Sunday, 30 November 2008
I was considering not blogging about this horrendous mess at all. I thought about keeping it all to myself and simmering and panicking and weeping alone - and then appearing with another bright and breezy post when I felt better. But that wouldn't be right. I started blogging to be honest about my life - real and writerly - and that's how it's got to be. So - here we go...
This year has been a particularly badly-paid one on the writing front for all sorts of reasons. I've sold quite a few short stories, but no serials and very few features. Several acceptances have been payment on publication - and publication won't be until next year. My sales figures for the novels are frankly pretty disappointing. And the advance on my last two book deal was very, very small indeed. The smallest I've ever had in 10 years of being a novelist - and something I accepted because it was better than not being published at all (been there, didn't want to go there again). My (then) agent was ill and away from work at the time my contract came up for renewal and the negotiations were done more or less without any input from her. This was my choice. I didn't have to do it. I knew it would make things difficult financially, I knew I'd have to keep working in the pub, and I thought I'd be able to make up the difference with magazine work. My choice.
So, as with all my novel contracts, I assumed (note the dreaded "a" word there) that payments would be divided into four for each book as they always have been in the past: one on signature of the contract, one on delivery of the manuscript, one on publication of the hardback, and one on publication of the paperback. So far so good... Memo to self: read your contract! Read every bloody word. DO NOT rely on someone from your (then) agency (not my agent I hasten to add) emailing you to tell you "the terms are exactly the same as the last two contracts" and accepting this as a good enough reason NOT to plough through the small print yourself...
Yes, I've been happily sitting here, merely weeks before Christmas, thinking that all my festive spending (and it's not massive - but we do like to eat) and those bills that always come in with the Christmas cards (especially the last enormous vets bill), and possibly the purchase of a nice new little laptop from PC World (to replace the current crashing-and-freezing model) so that I can actually do some writing and earn some money, will be covered by the small but much-needed and very-welcome Happy Birthday paperback advance.
When it hadn't arrived earlier this week, I breezily emailed my lovely editor to ask when it would be paid. Bless her - she had to tell me that it already had been. In August. On publication of the hardback. That there was only ONE publication payment on this particular contract...
No money to come!!!! Not a bloody penny!!!!
And yes, it's my fault. I should have read my contract. I should have done my maths and realised that the money I was paid in August was actually a third of the contract deal - and therefore I'd had all I was going to get for Happy Birthday. I should have - but I didn't...
If I'd known/realised then I'd have budgeted. I'd not have spent it and the unexpectedly lovely German royalty money on silly things like bills and getting the decorating finished and a holiday for next year and a bit off the mortgage. If I'd known/realised that was the last money I was going to be paid this year then I'd have saved it - but I didn't...
So, after a few days of complete panic, a lot of stomping around declaring Christmas cancelled, several bouts of histrionic weeping and screaming, and even more bouts of deep, deep gloom, doom and despondency I've at last accepted the awful truth. This Christmas will be done on a shoestring. It will be a return to the Good Old Days.
It'll be a challenge but one we'll cope with, I'm sure. We've been through worse - and we're lucky, at least we've still got jobs and a home - and we're warm and safe and well-fed.
So - there you have it. I can have books in the charts, can win awards, can be published in umpteen countries - but I still can't afford Christmas. It's just one of the many unpredictable joys of being a writer... but oooh, how I wish I'd read that bloody contract....
Monday, 24 November 2008
Which, of course brings me neatly on to The Toyboy Trucker. I told you he'd get man flu didn't I? What a bloody palaver. Didn't matter how many times I said "it's just a cold" - he roared and shivered and stomped and groaned and moaned and sneezed and coughed until I thought he was going to burst. And of course no-one in the history of the universe has ever felt as ill as he did. No-one had ever suffered so much. No-one had had such a high temperature, such a sore throat, so many aches and pains... I was damn thankful when he took himself to bed with Lemsip and Benylin (do they sound like pole dancers to you, too?) and left me in peace alone with blissful hours of trash telly...
Which, in turn explains why this post is ages late - because then I caught it too. Not man flu, of course, I'll leave that to The Toyboy Trucker and Jonah and Dexter - but a really nasty cold with an awful chesty cough, which then developed into bronchitus and tonsillitus, and has meant I've had to have antibiotics, and has rendered me pretty unpleasant for the last week. I've even spent a few days in bed. And the computer has been on strike again, and I've really not had the inclination to even try to fight it - so I've done nothing to Moonshine, nothing to the WW stories, but did manage (after studying Womag's fantastic pages) to finish and submit that short story to Best, and two features to My Weekly and two features to Woman's Weekly as well. Still not a great output for someone who fondly imagines they're making their living from writing, even on an "ill week"...
