Friday, June 29, 2007


Am exhausted, physically, nervously, emotionally.

No news from the agent re the publisher. I'm guessing, no - I'm not guessing, I just don't know.

No writing done this week. Work has been Full On, not helped by constantly interrupting myself to throw sheep at my friends on Facebook and then I got more than slightly paranoid about the whole on-line kamaga.


A web page that steers you round the dreaded Vivaldi/automatic voice machines. I just used it for Royal Mail Parcelforce and it worked brilliantly, straight through to helpful head office person.

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Monday, June 25, 2007


A major reshuffle this weekend, as spare room becomes daughter's room and daughter's room becomes day room, study, MY study, I have an office. The other room could have been my office, except it was a bit small and slanty-ceilinged and therefore difficult to organise in any pleasing way. It doesn't have ghosts that come and sit on your bed and touch you, waking you up in the middle of the night and sending you screaming to your parents' bed. Most Haunted has been banned for some time. Shame. It's almost perfect television. A bit of history, a bit of snooping around properties, a bit of mystery and lots of laughs. We did sneak one in the other day, it just happened to flit past the remote control and we found ourselves saying to each other 'Derek's back!'. He seems to have developed a closer link with the other side, we both commented, getting straight through, like he's upped himself to broadband now he's rich and famous. He doesn't make me laugh, like he does a lot of people. Yvette and Stuart, however, have the ability to send me into hysterics, even when I am feeling very glum. Oh Stuart! We have to switch it off quickly if partner comes home, it makes him very cross. So, of course, the latest spookivity is my fault. And the snails, who else has snails doing rain dances on their doorsteps? The one at the top seems to have had enough. Glad to see he's heading off in Miserable Neighbour's direction. We all watched The Others, though, the other day, and all liked it. Nicole Kidman very, very good. Best English accent award. Daughter had seen it at a friend's, and then borrowed it for us to see. That's where the spooks are coming from, we didn't know it was so scary until we watched it. Anyhow, I should thank them because I've got an office now. I can write all night (on paper, no computer) and set myself ridiculous deadlines. We saw Big Fish too. I didn't know what to make of that. Noticed it was the favourite film of a friend's friend when I was snooping about on Facebook the other day. It was probably better than I thought it was. Was only half watching. I liked the giant.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007



For a long time the author Douglas Kennedy had the message to himself IT'S THE STORY, STUPID pinned above his desk. I've never read any of his books but I like him already. It took me a while to realise that and have found that I can't remind myself enough of it either.

'At the age of 43, when his second novel, The Job, failed to live up to its six-figure advance, Kennedy was cas out of New York literary circles and dropped by his publishers. Instead of trying to reprise his role he got straight to work on his next novel... "We all try to create a world that protects us, but that's absurd. it's what Philip Roth says in Everyman, if you look around any room, in 100 years time nobody will be there. that makes nothing matter, but at the same time make everything matter. It's also what I say in my Hollywood novel, Temptation, 'when life is in freefall there is only one solution, Go Back to Work.'

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007



Another rejection. The agent who used the 'love' word. He and his colleague had both loved the opening chapters and have had the full ms for about 2 months now. That one.

Another so near but so far rave. Said it was a very, very (his two verys not mine) near miss for them. It is very good and there was so much they did like about it but the novel doesn't quite sustain itself enough to attract attention in very unforgiving market. He's sure another agent will find the 100% confidence. Oh good. Well, I am getting a little more certain it's true. It's still with the editor so perhaps it's just as well. What would I have said if he'd phoned and said yes we have both spent several hours of our precious times reading the whole novel and we now want to progress this. Then I'd have had to fess up that another agent had contacted me with an editor keen to read. It did take them a long time to reply, so they shouldn't have been too annoyed but it might have been awkward. I am also heartened to discover that the entire book is readable, because I know the second half needs more work, and in theory I should be doing something about that. But I also feel there's so much to fall in love with if they're going to and I now have so many other projects under way plus, of course, I have to work.

I also had another response to an ANCIENT query letter yesterday, all of 3 months ago, from the assistant to agent at very swishy topnotch agency that destroys any unsoliciteds on contact and only reads manuscripts on request. I emailed back and told them it was being read by an editor but as it was an exclusive and the ms hadn't been seen by any other publishers, could I wait for that response and then get in touch? She replied saying that would be good and wished me luck.


