Friday 30 January 2009

Mixed Emotions

A bit of a sensible writerly blog post today - so, as usual with my chosen "career", this means some good news and some not so...

First the good because it's cheered me up no end. My lovely editor has responded to my cries of desperation and extended the Moonshine deadline until the end of February. Yay!!! I now have FOUR whole weeks to finish it - and I WILL!!! You have no idea(or maybe you have...) what a relief this is. I'm so happy!!! Because I write in a sort of muddle (no? really?) and don't plot or plan, it isn't just a question of having to type stuff up - it's got to come out of my head, down my fingers and on to the keyboard first.

However, the book is already written in my head, the sort of rough fuzzy framework is actually down on paper (well, on the screen) and the research is done. All I needed was enough time to pull it all together into book-shape. And now I've got it. So - a huge THANK YOU to Emma for not screaming, swearing, spitting (at least, not in my hearing) or sacking me on the spot as the most useless author that ever lived...

Moonshine is now romping ahead and I'm smiling.

And the bad writerly news - well, should have known really... The long short story commissioned by Woman's Weekly which I abandoned Moonshine to write-and-send in the hope it would bring in some much-needed money, has been rejected. Now, I honestly don't expect to sell everything I sub - I've been writing short stories for long enough not to expect that, nor do I have any sort of over-inflated opinion of my abilities, BUT I'm so miffed because I wrote exactly what I was asked to write: 5-6,000 words, humorous, another one in the series of my odd childhood tales. I really liked Take Your Partners - but sadly, WW didn't. They said "nothing original here", "some nice touches but not enough for us to use it", "this one isn't suitable for us" etc etc.

With hindsight, I've worked out that I've not sold anything to WW since their editorial changes and their fiction guidelines altered - and they published nearly everything I subbed before - soooo, I can only surmise that I'm not now what they're looking for, and I've decided I'm going to give them a miss for a while. I've still got about 5 ordinary shorts that they've rejected, and the three-parter serial (also asked for) - and most of them certainly can't go anywhere else as they are and I don't have time to rewrite them for other markets until Moonshine is out of the way. This has given me a sulky face and a full-on disgruntled pout....

Anyway, on the glass half full side, I've got my extended deadline which is far more important at the moment, so that'll give me a happy smiley face soon - pretty damn soon... but in the meantime I'm a sulky, flouncing, grrr-ing rejected dejected writer...

Buggeration!!!!! (as my mum used to say)

Sunday 25 January 2009

And I Only Went In To Buy Cat Food...

What a to-do! And I'd only abandoned Moonshine (another chapter written today but still nowhere near meeting the deadline, but it's all going well at the moment so I'm optimistic that maybe in about three weeks I'll have a book - don't hold me to that though!) for a few minutes to pop across the road to the Eight til Late (there has been a bit of a Store Wars here recently as rivals have set up across the green with a more daring Seven til Eleven - but I'm still faithful) to grab some cat food.

Before becoming indispensable (???) behind the bars at the Weasel and Bucket and Hairy Harrys, I used to do a few hours in the Eight til Late, and Ravi is one of the nicest bosses I've ever had, always slipping me a few ounces of pineapple chunks (the retro-sweets-in-a-jar sort, not the tinned fruit in syrup which would be very messy), or a quarter of haslet (he never grasped that as a vegetarian, haslet wasn't really ever on my menu - anyway I used to give it to Maudie next door for Wilf's sandwiches, so it went to a good home) at the end of my shift. Anyway, as usual, I've digressed...

There I was, pushing my way through the throng that always gathers by the "special offers" basket - this week consisting mainly of Christmas puddings, mince pies, After Eights with snowflakes on them, and a selection of rather dented novelty Santas - when I became aware that the crowd round the counter was even more frantic than usual. The customers in The Eight til Late would put any City trading floor to shame the way they wave their arms around and shout and barter for a good price, so we're used to a bit of noise, but today it was total mayhem.

Ravi's wife, Shulie, who is usually the epitome of calm unflappability, was yelling into her mobile phone for an ambulance and directing some sort of military operation at the same time, egged on by a lot of very verbal pensioners in woolly hats. By the time I'd managed to grab two boxes of As Good As It Looks (it isn't by the way - The Toyboy Trucker inadvertently tried some once after a night shift and was sick) and found a gap near the counter, I could see what all the fuss was about.

