Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Mighty Tome and mini successes

I finally finished the Tainted Tree edit, bar one or two short passages that need rewrites. In spite of that, I have started work on converting the whole file from Times Roman, double spaced to our usual font and single spaced; I’ve also adjusted the margins to book size. To my dismay, it is still about 380 pages long, about 40 pages longer than I’d previously imagined. I still have work to do; I’m going to disable Widows and Orphans where necessary. (Oh, the cruel things we writers have to do.) This might lose me a few pages, but it’s still going to end up with high printing costs.

Our Goldenford meeting was last night and went well. We were entertained by a description of someone’s trip to an erotic art exhibition, and it was downhill all the way, from then on. Despite all, our books are progressing and the copies of Thorn in the Flesh, Anne’s book have arrived, together with spares of the other books. So there’ll be no panic prior to the launch in February.

In the meantime, I was pleased to see that my short story for the Writers’ News competition, No Smoke without Fire, was shortlisted, and they printed a letter of mine, about my successful self-publishing of The Fruit of the Tree too. The short story was one I'd written for one WN competition, missed the boat, considered it for a second one - Anonymous Letter, I think - and finally got it off to this one by the skin of my teeth, thinking that the chance of there being another competition for which it was suitable was remote. Now I'll consider whether I can enter it for something else.
However, next week, I’ll have to concentrate on invoices and bookkeeping. It’s VAT time again and, much as I hate to admit it, bookkeeping is more valuable to our family than book writing – or publishing, if it comes to that. It’s also necessary to chase up some money and ditto above – I am more valuable with my accounts hat on, than with my writing fingers on the keyboard.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A small commune with nature

I feel I’m on the home strait regarding my edit, so I’ve had a bit of time off, this weekend. Had my usual chats with my children, yesterday, and also sat in the armchair and read the paper – well at least a part of the many volumes that one Saturday paper comprises. Also, I planted out three fat hyacinth bulbs that a buddy of M gave us; well to be precise, it was the scrap metal man, who cleared all the stuff from our shed. (Maybe it was more valuable than we thought.) Anyway, we had the hyacinths in a pot on the windowsill for the past few days, but the plants were lolling over, and the bulbs were too big for the pot, so they’re now in a bigger container in the garden, outside our front door. Before I could plant them, I had to remove something else, which I think was a fuchsia from last summer. However, there was also a conker in the pot, so I may have replanted a small oak tree.

Today, we’ve been out for a walk, because it was dry and sunny – and I believe more rain is forecast for the coming week. I looked carefully around my garden; some crocuses are coming up (very early), and a couple of snowdrops (but next year, there’ll be more – gardeners have to be patient and optimistic.)

It was a busy week, and more social than I expected or intended. My ex-bro-in-law rang up and asked if we could put him up for a night, as he was working in the area on Thursday and Friday. So we had a long chat over dinner on Thursday night. Strangely enough, my s-i-l, (his ex-wife) popped in for tea, the previous day, with her other half. My b-i-l was coming for dinner on Friday night. There is only one s-i-l left, and we didn't see her. Sometimes, it's all or nothing. However, putting in that extra bit of effort for visitors (in terms of dinners) is a bit tiring, so I deserved a rest this weekend.

Back to the Tainted Tree edit - when I have finished the half dozen pages of Anne and Irene’s comments, I am going through again to deal with some small factual problems. I’ve altered them once, and now decided it wasn’t necessary. I won’t describe the problem, as I hope that any readers won’t notice and won’t care anyway. I think in the end, thanks to the efforts of my editors, we will be producing a very professional product, as, indeed, all the Goldenford books have been.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Working through the comments

Carrying on with the giant edit, and I feel humble. I shall never again criticise any errors in a published book, nor any writer or editor who has made a mistake. There are loads and loads of omitted question marks, commas, etc. and words mistyped or misplaced, and even when I've read the word again, I've seen only what I thought should have been there. Anne ( and Irene ( have worked their socks off on this. I've reached page 16 of 26 of Irene's pages and 17 of 25 of Anne's pages. At this rate, I will be looking forward to getting on with the VAT next month. I'll report again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dots and commas

You may have thought I'd left the country. No, I have been glued to the computer, for what seems like days, tackling the big edit of Tainted Tree. I've only stopped to say hallo. I am astonished at how many question marks have gone missing and the number of misplaced commas and dots. Anne and Irene have done sterling work in their respective edits, and I am now dealing with the necessary alterations. They've each produced around 25 pages of comments, and I'm one third through. So see you all by Easter, I hope. And keep stopping by.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Life is too short …