As, on the domestic front, disaster looms even more ominously as each day passes, I kept this great piece by Tim Lott, writing about happiness, luck and hope in the Standard the other week. Since he's given up hope he feels so much better.

Happiness is not freedom from unhappiness, negative feelings are inevitable from time to time, but happiness feels larger - a calm, centred "field" within which both pain and pleasure are experienced. assume you are entirely the author of your own fate is nuts. In reality, luck is soaked into every moment of every one of our days from the moment of our accident of birth, with our accidental genes and our accidental parents. Furthermore, you can't always tell whether it's good luck or bad luck. There's a Taoist fable that tells of a farmer whose horse runs away. "Bad luck." says the neighbours. "Maybe," he replies. The farmer's son takes one of the horses for a ride and breaks his leg. "Bad luck," say the neighbours. "Maybe," he replies. The next day, a press gang arrive to take his son off to war, but his injury prevents his almost certain death on the front. "That's lucky," say the neighbours. "Maybe," says the farmer. The moral of this story is: don't imagine you know what is going on in your life. Things change all the time in the most unexpected way. So don't get too worked up about the situation you're in. (Oh I do love that bit.) As Kipling suggested, triumph and disaster really are both imposters. This isn't fatalism. Over a long enough period, effort and courage and intelligence are liable to produce results. But they are not bound to. That things go wrong, or right, has less to do with you than you think. Yet self-blame remains our favourite, and often our secret vice. We are addicted to it because it makes us feel less helpless. To understand that most times luck trumps the self, and that what looks like bad (or good) luck, often isn't what it appears to be at all, is to relieve yourself of a great burden. to understand luck, in other words, is to grasp happiness. Or perhaps it is to realise that it cannot be grasped at all - only accepted.

Keep doing the feng shui, that's what I say.

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Monday, June 18, 2007


Daughter and I snuck out to Woolworths on Sunday morning to get the father's day business done only to discover a festival was afoot. Had missed most of it but later in the day we managed to drag partner out of the door and up to artists' open studio day. Good excuse to smooch around, esp on Eel Pie which, on a normal day, offers nothing to the visitor except a wiggly path and high fences you can't even see over leaving a slightly sinister taste in the mouth. It's a tiny island but bigger than you think, crammed with funny little houses, boatyards, two nature reserves and full of inventors and artists . It was fun. I liked the shoes. We bumped into an old friend, not really - a good friend of a good friend, which got us immediately talking of The Caribbean where none of us had been and and a petrol station in the New Forest where some of us had, and being offered mugs of wine. We gathered various postcards and daughter nearly fainted at sight of Dr Who actor - NOT that one. Back on the mainland there was one of those French markets that are springing up all over the place. It doesn't work does it? It's fine to see stalls of olives and waffles and crepes where they're supposed to be, but I'm afraid the only feeling it left me with was of being fairly ripped off. Two quid for 4 biscuits; ordering half a kilo of cherries to discover there's extra to pay than the whole kilo price. White peaches that turned out to be yellow. No.

All weekend was trying to get down to the ghost writing. Didn't get very far, not far at all. Mostly crossings out and immense feelings of dissatisfaction. Have to be careful not to let it overtake everything else, because it's only a pitch and I can't spend 2 months on perfecting a pitch that may be for nothing. Today's been journalism which always makes me feel like I've been productive, as I have. A bit of excitement on e-bay as well as a suitcase I put up for 99p last night is already up to £74! Sorry there are lots of figures in this. Sadly our preoccupation at the moment.

The landlords didn't come.

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Friday, June 15, 2007


Started on the new ghost project today. It's refreshing to begin anew. Strange, though, not to have a blank page, but quite detailed instructions to work around. The first line is written from the air. The smallest pieces of research have been dug up from below. A bit of practical outlining on the page to do now. Leave to ferment.

Back in reality, the landlords are visiting this weekend, they still haven't called to say when. The lease is up in the autumn, they may want to renew and no fuss, they may have decided to sell, they may have decided they want to put the rent up. Everything, so much in the air, but, talking with a friend who has her own fill of major unsettlings, there comes a point where you carry on regardless and leave the angst on another line to take care of itself.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CONF 460: NOVEL 6??

