful, you could have someone's eye out with that loves.' Songs n' Actions was rounded off with a fist fight as we wrestled the toys back into the Not-so-Fun-Anymore Box, because they're Not Allowed to take them home.

In the middle of all this merriment - somewhere between belting out Ten Green Bottles and longing for a trapdoor to open - someone wanted a poo, someone needed a nappy change, someone screamed blue murder, someone tried to poke my eye out, someone thwanged DVD's all over the floor, someone made a break for the door, someone asked me for my watch and someone had a nervous breakdown.

Thank God it's all over 'til after the summer holidays.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Something missing

I'm staying at someone else's house this weekend, looking after their children while they take a much needed break.

After unexpectedly finishing the book I brought with me soon after the littlies fell asleep, I started casting around for something to read when I go to bed. (I said "casting around." That's NOT the same thing as snooping at all.) Then it hit me. The thing that's niggled at me before when I've visited.

There's not a SINGLE book in this house. Not ONE.

Is it me, or does a house feel it's missing something without a well-thumbed paperback or two lying around?

It's not all bad news though. I brought my notebook with me, so I'm going to work on the Novel instead.

Don't all faint at once.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The name of the game

I've noticed recently how many of you lovely bloggers have appropriately 'writerish' names. Names I can totally visualise gracing the front cover of a novel I'd want to read.

'Karen Clarke' just doesn't cut it, somehow. Where's the glamour, the integrity, the...the interview potential I implore thee? It's - well let's face it, it's plain.

Don't get me wrong I'm proud of my moniker, but I can't help thinking that if I were called Tiggy Bubblewrap or Felicity Sidecar, or Jemima Von Pantyhose, my name alone might attract that weary agent stepping over the slush pile - sod the quality of the writing.

According to the name generator I could become "Cassandra Eastwood" which has a rather nice ring donchya think? On the other hand, what's the point in writing a novel if you can't have your real name plastered all over the damn thing? On the plus side I can't think of any other Karens writing commercial fiction off the top of m'head, so that could be a bonus. Unless publishers hate the name, in which case I could always fall back on those daft pseudonyms my gran was forever firing out, usually after one too many cups of tea -

Paige Turner, anyone?
Marian Forlove sounds suitably 'romantic comedy'
Joanna Dance? (you have to say it quickly)
Kay Serrar is horribly appropriate...
...as is Penny Less

I suppose I should stay Phyllis Sophical about the whole thing and...

okay, okay I've finished now. I'll get m'coat.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Best Book in the World

I came across this on emerging writer's excellent blog and it made me smile - ironically. Let's just say it's a bit close to home!

I think I'll try and stick to writing a 'reasonably enjoyable book' instead. Or even 'a book'.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Noise pollution

Talking of not shushing people in the library (I was! See earlier post...) I had to laugh today at just how far the other way things have gone.

For instance, our branch has just undergone a long-overdue facelift (wanted one myself, but they'd run out of emulsion) which has entailed weeks of sawing, drilling, sandpapering, swearing, painting, cups of tea, whistling and hammering. Cheeky Chappies have been looming at windows left, right and centre, scaring the (incontinence) pants off the pensioners and causing Tutting to treble. Many a Catherine Cookson has been sent clattering to the floor in alarm. 'Can't they do it at night?' someone grumbled. Probably not a good idea. Due to the darkness, Madam.

It does look a lot better though.

Then we've had norty children charging in, shouting "BOGIES!!" and charging out again, unaware that this Dick and Dom inspired lunacy is sooooo last year, dahling. Adult murmurings were overheard.
'In my day...'
'...smacked arse...'
'...why aren't the buggers at school?..'
'...no discipline...'

And that was just me. Boom boom.

In a different branch, the Bounce & Rhyme session (stories and sing-a-longs for mums and toddlers, in case you're wondering, NOT something Iffy) got COMPLETELY out of control. A mother I privately call Experimental Mum lost control of her daughter who bashed Chav Mum's son over the head, activating one of those screams that begins with a breath held for sooo long you start dialling 999 until the noise kicks in, whereupon you drop the phone and run for cover. Several toddlers made a dash for freedom, running lopsidedly round and round the library while their mums thundered after them, red-faced and furious. Experimental Mum tried to reason with her 2-year old (which we all know is completely pointless) forcing her to apologise to the boy she'd hit in a grating 'I'm Super-Mum, watch and learn' voice, prompting Chav Mum to say 'I don't care abart 'er saying sorry, just keep 'er away from my kid, yeah?' from which there is no dignified comeback. EM left in a flurry of cheesecloth and Umbrage and everyone sighed with relief. Throughout it all the library manager just kept on singing, "The Wheels on the Bus" bless her. She looked like she needed a stiff one after she'd finished. Not to mention a drink.

I tell you, sometimes it's nice to get home for a bit of peace and quiet.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You're too kind

I've been given a rather lovely award by that creative gnome-loving genius, Tomfoolery, and the delightfully informative Debs, who both deserve it far more than I do. It's called Arte y pico, which roughly translates as 'ooh you are awful, but I like you!' I think.

In a similar vein I was tagged by lovely Ernest, who kindly described me as his 'favourite librarian.' What? I thought. I'm a librarian? It's funny how the word still conjures up lumpen spinsters in hairy tweed, sporting furry shins and carefully controlled hair, shushing the general public. I'm sooooo not like that. No REALLY, I'm not. Okay so I favour the occasional cardigan, but cardis are a long way from the uneven fairisle numbers, knitted by glaucoma-riddled grannies of yesteryear.

