Friday, 30 December 2011


Oh dear. I've been very lax with the ole blog this month. I blame Christmas. It doesn't half take up a lot of time. Researching presents (a printer for my dad), buying presents, baking Christmassy goodies, writing cards, doing the Christmas visits, wrapping presents (this seems to take an extraordinarily long time for some reason and I didn't even go all Kirstie on them...). It was never ending. 

Anyway, now that it's all over for another year (almost - there's still New Year and taking down all the decs and cards), I might, just might, have time to finish that final edit. And then, I will finally start submissions. Scary. 

I'm hopefully off to see Sherlock Holmes 2 later on. I adore Robert Downey Jr so am looking forward to it immensely. I watched Tropic Thunder yesterday - well, I say watched. I'm sure there is a name for it that some clever young person has come up with - I skipped through all the boring bits to the good stuff. So, I basically watched the RD Jr bits and the hilariously brilliant Tom Cruise bits. That man seriously redeemed himself with his portrayal of the fantastically loathsome Les Grossman. I particularly love his dancing. Genius. 

So, now I am just listening to my father-in-law and the Chardmeister trying to clear up my old laptop which runs at the speed of a snail. Maybe they'll get it to run faster, maybe not. I don't really care too much as I use my netbook all the time. The old laptop is a beast of a Dell - it weighs more than Lady M  and takes an eon to load anything. Doing the NCT newsletter on it via MS Publisher is quite the frustrating chore. But now, thanks to my wonderful brother, I can load MS Office onto my netbook using my new external CD drive - yay! 

Ooh, looks like they are wrapping up - better get my coat and boots on ready for a quick trip to Oxford to buy some notebooks and spend my £5 Warehouse voucher plus some Next gift cards me and Lady M received for Christmas. And perhaps a Starbucks skinny Chai Latte for the way home - yum.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

It's crunch time.

I have a strange attraction to ever moving goal posts. I seem to remember that last summer, two of my writing buddies and I promised each other that we would submit work by the end of the year. Ummm. That didn't happen. So, then I was going to do it by the end of the summer. No. Didn't happen. Then, I thought I would do it by the end of November. Silly, silly me. I do know why I keep doing it though. I'm not good at dealing with rejection. Which, y'know, is monstrously stupid because I have to learn how to accept rejection gracefully if I want to be a published author.
I need to go and read my last post and just man up, don't I?
Luckily, I use this same set of goal posts for losing weight, so they're multi-purpose. I suppose I could use them for other things too, like sorting out the loft and doing a car boot with the multitude of things gathering dust and mould up there or watching the third season of Dr Who so that I can give it back to the friend who owns it and wanted to watch it the other day but couldn't. Oh and many, many other things. I told you I have big to-do lists... 

So. My new set of goal posts for submitting to agents are... drum roll - by Christmas. This year. Now, don't scoff into your mince pies and mulled wine. I've written the Christmas cards, the presents are (mostly) being organised by my wonderful siblings (yay siblings!) and Christmas is at the parental house so there's no agonising over what to cook for how many people?!!? 

The soon-to-be-submitted MS is mostly ready. I need to do a quick run through for grammar, spelling, continuity and go over the edited first few chapters but after all that is done - I will have no more excuses. None. Apart from, no, I'm just kidding. *not really though. Yes, really. Honestly. I promise.*

In other news, I went to see Daniel Sloss on Saturday at the lovely Didcot Cornerstone. Didcot is very lucky to have this wonderful facility in it's midst and if you live in the South of Oxfordshire, you really should check out their programme - here  

Daniel was supported by Kai Humphries and they were both very, very funny. I laughed until I cried and, although some people weren't too impressed by the battle-rapping, I thought it was pretty cool! I would definitely recommend you see either or both of them - word of warning, if you don't like your comedy with a large side of swearing or anti-God jokes, these two are not for you! 

Here they are, signing stuff and cosying up to the teenage girls who made up a large part of the audience (well, Daniel Sloss in only 21 - yes, join me in weeping at how much of an old, underachieving loser you feel now).

Oh yes, I almost forgot! I have declared myself a NaNoWriMo rebel winner. I do feel a bit bad for including to do lists and suchlike in my word count but whatever. A winner I am!
Well, what with the whole 'submissions by Christmas' thing, I really had better get cracking on the final edit! I may well have a new writing project to start too - a friend of mine wants to use her experiences to write a book but says she isn't a writer, so we are thinking of collaborating on it. Should be good fun and the subject matter is right up my street! It will have to be put aside until the New Year, of course...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

If you're in submission mode and receiving rejections...