An intriguing offer in yesterday to pitch for a ghost writing job. I have to be a bit cryptic else I'll scupper my chances but I need to do a couple of chapters in the next few weeks. So that put the cat amongst yesterday's synopsis writing marathon. There was also a power cut which was really confusing. Write by hand? I went to the shops, to buy Euros for daughter's French trip on Friday. Nat West didn't have any in stock. How pathetic is that, the post office the place to go for currency I was told. And I did, and they did. Later on I did do a half an hour of speedwriting sitting in the car outside daughter's piano lesson which did get me to the end after a fashion. One page? Forget it, at least six. But it's early draft synop of early draft novel, so that'll have to do. Useful.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


An unexpectedly free day today, work work not arriving until tomorrow. Last night I decided to dedicate it to writing the synopsis for Novel 5. I woke up this morning thinking about that, along with Big B's Ziggy and Chanelle. Got pulled in by their first circlings around each other I'm afraid and now, if predictably, Charlie's got the knives out, I'm in.

I now have a suitably spectacular setting for the ending, and idea I was saving for another book as it happens, but I realised this morning that it'll fit. I do know what happens in the build-up to this ending but I don't exactly know how. This is slightly spurred by the news of Barry Cunningham's latest discovery in which he talks about the best children's writing always having a portal into another world. I got one! I shout to myself, along with the 500,000 other aspiring kids writers out there at the moment. My plan with novel 5, as with novel 4, is to write the whole thing first before submitting it. But, and but, and but, I know it's amateurish thinking but I am scared of someone else having the same idea in the meantime. It's one of those simple, simplistic things. Not that anyone will have the same story, but it's the basic idea... I remind myself of when I was teaching a creative writing class once and in the coffee break I was chatting to this very shy woman who'd just read out for the first time, an extract from her short story. She'd been full of nerves beforehand and I was saying well done and all, and she said she was writing a novel, and I said oooh what's it about then? And she looked at me horrified, like as IF she was going to tell ME.

Anyhow yes so, synopsis day. No looking at notes, off top of head and no longer than a page.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007


No agent/publisher news. Am still terrified each time an e-mail comes in and get more hopeful the longer it doesn't. Fantasy scenario is if the editor does like it she'll have to do the 'sharing' bit which she'd have to do before she comes back with any positive news. I have Googled her of course, then thought of Google imaging which hit a result and I do like the look of her, she's smiley and unfrightening-looking. Anyhow it's all irrelevant because agent away for 2 weeks, so glad I know that, doesn't stop me panicing at the e-mails though. She might have a BlackBerry. The writing's been put to one side now as I work flat out and e-bay off as much as I can in the run-up to our August holiday. In a moment am going out to stock up the food troughs and feeling quite excited about stepping out of the door. My piece in the paper today told of one of my proudest journalistic finds, the bagbutton. Am wondering about using it for tent this summer, as we don't take it to France because the boot of the bloody car's so small. Could work. We'd have to take a mini vac to pack it up again yore yore yawwwwwwwwn.

Am always late to catch on to things away from the world of vacuum sacks and borax, it's what happens and am now beginning to accept it, which is the next stage I suppose. But in my teabreak read about this spoof TV Controller's blog which is just priceless. The tone leaves a bit of a nasty taste, but so I gather does working in those places these days and all part of the utter authenticity. A long way from mine and Bruce's olden days of yore. Oh well.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007


Bruce Gallaway, BBC sound recordist, friend, travelling companion.

The very best film crew man to have with you on long filming trips, Bruce was not only a brilliant sound recordist and the warmest and kindest companion imaginable, his morphing Bar was famous throughout the BBC. My favourite Bruce's Bar moment was in the New Guinea highlands. Someone up ahead had run over a pig, a serious criminal offence in PNG. We had to wait until it was sorted out. Within minutes the back of Bruce's 4x4 was up and Bar Bruce was announced open and ready for business, complete with ices and slices.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Late at night. Tonight has been, in no particular order: vodka, piano, Andrew Marr geniusness, Tyrrell's veggie crisps geniusness, How To Look Good Naked, white wine, Manx kippers, bread, e-bay, strawberries, The Lady of Shalott , the sudden news of death of an old colleague and friend, still taking that in, and, now everyone's asleep and I'm still vodka-wired and can't find old friend on Google, Therese's story. Go Therese, except I'm too old to say that. Therese's story is inspirational and as good a tale of What It's Like To Be A Writer I've read anywhere, with happy ending intact. Except it's not an ending of course. Just the beginning. And hopefully not The End. Or The Middle. Or whatever.

