Thursday, May 29, 2008



We have interest from two publishers with several irons still in the fire. I'm now committed to finishing the rewrite by the end of the school summer term. There may be a deal before that but on the other hand there may not so a big, big incentive to finish.

The last two days on Chapter 18 have been terrible. Rubbish rubbish plod. But it's half term and necessary interruptions shouldn't be seen as distractions. Thankfully, this morning I managed to write a completely new opening to C18 whilst still in bed and am hopefully through the glitch. Don't know whether to count up the number of weeks left and divide the wordcount, or get through it as quickly as possible and then rewrite the rewrite, or keep on as I am getting each portion polished to a shine for the senior editors I now know are going to be reading closely.

Couldn't help noticing that Sebastian Faulkes Ian Fleming impersonation took him 6 weeks to write, squirrelled away somewhere no doubt being fed and watered.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Monday, May 26, 2008



Even though my books were published several years ago the twitch of Amazon ranking checks hasn't stopped. Usually a quick click on the novels a few times a week as I'm drifting about the internet, like you do, seeing that they're holding up in the six-figure categories and haven't sunk into the millions. Peeking at one of the non-fictions this morning, astonished to see it in an Amazon chart. Number 94! The positions changes every hour so I'll be back there later, watching myself rising up the heady DIY ladder or fading back into obscurity, overtaken by the likes of Getting Started in Permaculture (96) and the ever popular The Complete Guide To Windows and Entryways (95).

Half term this week. Things have calmed down at home and I've made some advances on the rewrite. The progress rate has been slow, about a chapter a fortnight, but have finally reached a section that's already been heavily rewritten. So speeding on towards the end, blocking in the structural changes now rather than fine-tuning, heading for the first drafting of the fresh final chapters.

A new book idea has been forming and have been doing my best to push it away. I already have 1 75% completed and 1 new outline for my current genre plus a 25% first drafted novel in a totally different genre. This new one being in yet another genre I therefore tell it, go away.

No news. Keep on hearing how tough it is out there so am warmed by having been taken on by agent and the headway that she's already made. Robert McCrum's done his own round-up chart of how publishing has changed.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008



Not really, no.

Have I said before how surreal it all is?

I don't like using that word, it's a cop-out, lazy, word but can't think of any other way of describing it. Never before has something been so potentially near, but equally as potentially disappointing, and increasingly likely disappointing as the days go on, in terms of progress in writing career. Never before have I had to deal with psychiatric illness at such close quarters, in such beautiful surroundings with such a lovely, gorgeous teenage helpmate at my side. I am not sure any more if I'm helping to cure or helping to prolong it all. If I wasn't here what'd happen? The professionals have been called in again and again all that's in hand but nothing much is being DONE. This has now been topped up by weird behaviours from my closest relative, who suffers from schizophrenia and is now calling me daily and texting nonsenses. Last night I retreated into the bathroom on my own wondering what the hell I do and that old chestnut, what have I done to deserve these double-whammy hits over the head with mental illness?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The way to the shops.

7.15 get up
7.20 wake daughter
pack packed lunch
make fruit & cold meats breakfast for car journey
pack laptop
7.40 daughter gets up
7.45 drive to school Radio 1 Chris Moyles
8.30 park near school & write on laptop, check emails, check emails again
9.30 drive home Radio 4 book of week (Cherie Blair - better than you'd imagine)
10.00 unpack laptop, check emails
10.15 run 5 laps of garden
10.45 check email, write, check email, check email, chess, write, check email, check email, write, check email, solitaire, write, post arrives, check email, write etc etc....
4.30 daughter gets home, get kicked off laptop, email wip to iMac, write, check email
Decide on supper
5.30 walk to supermarket
6.00 cocktail hour, Ricard, crisps, Evening Standard, sudoku
7.00 check email, print chapter in progress, email wip back to laptop, journalism
8.00 cook, check email
9.00 eat, check email
10.30 bed

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Sunday, May 18, 2008



Sunday morning, 8.30, sunlight pouring through the windows, and here I am. Noble or what? A good friend has just completed the final draft of her novel. I'm so, SO envious am determined to get to that hallowed place sooner rather than later too. Another good friend has completed the final drafts of 4 novels since I started mine, and seen them bound with lovely covers and out there. Did a word count yesterday, 45,000 in. At first I was glum, 45,000 is only just over half. But then that's 25,000 to go, and it's rewriting what is already there (and been rewritten about 5,000 times already), so then it didn't seem so bad. I'll get to the couple of new chapters to write wholesale at the end when I get to them, they're staying out of this calculation for now.

The miserable thing about rewriting is you're only looking for the bad bits. At this stage the entire book seems to be nothing but. Grammar police - but as far as this blog goes am taking a leaf from the supremely wonderful Simon Gray on giving up on diary rewriting........