See? Even famous authors had to go through the ego-shrinking horror of submitting their babies only to be cruelly rejected.

Of course, I still haven't managed to get as far as receiving the dreaded rejection letters. Having spent much of my Lady M-free week reading various author blogs and interviews hasn't exactly boosted my confidence. It would seem that first novels are a bit like a starter marriage. They get you off the 'spinster shelf' and you learn a lot but they're not for keeps (or getting agents). Better get cracking on that second novel then...

A really valuable lesson to learn from the link above is 'never give up.' Keep writing, keep learning and, one day, you may just be admiring your name adorning a shiny, beautiful cover, sitting next to Stephen King or, in my case, possibly Jeffrey Archer. He probably didn't suffer from receiving rejection letters but he did go to prison so that's possibly as emotionally painful.

Speaking of never giving up - I thought I had given up on NaNoWriMo this year, as I decided to get my priorities right and finish editing Rock-a-Lillie. BUT, it appears that I am just a NaNoWriMo rebel and not a NaNoWriMo quitter. Hooray! Having abandoned the NaNo novel at about 27,000 words, I rewrote the first few chapters of RaL and added in a couple so if I add that to the NaNo word count, that makes about  43,500 words. If I then add in November blog posts, that ups the count to 45,500ish words. And if I then throw in a rough word count for to-do lists (I write really long to-do lists), shopping lists, emails (I am fully aware that this is full on cheating now but that's just how I roll), I reckon we're talking 46,500 words. Sort of.

So, only 3,500 words to go! I can totally do that. Easy peasy. On the first of December I shall declare myself a NaNoWriMo 2011 rebel winner!

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Night Circus vs NaNoWriMo

I read 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern recently. It's such a beautifully produced book that, despite all the hype, I decided to give it a go. I've often fallen prey to pretty covers and lots of marketing and have, for the most part, been horribly disappointed with what I've read so I tend to stay away from these types of book.

BUT, I really enjoyed 'The Night Cicus'. And, as an aside, 'The Sisters Brothers' could also have gone the same way but is, so far, my favourite read of this year. Anyway, back to 'The Night Circus'. 

Erin Morgenstern has created a world that I suspect everyone secretly longs to be a part of. If I only had half, no, a quarter of her imagination I would be immensely happy. The circus tents alone hold more creativity than I could ever dream of - luckily, I'm not a magic realism writer. The Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, the Tree of Wishes - they are all beautifully described. How I wish I could bounce about in the cloud maze or wander through an enchanting garden made entirely  of ice. Morgenstern describes things so vividly you can practically taste the caramel popcorn and feel the sumptuous fabrics of Celia's dresses. 

However, although the circus itself is wonderfully brought to life by Morgenstern's lavish and evocative descriptions, her characters are somewhat flat. For me. I didn't really engage with any of the characters and that is usually a problem for me. I like to be able to relate to the characters in some way, travel with them on their emotional journey, care about what happens to them. I suppose I am a character driven reader and writer. 

Having said that, it really didn't matter that the human characters lacked any spark because, in my opinion, the circus was the main character and I was absolutely engaged with this wondrous and strange world! On the one hand, I wanted to go to a circus straight away and, on the other, I didn't dare go because I knew I would be incredibly disappointed. I also know that I would definitely have been one of the circus groupies, aka the reveurs, if the circus was real. What can I say, I'm an obsessive type of person. Plus I like to wear black and could totally deal with just a little flash of red as an accessory. Aside - I normally don't wear anything brighter than navy blue but I have just bought a bright red Cath Kidston dress, which my amazingly talented Grandma is fixing so it's a bit more on trend. I'll probably wear it once. Maybe twice. But it will look really good in my wardrobe amongst all the black, grey, navy blue and dark green.

I've gotta say, I was utterly captivated by the world Morgenstern has created and I think this is a really unique novel and an extraordinary debut. I look forward to reading Morgenstern's second novel, soon please!

Oops - just realised this was supposed to be about NaNoWriMo too... I am really pleased with my progress in the last couple of days. Although I am not quite caught up, okay, nowhere near caught up, I have made significant inroads and am now over 10,000 words in. Yay! 

Monday, 14 November 2011

I think I need new glasses...

They literally just fell off my face and onto my laptop, clattering into my tumbler of wine and making such a racket, the Chardmeister looked up from his game of zombies (some Xbox game thing). This is a rare occurrence - the looking up not the glasses coming off my face. I think these glasses could well be more than 6 or 7 years old. Time for a new pair? Perhaps. Do I have the actual time required to shop for a new pair? Definitely not. On account of my very narrow face, I struggle to find glasses that don't make me look like a fly. True story. Hence the fact that my current pair are so old; I really can't bear the thought of having to spend time trying on glasses in the kids department again.