Because the blog has been all over the place, I've not kept up to date with the Weight Watchers stuff either - well, because of the cold I didn't go to the meeting last week, but have lost another 3.5lbs in the last 2 weeks, which because my head is still too muddled to work this out, I think means I've lost half a stone now and have another stone to go before Easter - which is - um - 14lbs in about 17 weeks??? Which, allowing for about half a stone gain over Christmas (I kid you not!), then I have to lose 21lbs in 17 weeks, which means - and - ooooh! I really, really don't care!!!!
The only other thing that's changed in the last week is that Em-next-door is moving at Christmas. I'll really miss her - she's lived next door for seven years and we're good friends and had some great times. And of course we're all wondering who we'll get in her place... It'll have to be someone pretty special to fit in round here...
Watch this space...
Saturday, 22 November 2008
Ma-in-law is wearing red to the wedding. I think we're all wearing red except Elle. We'll look like Arsenal Ladies Second Eleven. Ma-in-law wanted a frou-frou cartwheel hat in black and red. She's quite short and Elle and I did say we thought a big hat would make her look like a mushroom. Fortunately she's a bit deaf too.
Nothing much else to say about the day really except The Toyboy Trucker declined to come with us because he has a cold. It'll be man flu by this time tomorrow - or I'll eat my hat....
Thursday, 20 November 2008
When I came out, Wilf had fallen off the ladder, Dave had cut himself and Jerome had eaten three rotten apples which I'd earmarked for the birds and some ham that was well past its sell-by and was set aside for the cats...
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Elle, of course, won't.
Anyway, I'm only talking about frocks because this afternoon Elle got a phone call to say that the bridesmaids' dresses had arrived and were ready for the first fitting. As only one of her bridesmaids was available, and because I love going the wedding frock shop, I tagged along. And oh my! They're gorgeous.
Sadly (because Elle now reads this blog) I'm not allowed to describe them in detail as everything to do with the wedding has to be a SECRET - but anyway, they're silk strapless designer cocktail frocks, boned and shaped to give maximum ooomph. And believe me they do. Elle's having her three closest friends as bridesmaids (they've been friends since infant school) and they're all glam blondes so they'll look absolutely stunning. N, the one available bridesmaid, turned up with no slap, scraped back hair, and dripping from today's non-stop rain. Then she shimmied into her dress and - wow! I went all misty-eyed. God knows what I'll be like next month when Elle's dress arrives from the designers (scary stuff - it's an Ian Stuart and cost as much as my first HOUSE!) and she puts it on for the first time... The frock shop ladies think I'm an emotional wreck now - they ain't seen nothing yet...
While Elle and N and the frock shop ladies fussed around about whether there was too much cleavage on show (I said there could never be too much cleavage in my opinion and got frowned at), and if there should be a tie belt or a silk wrap and if the bridesmaids' shoes (satin, killer heels, diamante buckle) should be dyed to match the frocks, I just drifted among the frou-frou rows and rows of satins and silks and lace and net and all that lovely glittery stuff and sniffed back happy tears...
I did try out a couple of fascinators (tricky little buggers - especially with wet hair) but they didn't look their best with my jeans and cagoule. Then, before I could become too besotted with some sparkly and way OTT jewelery, N shimmied back out of her frock and Elle said she thought it would be better if I didn't come when C and K try theirs on if I was going to cry so much and we went home.
However, that wasn't the end of the tears today, because I've now just wept with laughter at the local paper's coverage of the launch party. For a start they've stretched the head-and-shoulders photo to cover the whole of the top of one page - like a banner - but made it very thin so that the balloons and my face are elongated to about three feet wide and a couple of inches high (like when you look at yourself in the back of a spoon - er - you do do that, don't you? It isn't just me, is it? Is it? Oh - right...) and Ian (who is very tall and very skinny) looks exactly like a much-fatter much-squatter Matt Lucas... And you can't see hide nor hair of a bloody book.