… to stuff a mushroom, as Shirley Conran once put it. I should have known better, then, than to spend the most part of Sunday, stuffing mushroom sauce into vol-au-vents – followed by asparagus – followed by trout pate (not the same ones, you understand). At the last count, it was about 65 of them. I was expecting potentially 17 neighbours for drinks (postponed, if you remember from before Christmas.) In the event, a couple dropped out, and a couple who came, had to buzz off quickly because of a forgotten bridge supper; so I grossly over-catered. In addition to the above, I made two large pizzas, and provided mini blinis and wholemeal squares with smoked salmon and on and on, ad infinitum. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and lots of wine went, because no-one was driving. I’m glad I did it, but I did feel, at one point in the day, that though time flies as you get older, stuffing the vol-au-vents seemed to go on for ever, and take as long as a Latin lesson when I was 14.

What a relief it was to get out of the kitchen and back to my computer – and on the writing front, lots of nice little snippets of news.

First, my article on Self Publishing has been published on line by Laura of Hags, Harlots and Heroines (

Second, I’m delighted to say that Adrienne Dines, whose books are published by Transita, is happy for me to include her words of praise on the cover of Tainted Tree, and has in addition, offered lots of advice and support. She seems a really lovely person.

Finally, news of my novella, A Bottle of Plonk, published by Goldenford ( and Virtual Tales (USA) ( Claire at The Deli, North Camp, Farnborough, ( has released a copy into the wild, as part of the Book Crossing scheme. Also, one of the reading circle, at our last meeting, volunteered the unsolicited comment that he’d read A Bottle of Plonk and enjoyed it very much. I was delighted – I didn’t know he’d got a copy. He also added his comments to Amazon, saying: An ingenious and page-turning read. The author has created a written version of "La Ronde" but updated to present day mores. A first-rate read if you are looking for romance with sharp edges or worthwhile comment on widely varying relationships.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Books, Serials and Serial Killers

I’ve managed to squeeze out a tiny bit of writing in a fit of New Year resolve. It’s only a letter to Writers’ News, but I haven’t sent anything to them for a long time, and it’s a good muscle flexing exercise (now there’s so something I haven’t tackled for about three years, but this is not the time for too many new resolutions). I’ve also completed a story for one of the WN competitions and I’ll be reading that out to Guildford Writers ( which starts up again tonight, and if all’s well, will send it off before the end of the month deadline. I am of course, slowly working through the editing of Tainted Tree, but not too much panic on that, because publication isn’t till May.

A Bottle of Plonk, in the meantime, is working its way up the list of books published in 2007 in an online poll created by Editors and Creditors Many of these books were published on line, but Anne Brooke’s print book A Dangerous Man is at 5th place under novels (mystery). Mine, which like Irene’s was published on line by Virtual Tales ( is in the Romance section; Irene’s The Moon’s Complexion is in Other Novels. Please, if you’ve read or liked any of our books, go to the site and vote for us. This is not a case of winning prizes – we don’t want or expect them; it’s simply to raise the profile of our books to the online community. If you haven’t read the Virtual Tales books, you can download them very cheaply and even read them as a serial.

I’m currently listening to We need to talk about Kevin, the serial on Woman's Hour on Radio 4, having read it a couple of years ago. The author, Lionel Shriver (a woman) has never had a child and doesn’t want one. I imagine she has projected her feelings into the middle class mother of a serial killer in this novel, and has imagined that not having maternal feelings might affect the child. I don’t think this is true, because I wasn’t maternal when I had my son. I learned to be a mother over time. Even so, though it is a painful and shocking book to listen to, it’s marvellously written, with a remarkable lightness of touch – and even humour. Don’t be put off, because you think you won’t like it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Introverts, extroverts and noises in the night

With the family gone and life getting back to normal, I consulted my list. There were at least three or four phone calls to be made, calls I’d delayed on the first couple of days of the new year giving myself the excuse that my brain hadn’t started work yet. But two of them were invites to a social evening next weekend. I’d promised I’d try to rearrange my Neighbour Do and I couldn’t delay asking any longer. Fortunately, I’d caught some of the potential guests at the drinks gathering on New Year’s Eve. I would so much rather talk to people in the flesh – or write to them. What is it about the phone that is so off-putting. True, I do talk to my children regularly on the phone, but then I know them. I don’t need visual signals in the same way that I do with people I don’t know too well. I think it’s the mark of an introvert that they/we prefer writing things down to picking up the phone.