On a more cheery note, Abingdon Writers had a good meeting last week - very productive. We have:
  • decided to hold an event at Mostly books earlyish next year
  • persuaded one of our members (a writer and an artist - deadly combination! Check out her website here) to create a flyer for us to put up in bookish type places
  • made the decision to make our blog public
  • discovered that we really should be keeping tabs on debut authors. Elementary, you might say. Yes, it probably should be but with kids, food shopping, housework, cooking, writing, editing, trying to have some sort of social life (mostly revolving around books. Tragique, moi?) and maintaining a reasonable level of personal hygiene, keeping a half closed eye out for publishing trends can easily be swept to the side with stuff like sending birthday and anniversary cards on time or remembering that you were supposed to phone your mum/sister/friend/the doctors/anybody really.
Following on from that meeting, which was a meeting to discuss boosting attendance numbers amongst other things (I had to leave half way through. Ironic, no?), I had a very productive dinner with two writing buddies where I stole one of my friends possible future life paths for a new novel and got the other one to judge the first ever writing competition for Abingdon Writers. There are real prizes (good ones too), which I will definitely not win one of seeing as I am rubbish at telling stories in less than 80,000 words. BUT, it will be a good writing exercise and will hopefully reinvigorate any of us who are mired in the murky depths of editing. Or stuck writing for NaNoWriMo. 

I'm supposed to have written 21,666 words but have only managed 3,000. Hmmm. That's really not good. There is a tiny spark of light though - the Chardmeister may be off work this week so he can look after Lady M for a couple of days whilst I attempt to catch up. Now that I have a real storyline to work off of, I think it can be done. No, I know it can be done. Must be positive and start believing in myself (and stop watching so much TV. When E4 finishes showing 'Greek' I think I'll be in a much better position for writing. No self control but some self awareness. It's a start).



Friday, 4 November 2011

Birthdays, book pitches and battered thumbs

So, Lady M is a  year old now!! This year has gone way too quickly. I haven't written a word in the special Moleskine notebook I purchased especially for recording all her first year moments, nor have I made prints of her hands and feet like I meant to. 

Speaking of things I haven't done - 
  • I am 5,200 words behind on NaNoWriMo
  • I still need to write a short and a long pitch for Rock-a-Lillie
  • I have two loads of washing which need drying
  • I need to email the Abingdon Writers regarding the next meeting
  • I have to read 'The Night Circus' by Tuesday late afternoon
What have I been doing with my Millie-free time then? Watching Doctor Who (season three), clearing space on our Humax (it is now down to a tolerable 25% full), organising the next NCT newsletter for the Abingdon branch, eating too much... Ummm. Yeah, that's not very productive, is it? Oh, I have made birthday cake and a pumpkin pie for the family extravaganza that will be Lady M's big birthday bash!

I did grate my thumb yesterday though, which is a sort of excuse, maybe. Properly grated, nail and everything. It was painful. Very painful. The Chardmeister damaged his thumb yesterday too. I'm just taking empathy to a whole new level. 

Anyway, I suppose I should make a choice - either I need to work on my pitches OR I need to continue on with the NaNoWriMo novel. Maybe I'll write a long pitch, reward myself with some NaNoWriMo writing and then attempt a short pitch tomorrow. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea - some 'work' followed by some 'fun'. But first, a cupcake I think. I need the sugar. Honest. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Aah, how predictable I find myself

Well, unsurprisingly, NaNoWriMo is off to a bad start for me. Instead of writing, I have been baking. I haven't written a word (apart from this blog and two to-do lists) but I did make some rather delicious, chewy choc chip cookies.

I've also been tidying up for an Abingdon NCT meeting (I am the newsletter editor, don't you know) which I wasn't supposed to be hosting this evening but stepped in at the last minute, 'cos that's just the kind of girl I am. To be honest, it's better to host since I don't have to get in the car. Plus, it is a newsletter and events planning meeting so it makes sense that I should have it here. Unfortunately, only one person turned up. Thank you to that person but I'm disappointed you didn't have more than one cookie. Still, I can get rid of some tomorrow at my book group, which is very good news as I will be making birthday cupcakes for Lady M, and I cannot be having lots of sugar laden cakey type things in the house. Lady M is a year old tomorrow - happy birthday Lady M!!!

**Edit to add: One more person turned up after the meeting had finished and took away two cookies. Hurrah! Bless her, she had been driving around my village trying to find my house for ages - what a complete star. I'm just really sorry the meeting had finished and all the decisions had been made - next time you will get a say, new membership secretary!