Then there's the coverage... God bless local journalists for getting straight to the nub of the matter. It reads: "Christina Jones recently held her birthday party in the local book shop. As well as books there was an artist drawing goblins. Owner Ian Collett said "we were heaving all day"." No mention of it being The Bookstore's 10th birthday, or my book launch, or the fact that the book was called Happy Birthday and I was a local author. No mention of Jane at all. Oh, and the goblin artist had been engaged by Ian to sit in the children's section to keep the kiddies amused. And I can only assume Ian was heaving all day due to a surfeit of cake and fizz... Such typical local press coverage and absolute bliss!!!!
Weight Watchers update: I've lost 2lbs of last week's 4lb gain. Which means, I think, with the aid of my logarithm tables, that I'm now 3lbs lighter than I was when I started WW FIVE weeks ago but still 2lbs heavier than 2 weeks ago... Bugger. And we've got TWO parties this weekend... sigh...
Oh, and on a writerly note I've amazed myself with steaming ahead with Moonshine after weeks of faffing and procrastinating - somehow it seems to have suddenly all fallen into place - I just love it when that happens. And today I've sent 5 short stories to Allers in Sweden, 3 to People's Friend, and another off-the-wall one to Yours. I'm wondering if the TaB rejects might be any good for Best. I've never succeeded with Best - so, still dreaming about frocks and frills and flounces, I'm now off to look at Womag's brilliant subbing guidelines...
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
This is me, looking chubby and mumsy and dressed as Harry Hill (I thought I looked nice and smart and reasonably tidy for a change - didn't realise how huge the damn collar was until I saw the pics - sigh...) outside *my* window. I get so excited when I see my books on shelves in shops. I'm always so grateful and I don't think the magic will ever wear off.
The whole shop was awash with balloons and bunting and glittery stuff (and wine and cake) for the party, and it was lovely.
Fortunately the local press and photographers arrived early, so all the embarrassing pictures of me and Ian (the Bookstore's owner) fighting our way through bunches of balloons were taken before anyone arrived. Unfortunately, The Toyboy Trucker still managed to get this shot of me, Ian and the photographer as I was being eaten by balloons... "...no, that's it, love - we don't wanna see yer face - just the new book - that's it! Lovely! Nah - don't smile - no need, we can't see you... smashing... "
As with everything in our town, the event was flatteringly well-attended - (yes, I've done the soul-destroying signings in Strange Towns where there's been me and fourteen shop staff and absolutely no-one else all day) - mainly because a) if there's a bit of a crowd gathered anywhere here, people come and have a look in case there's been an accident or something exciting and b) there were balloons. We also had a bit of a scrum drummed up by the Town Crier in full traditional regalia, marching through the town ringing his bell and bellowing his birthday greetings from an unfurled parchment. He bustled into the shop (still ringing and shouting) followed by a lot of children, two dogs and several drunks. The mayor, also in full regalia, was slightly behind this raggle-taggle procession, but finally made it.
Then there was cake-cutting and champagne-popping and more balloons and lots of clapping. I smiled a lot and signed books - any books - and chatted to all and sundry. Most of the all and sundry were my friends and people from the estate who find the book stuff quite amusing. Still, they kindly bought copies of Happy Birthday and let me sign them - and there were even quite a few people who didn't know me from Adam and came along simply for the signing session which was very flattering. One woman seemed quite affronted that I'd actually written a whole book, by myself, and didn't live in London. She felt, she explained quite seriously, that I couldn't consider myself a proper author as everyone knew all writers lived in London, but she thought I'd done ever so well anyway...
My good friend and fellow-local-writer, Jane Gordon Cumming, was there as well, signing copies of her fabulous rom com A Proper Family Christmas (top tip: buy it for Christmas pressies - it's brilliantly funny) and was only a little fazed by some of the estate's more colourful residents. After meeting Vee, Jerome, Shaz and Memphis and a couple of The Toyboy Trucker's fellow drivers (all shaven heads, piercings and tattoos) who'd come along to offer their solidarity and see what there was for free, Jane said knowingly that she could see where I got my characters from... However, nothing but nothing could have prepared her for the arrival of the Snowdons.
