Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Conf 265: Authorly Winge

Excitement. An envelope in the post from my old agent. Is there some new news on my old books? Have the Russians finally got a publication date? Have asked over and over if they can tell me what's happening, and the very nice foreign rights lady says she'll get on to them but I never hear back. My last reminder was August. A year after the previous reminder. Should I accept that it's not going to happen. You'd think so by now, wouldn't you? They have been translated, I know, because I got some funny translation queries. It's hard to see your books dying without ever having had any chance of the market. This is so for 99.9% of all books published, and something you just have to get used to. But every now and then the winge grows.

Am hopping mad actually. A new book in the charts, not only the same subject as my novel 2 but set in exactly the same school playground. I know this because a friend is at said school and playground gossip there has gone into overdrive. I couldn't resist buying it last time I was in Tesco. This is a terrible wingey thing and feel slightly embarrassed, it happens all the time. There is no copyright in ideas. Am not for a second suggesting she's copied me.

But here we are a royalty statement. Here we go:

Jan to June 2006

Novel 2, pub. 2004
home sales 32 earning me £12.22
export RETURNS! 41 = -£7.83

Total profit = £4.39

Unearned balance c/f -£1927.62

Novel 1, pub 2003

Home sales 61 earning me £24.18
Export sales 1 earning me 14p

Wonder if that was the one in the Canadian service station my friend K saw?

Unearned balance c/f -£972.62

Oh well, at least I don't have to pay it back. And who were those 32 people who bought novel 2??

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Conf: 264: Ladybird Ladybird

In Marylebone High Street yesterday, daughter and I decided to stop awhile for the luncheon hour. I am too mean/broke to use the restaurants bulging onto the streets everywhere with Italian smells, sunglasses and tiny dogs - what is it with this tiny dogs thing? Lots of strange-looking pushchairs, too. Anyway I spotted a pub with drastic, tall, spindly chairs and pink rattan beach umbrellas just right for a 12 yr old, so I parked daughter on stilted chair and ventured inside to order our drinks and retrieve menu. It seemed quite pleasant inside, only one tiny dog, a brown mongrel, which was more medium sized. Its owner had decided it'd do, however, and was hauling and heaving the thing around under one arm.

And so I went to the relatively empty bar and waited to be served. And waited. And waited. And watched the 3 bar staff move around behind the bar in a bar staff like way. Which reminded me of fascinating Zoe Williams piece in Saturday's Grauniad where she dresses up as an 82 year old and sees what it's like to be invisible.

So there I was, not 32 but not 82 either, waiting and waiting and reaching manic explosion point. Instead, Australian bloke next to me and I called a truce in the eye contact me next war and joined forces, hissing and huffing together, marvelling at how 3 people could look so preoccupied with doing nothing. This made me feel better, because it wasn't only me. He then said he was going to lean over and pour his own. That got them and he was served immediately. Then a poodle dog woman without the poodle dog sauntered up and I knew the barman was going to go to her next and so I got very old lady-ish and barked two cokes at him as he turned to serve her. BRRRR! Then it turned out the food took 40 minutes. 'Do you sell crisps?' 'Only lobster flavour.' (Honest.) And so we nipped over the road and bought Walker's salt & vinegar and when we'd had our drinks nipped into Waitrose to buy proper supper for later. I am a suburban blob who goes to fashionable part of town and hunts down a supermarket. Help.

On return home we discovered we'd been invaded by ladybirds. About 20 of them dotted on the ceiling above the light beam of the lamp. Their cuteness didn't last more than a second. They looked strange and menacing and dotty. Orange ones, with black spots, also a few red ones with two very large black dots. I immediately Googled ladybird infestation and discovered nobody has ever written a bad word about a ladybird. Ever. Even though they suddenly decide to fly around and use your head as landing strip. The sinisterness was slightly softened by one story that they are the sign of a blessing. Which I decided to go along with as I prepared to act decisively. I turned all lights off, leaving daughter having to write Geography letters to farmers in the dark, and, risking the drug dealers, opened front door. Shone big torch into house from outside. Took a feather duster and dusted them down. I counted them out and I counted them out. It seems to have worked.

Ugh Halloween now and Firework Night even more ugh. Do we bother to carve pumpkin, seeing as we'll be out?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Conf 262: Down to Business

No. of crisps: 23

My friend The Writing Coach has just launched her E-Book: "30 Days to Conquer Your Self-Doubt and Procrastination and Have 30,000 Words Under Your Belt". And very good it is too.