Last night I began revising a paragraph because I was shocked by what I was writing even as I was writing it. So I softened it, sweetened it a little, softening and sweetening myself a little too in the process, and then I thought, but no, this is fraudulent, leave it as it was, so I went back to what it was, ran my eye through it, made a correction to one of the sentences because it looked gauche, and then I was at it, and by at it I mean working on it as if it were a piece of writing, I must have spent hours on a few paragraphs, fretting away at sentences, arrowing them in and out of each other then doing a fair copy which I then rewrote, and again copied, and so on until the headache began, the brain felt arid, the sentences on the page were as dead as counters - tiddlywinks, as if I'd been playing tiddlywinks for an eternity, but without a cup to wink the tiddle, tiddle the wink into - it wasn't until I was undressed and about to get into bed that I realised what I'd been up to, so I had to get dressed again, put on the boots because it was now raining, clump across the garden, rip the pages out of the pad, tear them into strips, screw them up and bin them, then back across the garden, hating the dawn light, the birds, the rain. 'I thought you'd already come to bed,' Victoria mumbled. 'No. That wasn't me,' I said. Who was it then?' she said. 'Bob Monkhouse' I said. ... I will never again rewrite any part of this, on I go and on - feckless, thoughtless, cruel and stupid, it doesn't matter, because in this case you are only what you write, never what you rewrite - there's a football match.....

Simon Gray
The Smoking Diaries
Faber 2004

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008



Who'd have them?

The situation I'm in now reminds me of when I was living in a tenement block, one of those old brick ones with outside corridors that smell of wee, working as a secretary. Camberwell was a rough but vibrant central area. I loved the huge council flat I shared with two friends, the architecture, the energy, the street markets, the buzz of real London. I got there through a scheme run by the GLC, the London Council of the time, which allowed single people rent their hard to let flats, ie flats that families were turning down. The reason our flat was hard to let, we soon discovered, was crime and the neighbours. It really was bad, there were no knife gangs then, but one woman used to bang on our door and threaten to blow our legs off on a regular basis, things like that. But the rent was cheap, it was a great flat etc etc so we hung on in there. We'd been there about year and a half when I saw a GLC ad offering Victorian conversion flats for sale in west London with a 30% discount to London council tenants. I applied, was accepted, got a mortgage sorted and chose a raised ground floor 1 bed flat on a quiet, leafy street with huge rooms, floor to ceiling windows with shutters etc etc. a five minute walk from my office. i.e. a dream of a flat. But then there were political wranglings about the ethics of selling council properties and I was kept on tenterhooks for many, many months. At the same time I had been applying for promotion at the BBC, had failed twice and again the job had come up. I couldn't see any other way out of the secretarial trap, had been working towards this promotion, as a kind of continuity girl on TV programmes, for years. So there I was wobbling on the knife edge, wondering if I was going to be turned down yet again and remain a frustrated secretary living in a flat too much in the danger zone for my liking, or if I'd soon be a fulfilled programme assistant living in my dream home.

I got through that one on both counts, and for many years I lived in my lovely, leafy old flat doing the job I wanted to do.

Now the stakes seem higher. If the interest that's been shown in my novel does turn into a deal I'll be able to continue writing without wondering what the hell else I can do for a living. More worryingly, serious health problems have continued at home and are now also at a major crossroads. I've had to see the doctor myself about coping and am going into therapy soon to help me deal with it. It's surreal really, living in such a beautiful place, surrounded by so much privilege, the sunshine, the garden, the May trees and flowers, knowing the axe could come crashing down - twice - chop chop, at any moment.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.

Friday, May 02, 2008



Yesterday late afternoon agent sent me a little bit of positive news that was very cheering. Too early to say still but the cold clam of panic & fear every time I checked my email (ie every 5 minutes) has lifted slightly. Can't jump up and down yet but will know more next week.

Meantime, booze. Actually am drinking very little these days as my main drinking companion still under the weather. I've lost a stone in weight this year. That's what comes from having no social life and knocking the homely half bottle of wine a night down to a miserable dribble. What wine we do have I now have to get in myself. Buying wine in supermarkets is so touch and go though. Like moisturisers, how do you know? Are the discounted wines a real bargain or offloads? I suddenly thought yesterday, there has to be a better way & liked the look of this. It lists recommendations shop by shop & some of the highest rated ones are in the lowest price brackets. I bought 3 on Mastercard yesterday, a chocolatey?! £6.99 South African, a sunshiney, organic £5.99 Argentinian I have very high hopes of and a got to be worth a crack at that price £3.99 Italian.

Bye bye, thanks for visiting, come again soon.