The Snowdons also live on the estate, but not in our terrace, and I first met them during one of my evening shifts at Hairy Harry's. They'd come in for a meal - Mr and Mrs Snowdon, both in their seventies, and their middle-aged daughter Marcia - and it was they told me, the first time they'd ever eaten out. It showed. Hairy Harry's is a pretty run-of-the-mill estate pub with a fine pub grub menu - anything with chips - the Snowdons were Dressed Up for the occasion. In evening clothes dating back to the 1950s. Mr Snowdon had a tuxedo and a flat cap. Mrs Snowdon was wearing a fur stole. And Marcia looked like something from the Ascot scene in Pygmalion but possibly not Audrey Hepburn. I served them with Chicken New Yorker and Chips three times with extra tomato ketchup and three halves of shandy without batting an eyelid.
So, I really shouldn't have been surprised that they'd Dressed Up again for their visit to the Bookstore. This time they looked like rustic extras from an Agatha Christie adaptation. I was touched that they'd made the effort. It was, Mr Snowdon informed me and the whole shop, very loudly, their first visit to a book shop. He didn't hold with books. He'd never read a book. They gave you ideas. However, Marcia liked them so they'd come along. He then insisted on introducing me to everyone as Mrs Townsend "... she'm worth a mint, this gel... millions she'm got from that ol' book writing. Blame wrong if you asks me - why would anyone wanna pay money for them ol' books. Loada bloody rubbish she writes..."
Yes, I kept a straight face. I'm not sure about Jane - I didn't dare to look at her. Elle, who was there as moral support for just such an occasion, simply screamed with laughter and ran away, and The Toyboy Trucker staggered outside for a restorative cigarette. Anyway, I bravely signed a book for Marcia who curtsied (not that I can make any comment about this as when I was first introduced to Katie Fforde many years ago I was so star-struck that I also curtsied...).
Anyway, on the whole, the party went well. I sold nearly fifty copies of Happy Birthday, ate a lot of cake, drank too much fizz, and carried several balloons home while lustily singing Bobby Shaftoe.
And now I can't wait to do it all again next year!
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Because the computer has currently got the heebie-jeebies, this post should have appeared last Thursday and didn't - so it's a bit out of date, but I'm sure it won't matter and anyway it's only a bit of trumpet-blowing really. Soooo...
This was another of my early and naive writerly assumptions - that every book published just automatically ended up in book shops. Wrong! The publishers have reps who trawl the stores for months, wheeling and dealing and trying to get/buy shelf space for their latest titles. Some succeed, others don't. I've had two books that never appeared anywhere. They were available on Amazon etc, but as for real shops - not a sniff. I've no idea why this happens - but it does and has, and hopefully it won't happen with Happy Birthday...
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
And after he'd gone, and I'd staggered knee-deep in hungry cats to the kitchen, I found a hand-written anniversary card from him. Now, we don't usually do anniversary cards because we know how we feel and tonight's anniversary firework party says it all for us - but we've had a particularly trying year for all sorts of reasons, and he'd written:
"I just wanted to say thank you for sharing my hopes and dreams and for being wonderful. You support me, laugh with me, make my successes sweeter and my disappointments more bearable. I'm so lucky that you share my life. Where would I be without you? Happy anniversary - with all my love always..."
I was in bits! Awash! Schmaltzy? Maybe - I don't care. Bring it on! I thought it was just wonderfully romantic... All these years together and he can still surprise me and make me go - oooh!!!
And we're having fireworks and champagne and fish and chips on the village green outside the house tonight - and everyone turns up and joins in and it's great. We had a Novemberthe Fifth firework wedding (and an even more explosive wedding reception which is why the majority of our wedding photos have a paramedic in them) because we love fireworks... And to celebrate this and to give Heaven Sent another bite of the cherry (and because other people find it amusing, I think) Little, Brown have asked me to post a piece about my lifelong love of fireworks and the wedding day (I left out the bit about the paramedics because it's scary) on their website - so if you want to know what really happened (except not the bit involving the paramedics) go to.... www.littlebrown.co.uk/home
Now off to read that card again, feeling even more gooey and romantic and starry-eyed than usual...
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Yep - ELEVEN!
Eleven stories rejected in one hit.
I didn't even remember submitting eleven stories and thought there must have been a mistake and they'd sent me someone else's manuscripts as well - but no, sadly they were all mine. Take a Break must have been storing them up for ages to give me a lovely surprise... Eleven rejections in one go has to be a record - even for me. And despite me saying, when I subbed them, that if they weren't accepted then I didn't want the manuscripts returned, I've got them back in all their unwanted glory. And, as I've said, they all came in separate envelopes.