Big Lorna, the Eight til Late's part-time assistant, had gone into labour just in front of the "Eastern Delights" chiller cabinet. This was something of a shock I think (to everyone else I mean, presumably not to Big Lorna) as no-one had actually noticed that she was pregnant.

Fortunately, once she'd called the ambulance, Shulie managed to get Big Lorna out of her tabard and away from the shelf of sardine samosas as they were on pensioners' special and some of the older estate residents wouldn't have been averse to scrambling over Big Lorna to reach a bargain. As I'm pretty squeamish and luckily my close-encounters with childbirth have been minimal, I stood well back, but I did suggest to Shulie that it might be a good idea to get Big Lorna out of her tights and sandals too - otherwise it would be like Daphne on Neighbours who gave birth without removing a single item of underwear.

The ambulance arrived remarkably quickly. They're very good, the emergency services, at turning up to things on the estate. I suppose they always know it's genuine. And once the paramedics had thrust their way through the audience and managed to stop Big Lorna biting them (her language - always ripe - was frankly appalling), it only took them seconds to shovel her up onto a stretcher. Everyone stood back like Moses parting the Red Sea and clapped as she left the shop.

The Eight til Late went pretty quiet after that, and I paid for the cat food and came home and back to the computer, wondering if I could incorporate an unexpected corner shop birth scene in Moonshine, and eventually decided I couldn't as it would probably be edited out.

Heard later from Shaz and Nikki that Big Lorna gave birth in the back of the ambulance in a lay-by on the A34. Shaz said it wouldn't be the first time Big Lorna had been legs-akimbo in a lay-by on the A34 which I thought was pretty harsh. True, though... Anyway, she's called the baby Clint. She says it's after one of the paramedics. Shaz and Nikki reckon it's because it was fathered by the cowboy builder who came to repair her guttering last summer. Mother and baby are doing well.

Friday 23 January 2009

Suits You

More excitement on the wedding front - the first fitting of the suits for the boys in the wedding party! Again, not your usual trip to Moss Bros, oooh no, Elle and The Doctor have hooked up with a wedding suit hire company that comes to the house!!! So, yes, poor Moonshine got a bit sideswiped while I rushed around making coffee and sandwiches while the wedding party boys - The Doctor, his brother who's Best Man, The Toyboy Trucker as Father of the Bride, and J and T the ushers - were measured and tweaked and primped and preened by an extremely pretty girl from the outfitters. Despite all the early grizzles and moans that it was all too girly and not for real men and surely any old suit would do, they absolutely loved it and were soon swaggering around like a load of Gok Wans!

The suits are all going to be the same - long coats, baggy-ish trousers, white shirts, cream, gold and scarlet embroidered waistcoats and scarlet floppy ties. The Doctor's suit is going to be gold and the rest are in black. Even in the embryo stages they looked absolutely stunning - so unbelievably glamorous - and, yes, I had to sneak off and have a little cry...

The next fitting will be in a couple of weeks and I can't wait.

The invites must have arrived okay because we've already had a few phone calls along the lines of:
"Thanks for the invitation - it sounds fantastic - can't wait - er - but you only put me and Horace down and not the kids..."
"Er - yes, we all really want you and Horace to be there and -"
"But Snot, Crap, Puke and Mungo aren't on there and they so love a party and they're really looking forward to it. Was it a mistake?"
"Um, look - Snot, Crap, Puke and Mungo aren't on the invitation because they're not invited."
"What! But the kiddies all enjoy a wedding! They love to run around and mess about and dance and -"
"Exactly. Sorry, but neither Elle nor The Doctor want any children at the wedding."
"You've got to be joking?"
"No, deadly serious. It's their choice, their decision. This is to be an adults-only affair. A child-free zone."
"But that's not fair!"
"It's their wedding, they're paying a fortune for their perfect day to be perfect - and they don't want children there. They really want you to be there to help them celebrate their marriage, but they don't feel it's suitable for children."
"Look, it's going to be a long day, a lot of eating and drinking and various grown-up things going on - an awful lot of weddings these days don't have children - you can surely find a baby-sitter?"
"Maybe - but we've always had children at weddings and - "
"Elle and The Doctor decided they didn't want anyone's little darlings yelling, shouting, or crying through the service, messing around with the very, very expensive food, running around or doing knee-slides across the dance-floor - I'm sure Snot, Crap, Puke and Mungo will be really well behaved, but not everyone is as good a parent as you. So, sorry, no children..."
"We'll put you and Horace down as a yes, then shall we?"
"Yes - well, maybe - I don't know if we can both come - one of us may have to stay at home with Snot, Crap, Puke and Mungo..."
"Let's hope not - but you've got 3 months to sort out childcare, haven't you? Looking forward to seeing you. Love to Horace. Bye!"