As a bonus, she's offering "13 novelists share their personal stories about how they broke through and found their first publisher". I was one of these, and so have had a sneaky preview read of some of the others. They're good. A bit like giving birth stories, every one an irresistible tale to the teller; and also for anybody about to go through the same process. Every one fascinating in its own way. They're mostly, well, all, more successful than me, several bestsellers amongst them. One who particularly caught my attention, a chap who's all over Tesco right now, took the e-mail route rather than the snail male and I am beginning to wonder if I haven't missed a trick here. It's all very well doing what they tell you to do, but who ever got anywhere by doing what they're told?

My recent submission to Mr Superagent a case in point. He e-mailed me, I snailmailed him, the e-mail rejection came from his assistant's assistant. Signed with his name at the end, and with some good comments which I have now acted upon, inserting whole new Chapter 1. Usually you wouldn't ever bother resubmitting same story to an agent who has already rejected you. But I have since heard from another writer that this guy actually doesn't read anything, it's the assistants and the assistants' assistants etc etc. who act in his name. So now I'm thinking I might as well resubmit to his e-mail, seeing as I have it. This writer did just that after a similar rejection, and Mr Big requested the novel in full (and then rejected as it so goes and goes). So I think it's worth the crack, all he can do is press delete. It's also got a different title, so I think I will. I will also do some other e-mail query letters I think.

The other thing I'm not sure about is whether to say that there are 2 novels virtually ready for the off. Or is that muddling the mud?

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, October 23, 2006


The Bitch has tagged me. Recently received an an e-mail one of these from fun friend S which I dutifully filled in and repeat here. Sadly, most people don't play any more, scared of their e-mail address being bandied about and anyway having better things to do, whereas I see it all as good bit of writing-avoidment.

A) Four jobs I have had in my life

Alexon coat salesperson, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Oxford Street
Typist, Nat West Bank Stationery Division, Acton
Nursing auxilary, Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Sick Children, Banstead
Director, BBC Bristol

B) Four movies I would watch over and over:

Harold and Maude
Blue Velvet
Belleville Rendezvous
Lady and the Tramp

C) Four places I have lived:

Notting Hill

D) Four TV shows I love to watch:

Celebrity Big Brother
Jonathan Ross
Mock The Week

E ) Four places I have been on vacation:

Mauna Kea
Mount Koyasan

F) Four Websites I visit (almost) daily

Non-working Monkey

G ) Four of my favourite foods:

Shepherd's pie
Tomato & onion salad
Guacamole & doritos

H) Four albums I love:

Joshua Tree
Tea for the Tillerman
Mermaid Avenue
After The Goldrush

I) Four of my favourite books:

Cannery Row
Autobiography of a Yogi
Smallcreep's Day

J) Four places I would rather be right now:


And here's S's good taste version am deeply envious of:

A) Four jobs I have had in my life
market researcher
shop keeper

B) Four movies I would watch over and over:

Thelma and Louise
Napoleon Dynamite

C) Four places I have lived:


D) Four TV shows I love to watch:

The Sopranos
Curb your Enthusiasm

E ) Four places I have been on vacation:

St Vincent

F) Four Websites I visit (almost) daily


G ) Four of my favourite foods:

parma ham

H) Four albums I love:

What's Going On (marvin gaye)
Garden State (soundtrack)
Girl at her Volcano (rickie lee jones)
Madman across the water (elton john)

I) Four of my favourite books:

Handmaid's Tale
What I Loved
The Princess Bride
Nights at the Circus

J) Four places I would rather be right now:

anywhere but suffolk!

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Conf 261: At Last, A Handy Hint That Works

No. of crisps: 27

Rare event: going to the movies tonight. Wanted to see Volver which is one of those films friends keep on saying suddenly out of the blue you've Got to See It. It's only on miles away now in Central-land, so that'll have to wait for Blockbuster. Instead it's The Queen.

Friday night? Time for online credit card booking faff or nightmare Odeon Filmline computerspeak conversation, you might be thinking. But no. No more getting all the way through to the end where robotwoman suddenly decides not to recognise your credit card and winds back to ask 'what film do you want to see?' for the 500th time. What you do is, after you've said RICHMOND, or wherever you live, obviously, in a funny stern voice, and it says would you like to book tickets? You say 'SPEAK TO OPERATOR' and magically the machine implodes on itself and you get a real person!! How about that. Then you can find out which screen it's on at, what time the movie proper starts, discuss seating arrangements and pre-order popcorn.

Now, I've just finished work work and am taking myself out with draft of C1 to a location as I need some first-hand observational This is not like me, I don't do that sort of thing, but the sun's shining and I've had enough of this screen.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Conf 260: Writing By Numbers

No. of skips: 100
No. of new words: 3,290

Peculiar way of carrying on really, all this writing down of stuff and then deleting most of it.

However, a new chapter 1 now exists. It needs some tidying, but:

It puts the character at the cusp of big, unforeseen changes and trying to cope. Floundering, but showing strength, weakness, faults, sensitivity.