Eleven envelopes each containing one rejected story, one standard letter saying they were rejected as they weren't suitable, and one set of guidelines to explain to me what "suitable" is. Aaargh!!!!
Eleven rejections at once is a pretty good way to knock the bounce out of even the most cock-eyed optimist - and with the eleven unwanted and unloved manuscripts in front of me it makes it sort of even more gruesomely real... So, yes - sob! It's official. I'm a failure. No, worse than that, I'm a fat failure. I'm probably going to have to eat cheese. Or a Toblerone. Or both. Together.
Now (half a day on from the above litany of awfulness) I've stopped swearing and pouting and grizzling and behaving like a prima donna, and have taken notice of a) the guidelines, and b) my rejected stories, and c) re-read my latest copies of Take A Break and Fiction Feast, and have to grudgingly admit they might have a point. Okay, they might be right. All right - yes, they were right. Maybe my stories weren't quite suitable... just maybe... But I'd have appreciated them being not quite suitable in smaller quantities. The sheer volume of not suitableness is just a bit overwhelming.
So, being positive here, currently I'm sitting with eleven TaB rejections, five Woman's Weekly rejections, and that three-part serial that might just be okay for My Weekly when it's been rewritten with all the bleak bits removed... So, being even more positive, that means I've got sixteen already-written stories that just need a bit of a tweak (and a serial that probably only needs working on for a day or so!!!) - then all I need to do is find a new home for them... Piece of cake (oooh no! Don't mention cake!) - this writing game is easy-peasy - just have to try and work the eleven rather sordid TaBs into something nicely cosy for People's Friend, and cull the WWs into something sassy with a twist in the tail for TaB... There! Sorted! Bring on the next problem...
On the plus side, Little,Brown have sent me three great reviews for Happy Birthday which all appeared in papers over the weekend and it isn't even out yet. This cheered me up no end as everyone seemed to like it and said all the right things like - funny, warm, cheerful, humorous, charming, compassionate, well-observed characters, satisfying story lines, gentle, romantic and lovely.... Two of them even said they loved it, and they all recommended it as a Good Read.
I'm not bragging you understand - just trying to offset the grimness of ELEVEN rejections...
Sunday, 2 November 2008
I've got loads to blog about (Halloween, the Radio Oxford broadcast, organising the Happy Birthday launch party in Abingdon next Saturday, finally decorating the hall/stairs/landing, eating 6 chocolate meringues in Asda car-park, having a cold) but it'll have to wait because today I'm giving away books!!! New books! As-yet-unpublished books!
I'm really excited to have been included in a joint romantic novel giveaway with Harlequin Mills & Boon. Not only will the winner receive a signed copy of my latest bucolic frolic, Happy Birthday (okay, so it's out this week but it's not out yet), they will also get a signed copy of the sizzlingly sensational Dr Devereux's Proposal by Margaret McDonagh.
Margaret, as regular blog-readers will know, is one of my closest friends (and given to encouraging me to eat my body-weight in ice-cream, and to spilling the beans on most of my misdemeanors - as only truly good friends can), and she's been kind and generous enough to include me in her own HM&B giveaway.
Margaret is a terrifically talented and prolific author who writes warm, sexy, believable romantic novels about the most gorgeous medical men you'll ever meet, and the lovely, flawed and compassionate women who are lucky enough to get to fall in love with them, all set in glorious surroundings (Dr Devereux's Proposal is set in Cornwall and I was there). Oh, and I fell head-over-heels in love with Dr D on the first page!!!
You have two chances to win copies of these signed books. Simply answer the two questions at the end of this post – the answers can be found on Margaret's and my websites. Visit the NEW BOOK page on my website - http://www.christinajones.co.uk/ – for an extract of Happy Birthday. And at Margaret's website – http://www.margaretmcdonagh.com/ – for an extract for Dr Devereux's Proposal, found by going to the BOOKS page.
Margaret and I will each draw a winner next week and the two lucky people will get signed copies of both books. We'll both post the winner's names here and at Love Is The Best Medicine at http://medicalromance.blogspot.com/ the HM&B Medical Romance site, so do check back to see if it is you!
My question: What is the name of Phoebe's best friend and chief bridesmaid in Happy Birthday?
Margaret's question: What is the name of the greyhound Lauren has rehomed in Dr Devereux's Proposal?