Yes, we all knew this no-children thing was going to be contentious. But Elle and The Doctor have maintained right from the start that they only wanted adults, and as far as I'm concerned it's their day and I can honestly see their point of view. Hopefully most of the guests will eventually see it too.

The one thing that should cheer all the invitees up is that as well as no children it's a no-presents wedding too. Elle and The Doctor say they have everything they could possibly want or need, and all they want is for friends and family to be there to have a wonderful time at their all-day and almost-all-night celebrations. So, even if the kiddies are no-no, at least those on the invitation list won't have to fork out for a gift.

I really, really hope that'll go some way to mollifying those who at the moment are more than a little affronted at the exclusion of their offspring - but somehow I doubt it...

Wednesday 21 January 2009


I'm still ploughing away at Moonshine. I've written another chapter. I'm nowhere near meeting the official deadline, my self-imposed deadline, or any other bleeping deadline... There have been distractions.

Lennox (at 17, she's now our senior cat and a very fit, active and healthy old lady) was suddenly taken really ill on Sunday night. Monday was spent at the vet's - Lennox being operated on, me pacing the floor, wringing my hands, my mind on all sorts of awful outcomes (well, after all-too-recent similar scenarios with Carlo and Clyde and the awful results of their investigative surgery, my hopes weren't high) and certainly not on Moonshine.

By Monday evening Lennox was back home, eating her head off, purring, fully restored to rude good health with her own medicine cabinet full of antibiotics, anti-inflammatorys, and pain relief. I was a gibbering wreck with a zero-word count for the day and a further gaping £175 hole in the illegal overdraft...

On Tuesday, the distraction loomed in the shape of The Writers Bureau 20th Anniversary Awards. Ages ago I'd been thrilled to be asked to be a judge for these awards and happily agreed, completely forgetting that this judging had to take place in January. So, yesterday I had to abandon Moonshine and everything else and immerse myself in the shortlist. Fortunately, all the short-listees are anonymous so there's no chance of me being swayed in either direction by anyone whose name I might know and/or recognise. I still haven't reached my decision - they're all brilliant - and as with any piece of writing that isn't mine, I'm totally in awe of the talent, the emotion, the humour, the sheer creativity that other people manage so effortlessly and which always seems to elude me and I've tended to sulk...

Then last night, just as I thought I might manage to write a Moonshine sentence, Em-next-door (as was) turned up (haven't seen her since she moved) and we had a lovely evening catching up and speculating on who might move into her house once the decorators have moved out, and discussing her outfit for The Wedding, and making plans for a girls' night out as soon as Moonshine is finished (sometime in 2010 then).

This morning I was up really early, filled with high hopes for a clear writing day - at least three chapters (well, okay, maybe two) of Moonshine beckoned... Then I got distracted by the wonderful womag (again). I made the mistake(?) of popping over to her blog - - again, can't recommend this highly enough for anyone who wants to write short stories, features, articles - for those who don't know, womag is unbelievably generous with the time she spends sourcing markets, and in her generosity in sharing the information on her blog. Her latest post is about writing features, fillers, letters etc for a whole raft of magazines (again some I'd never tried) - sooo, thanks to womag I've now written and sent another short-short story to Best, a health feature to Take A Break, and a true-life story to Real People. Moonshine never got a look in... I NEED to be earning while I'm writing and this seems to be the only way. A note on the Real People sub though - I received an auto-email back saying they'd received my piece and they are always on the look-out for true stories about "love-rats, tragedies and medical miracles". Mmmm - mine wasn't any of those, being more jaunty and feel-good - so I somehow feel that one might not be a hit...

