Friday, February 29, 2008

The Wooster Auntie's lost in Space

I’ve finished the VAT, and it’s been paid in - on the last day of the month. Thank goodness for an extra day’s grace this Leap Year. I needed it.

I’m still discovering what I’ve lost in my old computer and one thing is my website. That is to say - it still exists in cyberspace - - but I can’t access it to edit it. The only file that relates to it on my computer is about four years old. Another back-up failure. The only way I can update my website with info about Tainted Tree is first to download what was originally on it. Otherwise, I will almost certainly upload a great deal of ancient information by mistake. Unfortunately, I have also lost my FTP program, and although I’ve downloaded another one, I haven’t yet worked out how to use it. It’s probably necessary for me to enlist the aid of the 19 year old son of our neighbours.

We had a fun time at Anne’s launch on Wednesday. I was in charge of taking money and introducing Anne. Fine on the first front - and lots of sales, so that was good. We are also getting in orders to the Goldenford website. Thorn in the Flesh is a gripping read and deserves to do well. But quite without meaning to, I may have dropped Anne in it. I assumed everyone knew about Anne’s blog - she has thousands of friends, after all. Could her work colleagues really have been innocent of this? And oh dear, the photo of me doing the reading. I look like someone’s elderly aunt - undoubtedly, one of the sort of aunts who are always tactlessly saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. A sort of Bertie Wooster auntie.

This weekend will be quiet; we haven’t any plans. I still have some important letters to catch up with, but at least some of the urgent stuff has been dealt with. I will probably speak to the children. We were in Cambridge three weeks ago to see the family, and GD1 amused us by saying very earnestly to M, ‘How is the engineering getting on, Grandpa?’ However, we shouldn’t laugh, because I suspect her talent lies with relating to people. We walked together to Waggamamma’s for a family lunch out and she asked me what I’d been doing. I told her about the Reading Circle and the Writers’ Circle, the office work and the book which is to be published. I described the story, omitting the adult themes, just telling her about my adopted heroine’s quest to find out about her real parents. I declined to tell her the ending, as she’d be broadcasting it to the nation. Still if I don’t get some publicity out soon, GD1 may be the only person interviewing me on the subject.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Life without technology

It’s been a frustrating fortnight. First of all there were the hours I spent, editing and formatting Tainted Tree. By the time I sent it to the printer, I’d played around with lines and line-spaces and bits in italics so much, I’d forgotten whether the story was any good. I hope it is. I have invested a great deal of my time and affection on this book. Only another couple of months before I find out how it’s received.

After I sent it off, I started playing catch-up with all the things I’d left undone. I want to send off some stories to a competition, but I haven’t got around to that yet. And there were some social trips - a lunch out with friends at a French restaurant near Guildford – always beautifully cooked food – always a treat. And a local opera – more of that later. But the dramatic loss of my computer was the matter which occupied my time. A couple of days after I’d sent off the PDF, I booted up. Having already received a confirmation from the printer that he’d received the text of Tainted Tree, I now heard that he’d got the cover design from Janice.

There was something wrong with the antivirus programme; it was showing a cross where there should have been a tick. I fiddled around with it, and finally did a Live Update. To download whatever new stuff was required, I was told to reboot. I did this and found to my horror, a blank screen, with a lonely cursor floating around on it. After trying all manner of things, I couldn’t reinstate Windows and I knew it was serious. I suspected it was a nasty virus, but assumed that the local computer shop would be able to clean it up. We took it in on the following day.

After a couple of days with the professionals, I was told my hard disk was dying. I could have had a new disk, but I thought it was time for an upgrade, so I now have a new computer. It took another three days before I got it, though. In the meantime, the computer company copied my data, and Tainted Tree is safe. But once I started doing office work, I found that M’s work had all reverted back to 2004. I wish I could boast that I back up my stuff every day of the week. The CD drive has long been playing up, and all I can say is that, after a fight with it, I had succeeded in copying data about three or four weeks ago. Retrieving the data from the back-up disk was something of a relief, but it didn’t help with the invoices I typed on 31st January, though. Stupidly, I’d sent them out, but left the printing of my paper copies to do later, and hadn’t got round to them. So the last couple of days, I’ve been ringing companies and asking them to fax back copies of my own invoices. I need the figures for the VAT return, due to be sent off before the end of February. As you can imagine, I need this sort of problem like the proverbial hole in the head.