I've never shushed a member of the public (out loud) and while I don't fetch up at work in denim hotpants with my hair in bunches, I haven't settled for elasticated waists (they're scheduled for early 2009, depending on future cake consumption) and a blue-rinse either.

On that note, it's odd to think that old-lady hairstyles and coats are probably going to (literally) die out over the next generation, isn't it? My mum's hairstyle is still trendy, for instance, and I'm quite determined not to go down the 'nice little perm' route myself, so there really won't be any sights like this in the not too distant future...

Which is quite sad, in a way.

Anyway, I appear to have travelled a long way from the point of this post, which was...um...(scratches unpermed head)...

Terrible weather we're having, for the time of year.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I'm Very Bad at motivating myself to write.

External deadlines work a treat. My book review and Story a Fortnight are in on time regardless, but setting deadlines for myself just doesn't work.

I've tried the write-a-1,000 words a day, which was gradually whittled down to write-any-bloodything-a day to no avail. I've tried 'an hour's writing before you do anything else - even have a wee,' but that didn't get off the ground. In a houseful of people it's impossible to not do something on the way to the PC, laptop or notebook, and something has a horrid habit of leading to something else unrelated to writing.

I thought about getting up an hour earlier to squeeze in some writing, but I need my sleep, dammit, or I'm good for nothing.

I've even bribed myself - i.e. If you write 500 words
you can have a slab of cake or some crumble with custard, or a family sized bar of fruit n' nut (note how bribes are all food-related?) but the very thought makes me so hungry I can't concentrate on writing 'til I've eaten.

I've tried shaming myself by pointing out that I could be writing instead of watching Heroes or The Apprentice, but immediately excuse myself by calling it Research. I've gotten Ideas off the telly before now, I'll have you know.

What about that period between evening dog-walk and watching telly? Well, actually I'm working on that one.

I can see now why people employ Personal Trainers to help them get fit. They probably wouldn't get out of bed otherwise. What I need is a Writing Trainer. A scary woman in army fatigues who'll stand over me and holler, "DROP AND GIVE ME 2000 (words) CLARKEY! NOOOWW!!"

Failing that, I think I need a proper, external deadline. One I can't wriggle out of or put off or ignore. Like the time I stupidly submitted three chapters and got a request for the whole manuscript before I'd even written it. Not that I want to go down that route again! The worst part is knowing I CAN do it.

So why aren't I?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Everyone's a critic

I write a weekly book review for my local paper and occasionally a customer will fetch up at the library and tell me they read it and liked it. I'll refrain from cuddling them and saying 'thank you so much. I love you,' while turning Menopausal Red, and say instead, 'Oh! Er, thanks, um, I mean...yes. Ahem. Good. Marvellous.' Or something equally cutting-edge.

There was just such a customer today, but before I could ransack my brain for a response, a man behind him said crossly, 'oh I'm sorry, but I never read it. Half the time you people haven't even read the books you're criticising. Can't stand 'em m'self.'

'Neither can I,' I said, which threw him. I longed to point out the irony of him criticising my book review column without having read it, but he was in possession of a pair of eyebrows that could only be described as "beetling" and brought to mind the sort of man who might harbour a grudge against women who looked like his mother.

The thing is, I don't criticise books I big 'em up, which is hardly the same thing. I'm not in a position to slag off someone's writing, even if it's not my cup of tea. If I don't get on with a book, I don't review it - it's as simple as that. I much prefer to recommend something I've loved, like you would to a friend, bearing in mind that they might not like it anyway as it's all sooooo subjective.

Maybe it's the name of the column that should change. REVIEW does imply possible bitching. 'Book of the Week' or 'Recommended Read' have more positive overtones. 'Local Lady Says Nice things about a Book she read at the Weekend.' Bit long-winded. 'Yo, This Book's a MoFo!' might attract a younger audience. Would befuddle the oldies though.

On balance, I think it'll stay as it is. People know where they are with a Book Review.

As long as they read it first.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Unchartered territory

Completely off-topic, but how in the name of J-Lo does one go about navigating the troubled waters of Teenagerdom? Specifically Phase II - School-Leaver to Grown-up?

All three of mine are in a state of Flux at the moment and it's most unsettling. You get the sense things could go Either Way.

Gone are the days of dimpled smiles and colouring books, with me at the centre of their squinty little universe. Mooching, glowering and slamming doors is the norm. 'Love you Mummy,' has been replaced with 'God's sake, Mum,' and muttered 'hate you's' with occasional f-words thrown in for good measure. 'I can hear you!' I shrill, like my own mother did. Don't they know Mums have Bionic hearing as well as eyes in the back of their heads?

I was asked recently, if a nipple could be pierced. And I thought cutting off their curls was radical.

Structured days, where I knew where they were and what they were doing are a thing of the past, and I mourn them. It's all lie-ins and mysterious phone calls and unspecified meetings with previously unheard of friends. Communication is a tenuous thing, easily derailed by a refusal to ferry a car full of boys half-way round the country for no apparent reason other than 'it was Wacker's idea.'

They want money, but don't want to work for it. The possibilty of looking for a job 'when I'm ready' has been mooted. 'I deserve some time off.' Don't we all, love? Are the principles I tried to instill waiting to be called upon when they realise that cupboards don't replenish themselves by magic? I hope so.

I remember the angst of my own teenage years, so that's no comfort.

I found myself in the bathroom this morning, longing for chubby thighs (no comment please) trips to the park and bedtime stories, having a little cry.

This is unconditional love I reminded myself, as I have done so many times before, and sometimes it blimmin' well hurts.