So - now it's late and I'm just going to open the Moonshine file and I'll probably just faff about taking commas out and putting them back in again. Oh, dear....

Sunday 18 January 2009

Open Invitation

This is Lord Ganesh. Ganesh is the Hindu elephant god who is The Remover of Obstacles, The Bringer of All Good Things, The Master of Intellect and Wisdom - and he also has a very sweet tooth. I love Ganesh - The Doctor gave me a tiny Ganesh to sit by my computer - and I think the vibrant colours and gilding and glitz and sparkle are fantastic. Also, Ganesh features heavily in Elle and The Doctor's wedding (hence today's subject line)and will also feature later in today's post.

Anyway, because I've incorporated Ganesh into my own personal hotch-potch of beliefs, I've decided to forget all the whingeing of the past few weeks (sorry for inflicting it on you too - but this is my Dear Diary let-off-steam safety valve) - after all, there are millions of people worse off, we've still got jobs, and I've been through far more worrying times in my chequered writing career - and wallowing in self-pity isn't going to help anyone, especially me. So, in this new state of enthusiasm and optimism, I've written two and a bit chapters of Moonshine since Thursday (it's now Sunday - I think...).

I'm not sure if they're good chapters but I'm not going down the old route of re-reading them now and tweaking and messing about with them so that by NEXT Thursday I'll still have only written two and a bit chapters... By the end of today I intend to have turned that *bit* into a third chapter and started a fourth. Ho-ho-ho!

I did start writing two chapters at once (I have two separate viewpoint characters in Moonshine - Cleo and Elvi - and was giving them a chapter each) but I got into a bit of a muddle so I might have to abandon that plan... And, being me, and despite KNOWING that all I should be doing is writing Moonshine I've been sidetracked by a) Woman's Weekly and b) the wedding stuff.

One of my backlogged emails was from Woman's Weekly asking if I could do a long/short story (around 5,000 words) for their Fic Spec. So, yesterday and last night and very early this morning I did and I've just sent it. No - I know I shouldn't have, BUT my thinking here was that if I wrote it and sent it WW *might* just love it and buy it which would bring in more money to shore up the bank while I'm writing Moonshine. And also, if a magazine actually asks for something you should produce it pdq unless you're dead because if you don't then they'll find someone else who can deliver and probably never ask you again... So, Take Your Partners is winging its way to WW as we speak and I have my fingers tightly crossed.

And the wedding stuff - well, yes, I also wasted valuable Moonshine time by sending out the invitations. Elle and The Doctor wanted to stick with the tradition of the bride's parents sending the invites, so The Toyboy Trucker and I were delighted to oblige. In my day, according to the wedding etiquette books, you sent out the invitations a maximum of 6 weeks before the Big Day. Now apparently, because everyone has such busy lives, it has to be three months beforehand to make sure everyone leaves a window - so they went yesterday...

Elle and The Doctor are financing the wedding themselves (phew!) - although of course we will chip in with a bit of help as soon as the bank account is back in the black (again - thank Ganesh and God for PLR!) - and they had the invitations designed and made in India. They're absolutely stunning in scarlet linen with masses of sparkly jewels on them and a really cute Ganesh sitting at the top. The invitations will, I hope, indicate to those far-flung friends and family who receive them and who have not yet had the immense pleasure of meeting The Doctor (yes, he is - a doctor and Indian - oh, and absolutely gorgeous), that this isn't going to be a totally conventional wedding...

It's going to be a half-and-half celebration, with some traditional English stuff and a lot of Indian things too (like the two meals: the wedding breakfast straight after the service and champagne reception is going to be traditional sit-down Western, while the evening meal is a full-blown Eastern feast - and the music - they're having a harpist for the ceremony, and a rock band and a bangra band for the evening shindig). The service itself is completely non-denominational (the stately home has done a lot of half-and-half weddings so they were fine with that) and the chapel will be all white and flowery and Western, but the rest of the decor is going to be mostly Hindu - which I LOVE because it means loads and loads of colour and candles and lights and really beautiful flamboyant gorgeous fabrics - with a huge splash of Bollywood thrown in for good measure.... Sorry - getting carried away a bit - but I'm SO looking forward to it...