I gritted my teeth and did it all in one go – rather like taking a whole batch of pills with one swallow. I spoke to two answerphones – how pleased I was with that – no social interaction, just a message – and one of them has already replied. Another of the calls was to one of the judges of the Winchester Writing Festival. She had contacted me in response to my request to use her words when Tainted Tree is published next May. She said she was emailing me, and the email didn’t arrive. I was able to leave a message there too. Having done so well, I rang the hairdresser too and booked a trim for next week. My hair has been hopeless – both floppy and fluffy - since I last went. Don’t know if it’s the weather, the shampoo, or my age.

M had an appointment with another doctor and I went with him to make sure he didn’t forget anything. While I was trying hard to get over and receive information, M seemed determine to ramble on with anecdotes. I got the impression that he thought it was up to him to entertain the doctor. Maybe he’s even worse than normal when I am with him, on the basis that he has an audience of two. M has not a grain of introversion in him. If a thought pops into his head, he has to let it out. There have been times at the social gatherings recently, when I have been inclined to say to him, ‘Too much information.’ Yesterday, there were moments when I felt like saying that to the doctor too. But then that’s job.

The Son&Heir telephoned a couple of days ago. He was worried about a noise in his house, which he thought might be running water. M discussed this with him at length, suggesting finally that he should access the boxed-in stopcock and turn the water off. The S&H rang again last night. He had done this and it hadn’t made any difference. The noise went on and on, and he couldn’t trace it. When they all went to bed, the noise disturbed GD1 and she couldn’t sleep and had to swap beds with S&H. He woke up at five in the morning as the sound was still going on. He called a plumber who was due to come this morning. Finally D-i-l conducted a search of every room, trying to locate the sound – and yesterday evening, she found it. The source of the non-stop high pitched sound, which had probably attracted all the dogs in the neighbourhood was GD3’s (obviously neglected) tamagotchi.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New pages in the book

Foolish optimist that I am, but there’s something about the new pages in a diary – like snow as yet untrampled, the white pages seem to offer opportunities - new, exciting and as yet unknown. Yes, I know that the date is really arbitrary and meaningless, and I haven’t even got a diary to write on, other than this virtual one. Still I can’t shake off this childish or childhood feeling.

Already events are being planned – a wedding, a family trip to an opera, a birthday lunch in March; two Goldenford events - Anne’s book launch in February – mine in May – all occasions to look forward to.

The Son&Heir has visited with his clan. They arrived on Saturday, just after midday, when I was listening to Moneybox on Radio 4, contemplating high finance in 2008. When M shouted, ‘The family’s here,’ I was taken aback. I rushed out and told them, ‘You’re a day early,’ to which my son replied, ‘Aren’t we going to the theatre today?’ In a great panic, I inspected the tickets, but no, it was as I thought, they were dated 30th December. So then I had to magic up a lunch. Thank goodness for pasta. My storecupboard stand-by, tuna pasta bake was duly served up. I still had to go to Sainsbury’s to get extra fruit, etc. later on, and GD1, now a very sensible (some of the time) 9 year old accompanied me. In the supermarket, I met someone, who, like me, had a cot death some years ago. GD1 asked me how I knew her, and I told her. After we talked about it, she said, almost as if reading my mind at that moment, that she didn’t think it would be sensible to tell her younger sister about it, in case it worried her.

GD3 (now 6), is however, quite pragmatic herself. At the theatre the next day, she told me she thought that Peter Pan might be better on the television, as you could make sure the strings holding him up, when flying, would not show, whereas in the theatre, they did (very slightly) . You could do all sorts of things with computers, she assured me. Apparently, so I hear, she also told another small person, accompanied by a parent, on some earlier occasion that there was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. ‘Don’t you know it’s your parents?’ she said. The parent, apparently, was quite upset at GD3’s revelation to her offspring. GD3, nevertheless, yesterday sporting a gap in her front teeth, had no objection to accepting a pound from the Tooth Fairy. Nor did she mind, in case you’re wondering, shouting at the top of her voice that she believed in fairies, when it was required to save Tinker Bell’s life.

The family left yesterday morning, and we had a very pleasant early evening with several of our neighbours, before bringing in the New Year at home.

Politics on a global scale may leave us wondering if there can be room for any optimistic thoughts, but I hope that all my actual and virtual friends can look forward to a very Happy New Year – peace, health and prosperity in 2008.