So, I suppose I'll be writing 5,000 words on Thursday on account of celebrating Lady M's birthday tomorrow. Luckily, she's going to stay with the old folks for a few days so I will be child-free for two days, which means lots of writing can be done. But first I need to decide what this next novel is going to be about. 

I've found that the best way to start writing is just to, well, start writing. The characters seem to make up their own story as I go along. Of course, I have an idea of what the general storyline is going to be but the little incidents and scenes that make the story come alive seem to appear from the dialogue and character traits. Minor characters become major characters, people do things that weren't in my plan, characters become superfluous. Some things change completely - the ending of my first novel is completely different to the one I had in mind (and the beginning has changed entirely between the first and current drafts!) - the hero and heroine had other, better, ideas. I hope that this next set of characters do the same thing! 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Twitter, teething and TBR lists

Oh and tottering. Lady M has started walking. She waddles all over the place now, which means I can't very well sit with my laptop, trying to edit, because she will cause all kinds of chaos in the tiniest amount of time if left to her own devices.

Speaking of tottering, my TBR list is ridiculous. Every time I go to the library, I add a few more books to the stack. I have been staring at the beautiful cover of 'The Night Circus' for nearly a week now but I daren't open it quite yet. I know I will need a full day to devour it, cover to cover, without distractions. Alas, it will have to wait until the end of next week when I am child free (and have read my book group book, which is hiding behind some TBR books, afraid to be picked up (it probably assumes I won't like it very much as I have been disenchanted with the last few book group books). 

I suspect that my bookish Ben Nevis (well, I'm not quite at Mount Everest proportions yet) has something to do with making a promise to myself that I would have submitted Rock-a-Lillie to agents by the end of October. Ha. That is probably not going to happen. Unless I have a covering letter epiphany type thing. Unlikely. Anyway, back to Ben Nevis - this is Displacement Activity number one. Other DAs include:
  • Baking. Aah yes. My Nigella books suddenly call to me whenever it is time to edit RaL or draft a synopsis or write a cover letter to an agent. 
  • Cleaning. Not that I want to come across as slovenly or anything but I feel the urge to clean most when I am either cross or about to sit down and do some writing type work.
  • Organising. This is a classic DA. I must organise my spice drawer/the pantry (that makes it sound like a I live in Downton Abbey or Nigella's house - this is far from the truth)/my wardrobe/Lady M's wardrobe (she has one. It's bigger than mine. Way bigger)/clean my car. Okay, that last one has never happened. I don't clean cars. That's for husbands or dads to do. Sexist, moi?
  • Making space on the Humax. Because I need to keep it below 25% full. It's pathological, okay? I can't help it. I have OCD. 
  • Catching up on all my bookmarked blogs. I might come across something really important that helps with editing/synopsis writing/etc. 
  • Twitter. I don't think I need to say anything else. I can't be missing out. I think I need to wean myself of it. Or maybe just limit myself to checking it, oh, perhaps only ten times a day.
Oh yes, Lady M is also teething like a good 'un. Her first two teeth came through without us even knowing about them (until she bit the Chardmeister on the toe - then we knew about it). Fantastic, we naively thought. This is going to be a doddle. Yeah, not so much. She doesn't sleep much in the day now and wakes up between the hours of pitch black and dawn chorus. It is exhausting. And doesn't leave much time for writing type homework. Especially when I have to fit all my DAs in (and some exercise due to the aforementioned baking). 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Stella Gibbons meet... The Vampire Diaries

I finished 'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons today and am ashamed that I had never read this before (or heard of it prior to becoming acquainted with the very wonderful Mostly Books in Abingdon, Oxfordshire). I picked up my copy in a charity shop (sorry Nicki and Mark at Mostly Books but at least it wasn't from Waterstones!) and started it straight away.

It took maybe four sittings to read and made me laugh more than Eddie Izzard (but less than Tim Minchin, who is a comedy genius and very hard to beat in the comedy stakes).

If you need a good example of purple prose, or just want to know what the hell I'm talking about, get a hold of this book and search out the asterisked paragraphs.
At the other end of the entertainment spectrum, I watched the first episode of season three of The Vampire Diaries. So pleased to have Damon back on my TV, although I had hoped he might have toned down the mad, starey eyes he does, but no. I fancy it's a bit more steamy this season though - vamp/wolf love scene anyone? And a bit more graphically violent - maybe it's trying to take a leaf out of True Blood's script. Whatever, it works and I, for one, will keep watching.
Anyway, I wondered if Stella was alive today, would she parody paranormal fiction? Or would she go for crime fiction? Or even contemporary romance?