Now down to earth - oh, speaking of which - we did have a bit of excitement here last night. In the middle of the storm (storm? it was a flipping tempest!) while the roof was being ripped off our shed and everyone's garden furniture was flying through the air, one of the trees in the little wood at the end of the terrace (next to Nancy's house) was blown down. It was a mature tree, a good twenty-foot silver birch (shame), and crashed right across the road. It was so lucky that no-one and nothing was anywhere near it - and no damage was caused except to the poor tree. As our roads here are single track, we all rushed out - the noise was incredible and terrifying, like a tower block collapsing - and tried to move it. Of course we couldn't - so the police closed the road, and at the moment we're cut off from the rest of the village while the fire brigade (yay!) and a crane hack and haul the poor tree out of the road...

I will now drag myself away from the window and get on with Moonshine. I will... I will... I will...

Thursday 15 January 2009

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Ooops - sorry. I've been a Bad Blogger again - but I've just been completely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that had accumulated during my illness and the computer's absence. Not least by three backlogged emails from my publisher saying a)they expect Moonshine to be delivered by the end of January latest, b) they've booked Moonshine's copy editing for early Feb and c) Moonshine is going into production in mid-Feb.

Now this all sounds very efficient and encouraging - but when you're the one writing Moonshine and it's now mid-January and you've only done 5 chapters...

See my problem????

So - I'm writing like stink to try and do it. No, I know and you know it's not possible, but I'm not going to admit that yet. Not to myself and certainly not to my publishers... Yes, I've told them that because I've lost over a month's writing time that I'm miles behind but that doesn't seem to be a good enough reason...

So, I've set myself a sort of manic target - like, if I write two chapters a day I might just do it. Hah! Or, maybe if I write at least 7,000 words a day, every day, I might be close. Double hah! Or, perhaps, if I live on Red Bull and other stimulants and give up sleeping and eating and any sort of life at all and just sit here and type, it might just turn into a finished 100,000 word book in two weeks... hah-de-hah-de-hah!!!

Anyway - to alleviate the panic about the deadline and my lack of book - I've been thinking about the things that are currently making me cheerful (glass half full every time!).

First is the reason for the pic - hot water bottles! Pure bliss in this freezing winter - we were down to minus 12 the other night and they're forecasting snow again next week. So, The Toyboy Trucker and I have reverted to childhood - wrapping the PJs round the bottles before bedtime, then snuggling into the warm hollow and having the bottles on our feet. The cats love them too. So much pleasure for absolutely no financial outlay!

And I feel so much better. It's great to feel well again after so many weeks of being ill.

Then there's my PLR statement - and the money to be paid in early Feb. Oh, thank the lord for PLR. This year it's absolutely BRILLIANT and I'm not even thinking that most of it will probably have to pay the January tax bill (a bit of a downer, always having to pay the tax bill on a good year's earnings from money in a year when I've earned sod all - and no, I don't put any away for the tax bill as you're supposed to. Are you kidding? I have to live on every penny I earn...) - it's still a lovely wodge of cash and something my poor bank account hasn't seen for MONTHS. And it means that however bad the book sales seem to be, lots of people borrow my books from libraries which means they DO like them and I DO have readers out there. Sadly, my PLR earnings and the payments from my magazine work currently make up a much larger chunk of my writing income than the books... Maybe next year this will all change???

Next, it's only 12 weeks until The Wedding!!! We're all so excited - and Elle has her final fitting of the gorgeous, fantabulous Ian Stuart dress at the end of Jan and I shall be awash... And having now lost the December 5lbs and some more, I now have 12 weeks to lose 11lbs to be able to fit into the m-o-t-b frock - and I honestly think I can do that!!! Oh, and as I've lived in the red satin killer heels indoors ever since I bought them (they look fab with my PJs - vbg) I'm getting used to them and don't even wobble on them now...