Introduces the 2 other main characters and her feelings about them from page 1.

It has a few jokes.

She's much more rounded. I can see her quite clearly, looks a bit like Marian Keyes: little, with those lovely eyes. Redhead though.

The C1 conflict foreshadows the big change she goes through later on.

Spells out one of main themes in big, bold letters ten foot high, but there you are, at least it can't be missed now.

And, a la Shields, shows her doing what she's best at (workwise I mean).

Am still intrigued by this scene structure method. I have only dipped into it before, but did use it here. I printed up a sheet, several sheets for any other rewrites to fill in for each chapter. Not to a tee, but in all this creating something from nothing business, worth the crack I think.


What she wants at beg of scene. Specific. Clearly definable. Makes her proactive


something awful happens

emotional follow through to disaster, show her reacting to disaster, show her hurting

No good choices. Work through the choices, come to least-bad option

MAke her decide. Make it a good decision. Risky, but a chance of working

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Conf 259: Back to Novel Day

No. of skips: 70


Rant over.

Work work over for now, invoices submitted and back on a novel day.

New chapter 1. Tricky to get into as usual after break. I set the timer for 2 hours and didn't allow any e mail checks or internet drifting.

Aim to have a new submissions package ready by the end of this week. This is going back on plan to totally go over the final draft beforehand, but there's more than enough there to work with.

Week 3 of half hour mini Pilates session (Darcey in vision only, now, Radio 4 turned up) mixed with intermittent leaps from computer to skipping rope 5 days a week. So far a steady half a pound loss a week, sans sacrificing any food & factoring in 2 tea & toast slob mornings. In wordcountspeak that'll be another 20 weeks to reach target, then. Mustn't count too many chips but seems the best plan so far.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Game Break

Stare at the centre for 30 seconds,then close your eyes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Conf 257: Can't Spell Persistence

No. of skips: 170
On chapter: um

Richmond writers pub night last night. A new guy there who has an agent and currently walking the submissions plank. After I had blabbed on about how I was possibly going to pitch to the US as well, he told me that to get his agent he had done a multiple postal submission to 50 in the UK and 50 in the US and followed EVERY ONE up with a phone call. And it worked.

Did some proper cooking at the weekend. Nigel Slater's coq au vin. The first recipe I'd followed in a long while (due to crap oven in rental home number 632 etc etc.) It was fun, esp as I took to heart his number one rule of cooking: pour yourself a glass of wine and pay no attention to people who say you must never drink on your own. This meant half of the 'vin' bit of the recipe didn't get near the pot.

Finally back onto the novel today. Spent about an hour looking for a chapter I'd deleted but hadn't, for some reason, put in the Outtakes file. MUST label each chapter file with its contents rather than a number in future. I gave up in the end and started rewriting, but then, on moving another huge chunk from centre of novel to the beginning, there it was! Tucked away. Phew.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Conf 256: Wet & Dry

Seems like ages ago now, writing fiction. Have been busy with scripts, The 50 Greatest Comedy Characters of All Time, no surprises who number 1 was. And today has been a journalism day. Investigating dry cleaning amongst other things, and discovering yummy must-have
pillows. But then when you go to buy them, all sorts of VAT and postage bumps the price right up and makes them not so musthavable. Can't believe I'm still being caught like that.

Have had some ideas on the hoof and intend to crash on with final draft completion from tomorrow. Will not take in any work for 2 weeks and get the whole darn thing done and dusted. Then the marketing. Friday's Standard magazine said female mid-life crisis the number one Hollywood subject right now, so am considering submitting straight to the (much more e-mail friendly) US as well as the weary old UK lit agent 3 chapters and synop sae route.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Conf 255: Deadlines

Value float day has been and gone without major incident. I spent most of it driving around central London. Paid Conjestion Charge for first time, which was a bit of a novelty. This was because had to drive partner to and from medical appointment. I had 3 hours to hang around, so, after parking in Cavendish Square, took myself off to The Wallace Collection. Still one of W1's best kept secrets - free and empty, you can just wander in off the street right into the l8th century. Stared for ages at Marie Antoinettes perfume bowl. Waved at my old office next door at EMI, now ICI, on way to Selfridges. Rode the escalators and gawped at Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake delish. Partner wasn't ready at allotted time, so had to drive to Kensington to collect ball photos, and then back into town, crossing over the big C in the road twice, and getting money's worth.

My 2 rolls weren't good, but partner's 6 rolls were, all spot-on focus & brilliant compositions despite the rushing around. We delivered to the PR lady on way home from hospital. All she said was they've gone to the paper, we now feel slighty miffed and think she wasn't happy with them. It's just like when you know someone's read your book but doesn't say anything. So, not a happy ending there.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.