I’ve also lost my email address book and all my emails. As I had about 2,000 of them, which I was deleting a few at a time, I suppose this is of benefit. In particular, it was as well to let go of the jokes which family members had sent me, and which I couldn’t bear to relinquish. However, losing the address book is frustrating. I was going to send out an advance warning of my launch party, to which my family will be invited. I’m trying to rebuild that, but it’s a slow process.

At last week’s meeting of Guildford Writers, I couldn’t write anything, but Jennifer was away and Irene had a sore throat, and I took the chair, so my presence wasn’t wasted.

Then there was the very enjoyable trip to an opera – The Bohemian Girl. I’d not heard of the composer, whose name I’ve now forgotten again, but I recognised the song, 'I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls'. Someone will remind me, I’m sure. M’s cousin is a fan of the composer and this is the 200th anniversary of his birth - the composer, not M's cousin. Consequently, our cousin arranged for a party of us to go – ten in all – and we had high tea – much recommended - at the Winterton Arms in Chiddingfold beforehand. We much enjoyed it all - the tea and also the opera - the singing, the orchestration and the sets. Coincidentally, Anne’s other half had some connection with this production, which you may have read up on her blog.

Tonight, there’s a meeting of Goldenford and we’ll be discussing the launch of Anne’s novel, Thorn in the Flesh, tomorrow. This is our seventh book and is highly recommended. Read all about it and order your copy from the Goldenford site.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Questions, questions

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, my computer has been out of action for several days. I’ll fill you in with my activities in the next couple of days. Just before its demise, Elizabeth Grace sent me the following questions which I agreed to answer on my blog. Since I assume the questions are meant to provide an insight into the interviewee, I am not sticking rigidly to the question but I have rather tried abiding by its spirit.

What is your favorite line from a book, movie, or song?

Here, for example, I cannot in all honesty say what is my favourite line. Too many things have gone inside my head and escaped again. However, there is one memorable line, which I have been known to quote on many occasions – from Shirley Conran’s book, Superwoman – Life is too short to stuff a mushroom. So if I’m entertaining, I try to think, what looks good (tastes good, too), but doesn’t take too much time. I once grumbled at my mother for thinking she had to make chocolate choux buns every time we came to visit. (That was apart from the main meals she cooked.) This entailed making choux pastry, making and baking the buns, whipping cream to fill them and, finally, making chocolate icing to go on top. My mother was ninety and still doing this. We just wanted her to sit down and enjoy our company.

What do you think is the most important quality to instill in children?

I like to think my children are honest, honourable people who I can trust. But there are so many other things that are important; unselfishness, altruism, kindness and such things as tactfulness and sociability too. I haven’t necessarily managed them all.

3. If you found a genie in a bottle, what would you wish for?

Above all, good health for my family, both physical and mental. Health comes way before wealth. I remember my father, who never seemed to be without an ailment, and who spent many years worried and depressed about his health and many other things. My family were never short of money, but I can’t say my father had a good quality of life. Good physical and mental health gives you the ability to do many things in terms of happiness, success, or making the best use of your talent or skill.

4. If you were to win one whopper of a gift certificate to the store of your choice, which store would you choose?

I’ll cheat here, and nominate two stores and you can treat my answer as either/or. My first choice would be Marks & Spencer. I am not a fancy type of person, and on the whole I prefer classic clothes. M & S also please me by doing trouser that are short enough for me – a mere 5ft 2”, whereas so many shops cater for the much taller modern generation of women. I would probably buy lots and lots of plain jumpers and trousers and t-shirts. (Boring! I know.)

Alternatively, I would have a Waterstone’s voucher. Apart from buying many books by other people, I would also order hundreds of copies of my own books and distribute them to friends who would not otherwise buy them. Perhaps I would finally convince someone that they were worth a read.