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It's OK, I've calmed down a bit now. The sudden shift from agentless/publisherlessness to a possibility of having both within a few days is a bit heady but it's still a long shot. Definite boost though. I do have something to sell. It might work out, but the odds aren't great that the first editor who reads will buy. The agent has kindly told me she's away on hols for 2 weeks in a few days' time, so I'll be able to stretch out the Live in Hope and dream of noncrap socks and galloping along the sands for a while longer. Meantime the agent who loved the opening chapters still hasn't got back to me. It must be nearly a month now.

Thanks for all the good wishes, it's so lovely to get them. I clicked over to Cally who has a horror story about leaving your computer on at night. That's decided it for me, so thanks Cally. The Apple handbook says leave it sleeping and I did for a while, but it didn't seem right, didn't seem right at all.

Meantime onwards and upwards with novel 5. I read a bit out at the writing group last night. The beginning wasn't good but the ending was. I listened to everybody else's pieces in amazement, wondering how they did it. After the last chunk of copyediting of novel 4 last week I am more determined than ever to write less each day but make it better. I printed the whole of novel 4 and worked from hard copy before submitting it. It really is the only way to do the final edits. I'd resisted before because of the rubbish printer here which takes ages and ages and runs out of ink every week. But now I've bought a new one so hard copy editing is going to be the name of the game from now on. 500 words. Print. Edit. Print and edit again until it's there.

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Monday, June 04, 2007


I must not get too hopeful. I must not get too hopeful. This could end in tears. It may well end in tears. Don't get too hopeful. Don't DON'T.

Wait. That's all I can do. Write. Wait. Write. Wait. Wait.

Things I'd do if I got a book deal:

Ride on the beach

Have a haircut

Buy socks and nice undergarmentings and overgarmentings from shop other than Primark, for I hear there are some

Drink something with friendlyfriends

Buy books. I want this and this and this and... oh and just as I'm getting back into fiction, Grumpy has pointed out one for us: Failure by Joshua Gidding.

But stop. Stop this now. It'll end in tears. I'm warning me.

But yes, editor liked the synopsis of novel 4 and agent has now sent the ms, well, half of it, the half I think I've finished, and says it looks good. And is sending it off. Woops I've already said that. Better go away.

Wait. What else can you do. Wait.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007


New rejection letter in yesterday for ms submitted several months ago. Except it's not for the ms I sent (novel 4), but for novel 3.

As I've reached the age of loss of everything except weight, my first thought had to be that I'd screwed and sent the wrong one. But no, there it is in the covering letter, novel 4, printed, I remember, on cranky old printer & posted with all the envelopage, flap and blurb. It isn't totally spooky, because he did have the other novel about 2 years ago. It's much improved, he said psychicly, but hasn't grabbed him subjectively.

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Friday, June 01, 2007


In the funny dance between wannabe authors, agents and publishers there's this thing called the rave rejection. So bittersweet, praising your writing to the hilt but with a stinging but towards the end and then a no.

An editor told my agent that she loved novel 1, loved my sensibility, totally identified with it and would like to meet me. But, it was for that reason, because she identified with it so closely, that she wasn't going to buy it and therefore wasn't going to invite me for tea. I met her at a book launch years later, after I'd been published and dropped, and she said 'OH. You! I think of your book every morning when I put my perfume on.'

I got one from an agent yesterday, came in the post with the manuscripts of the first 3 chapters of both novels. There was clearly a great deal to admire, she said. My samples seemed to her to be at the top end of commercial women's fiction. Both novels were well written with intriguing stories and situations and characters. But then came the but. It was several 'and yets' actually. She barely takes anybody on these days and there wasn't the love there. Love seems to be a big factor, they have to love it. And she didn't. So there we go. I know what they mean though don't you? I've just been loving Jonathan Franzen all over again. After The Corrections fling of years ago have just discovered his non-fiction. A new affair's on the boil as well and it looks like it might be a biggie. I haven't been reading fiction for ages, but this week I decided to give myself some time away from writing. There have been so many stresses here, I'm not sure which novel I should be pursuing and it's half term. Time to stand back and take a break. So here I am reading fiction again. Short stories to start, grabbed in the library as an author I really should have read by now. And I am and I will. A friend's already lent me Alias Grace. I'm not buying a hat yet but it looks like it might be serious.

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