Then there's the weather - I LOVE cold weather (sorry Debs) - and have taken every opportunity to do my walking in snow showers and freezing fog and frost - and it's cheered me up no end. And it's lovely to come home all glowing... And I can wear my beloved ancient collection of woolly hats (mostly berets in bright colours with sparkly bits on them) and fluffy scarves - none of these have seen the light of day for ages because of the recent mild winters...

And yesterday, while rooting around in our local clothes shop (they're having a massive sale and I'm ever hopeful) I found some real linen sun dresses reduced from £40 to - wait for it - £1!!!! £1!!!! I bought 4 (one in each colour)! I've never bought four dresses in one go - and they fit like a dream and skim my lumpy bits and look wonderfully expensive... Can't wait for the fabulous summer we've been promised to show them off (Debs, you've been warned!)...

And finally - the Toyboy Trucker's firm cancelled their Christmas dinner-dance party because everyone had various bugs and lurgies and they're now having it in a couple of weeks time instead, but because it's after Christmas and everywhere is offering really cheap prices, they're going to put us all up in a 5-star hotel as well - so, I'll get to wear a posh frock and swan about in luxury and forget about being broke and depressed about Moonshine (even if it is only for one night)...

So - I'm happy. No, I am, honestly. And now I'm going back to chapter 6 of Moonshine while chanting "I can do this.. I can do this... I can do this..."

Monday 5 January 2009

Rumours of My Death...

... have been greatly exaggerated - although my prolonged enforced blog silence has been because both the computer and I have been bed-ridden for most of December. The computer was in hospital (released today - fully recovered - yay! I can work again!!!) - and fortunately I managed (just) to avoid hospitalisation this time... My Epstein-Barr seems to choose the most inconvenient moments to chuck up a few sneaky viruses - but as I was already at a pretty low ebb (thanks to all the accumulated writerly/money crap etc), and everyone I know seems to have had at least three bouts of something unpleasant in December, I think it was bound to happen...

Anyway, not going to dwell on it, I'm feeling much better, a bit scared at having missed an entire month of writing - but had no choice - and am now raring to go. Always feel quite keen on everything at the beginning of January. The enthusiasm has usually waned into my usual boredom and inertia by about the 14th...

Many thanks to everyone who emailed me to see if I'd slit my wrists. Have just opened my backlogged emails (hundreds of them) and will answer them asap - promise - but you're brilliant to care. Made me cry...

One thing I've learned though: don't ever think that if you pay a few months money into your mortgage account - as I did when flush with the German royalties - it'll cushion you when you have a shortfall as we did in December. The bank rang to say there wasn't enough in the account to pay the mortgage; I said no because I'd miscalculated my December income on a huge scale but not to worry as I paid three months mortgage money into the account earlier in the year so that would cover us, wouldn't it? Silence. Then they said no, that an over-the-top deposit didn't entitle you to a mortgage payment "holiday" - you couldn't just not pay for a month or two - all it did was reduce the overall amount you owed. What I should have done, apparently, was put the three months mortgage money into a savings account and then drawn on it when things went financially tits up in December... Sooo, we missed out on paying the mortgage in December and will now have to pay twice in Jan - oh joy!!!

Other things that went by the board during December as well as the mortgage - apart from Christmas (well, being broke didn't matter too much as I was too ill to give a stuff!) - Weight Watchers, wedding plans, writing anything at all, giving a toss about writing, eating, drinking, being even slightly sociable... And Em-next-door moved which upset me because I just felt like I was losing everything. We still don't know who's moving in - do hope it'll be someone as lovely as Em - she was the best possible neighbour and friend.

Now have to get a grip - will (if I spend 20 hours a day at keyboard) deliver Moonshine by the end of January; will start dieting and will be skinnied into the m-o-t-b frock by April (somehow managed to gain 5lbs over Dec - despite not being able to eat/drink); will sort out wedding invites/accommodation for guests travelling from a distance/practice walking in m-o-t-b red satin four inch killer heels (FIVE quid in the sales); will write two new synopsisisisisisi for next book deal (ever the optimist!!!); will buy magazines and tailor stories/features instead of my current random scatter gun approach - and will definitely stop procrastinating and bloody do something about the stuff that infuriates/scares/worries/upsets me.

Oh, yes - and I'll blog. I've really, really missed it....