5. What are the best and most challenging things about your job?

My job is not one that I chose, as I am fond of reminding my other half. I never wanted to be a secretary; opted into the job by default, thinking I would work for a newspaper or magazine, write something brilliant and get discovered. It didn’t happen. Once I was married, I was able to run that side of M’s business. The things I like about it are being able to work alone on accounts, etc., which I quite enjoy and turning M’s letters into elegant prose, which is sometimes a challenge. The best thing is probably the flexibility. I can juggle work to fit in with meeting friends, writing (sometimes) and getting up at my leisure in the morning.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Awkward Author

I am formatting the latest Goldenford book, Tainted Tree. This particular author has made life more difficult for me than any of the others. Firstly, she has a Family Tree, which pops up three or four times. It’s in a different font and, now that the book has been reduced down to book size, it doesn’t fit the page. And where does the first one go? On page 1, or before page 1? Then there is the fact that the book is in three parts. Should I have a new page showing Part 1; Part 2; Part 3? It is a big book already. We can’t really afford extra pages doing nothing. So I’ll have to put it above the chapter heading. Oh yes - just to be bloody minded, each of this wretched author’s chapters has a title. I’ll have to go through and make sure they’re all in the same font and, of course, that means there’s a page of Contents too, so I’ll have to put in the correct page numbers there.

Even though I’m so irritated with her, I’ll allow her to speak for herself:

As far as chapter titles are concerned, I used them initially because it helped me find my way around the book when I was writing it. Then I just left them because I quite like them. It’s like thinking up clever captions. Perhaps I should have worked in advertising instead of a plumbing business. The family tree pages are there to help the reader keep tabs in the early part of the book. But they don’t go right the way through – I don’t want to make it too easy for the reader to find out the entire plot by examining the last family tree. As for splitting the book in three parts, it did that naturally. And it’s no good the technical person moaning at me, because I haven’t totally finished the Tainted Tree edit, yet. I’ve got to have a quick glance at some of the alterations and make sure I haven’t put in new mistakes. A spell-check is called for, I think. I’ll let you know when it’s finished – and so will she.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Great Chainsaw Massacre?

Watch out, logs. M’s about. Not much work coming in, so M has decided to make a fire – every day, for the last fortnight. We have a fireplace; it was well used when we first moved in and lived for six months without electricity (as described in The Fruit of the Tree,) and we have plenty of timber around in the woods. So last week M ordered a chain saw from someone on eBay, and, each morning, he can’t wait to get out and cut up logs. And I have to admit, it’s cosy having a fire, even if one of us has to clear the grate next morning.

It’s February already. Time to apply myself to accounts and VAT. Today I dealt with a pile of invoices, M having spent yesterday afternoon dictating them. But first, I spent an hour on my biography for Tainted Tree – just moving sentences from one place to another. And there’s still more work to do to TT, before I can send off the file to the printers – and only three months now to publication day.

On Saturday, Janice Windle ( brought me my painting – that is, the painting that she did for the front cover of TT. Soon I’ll be revealing it – here, there and everywhere and, when it’s framed, it will be in our lounge, but if you were very observant, you could see a glimpse of it on her site, as a recent photo showed her holding the very painting. Now it’s replaced by Jan with a vase of flowers. Very nice too, Jan.

I’m also working my way through Everyman by Philip Roth for the reading circle in a couple of weeks. This could best be described as being concerned with Disease, Depression and Death - with a bit of Sex thrown in. I can’t say I’m looking forward to getting back to it. The best thing about it is that it’s short. What constitutes a masterpiece, I wonder. I wouldn’t like to denigrate Philip Roth’s writing. Although, I haven’t read his work before, I know he’s an acclaimed writer. But, since I don’t care very much for the modern, (or is it post-modern?) stream of consciousness style of delivery and the actual content is like having an elderly relative tell you all the details of his operations during the last twenty years, this is not a book I would recommend. Particularly to anyone over forty. It’s downhill all the way, folks.