Monday, April 28, 2008

Reassured by McEwan

I've just been listening to the wonderful quiz show, The Write Stuff, one of the highlights being the parodies of the work of well known writers carried out by Sebastian Faulkes, John Walsh and their teams, at the end of the programme. As part of the quiz today, though, it was revealed that Ian McEwan had made an error in On Chesil Beach, set in the early sixties, when he talked of the work of The Beatles. Apparently, at that particular time, they had not got a single song out on record. I found this very reassuring, because during the final edit of Tainted Tree, the Goldenford girls found some anomolies. I had, for example, assumed that Riding for the Disabled existed in the early sixties. Apparently, it started up a couple of years later. As a result of this, I had to make alterations to the diary entries of the mother of my heroine. Well now I know I'm in good company. And it didn't stop On Chesil Beach doing well.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Profound thoughts from the dentist

The dentist trip passed without too many problems, except that when I was about half a mile away I found the road was closed and had to walk the rest of the way. I was going to take my current book, Black Swan Green, and a copy of Tainted Tree in case I got a chance to mention it, but as I was late, I had to step out smartly and I left them behind. I told the dentist I wanted a patch-up job to my tooth because I was having a party. When I told him what I was celebrating he seemed quite carried away. He had the longest conversation I ever remember him having with me before - I say he, because all I did was grunt in response - as you do. A torrent of almost emotion emanated from him - how everyone wanted to write a book - how one was leaving something behind when you went. When he’d removed his fingers from my mouth and from under my chin, I supplied ‘a little bit of immortality …’ with which he heartily concurred.

I met the caterer at the hall and we discussed how and where tables should go, etc. Drinks will be delivered there, and most of the replies are in now. The novelty of being up early overwhelmed me and I decided to make the most of the morning, particularly as it was bright and mild. I collected M’s prescription; recycled our plastic bottles and went to the bank to pay in some money. As I walked along the road to Knaphill, I was impressed at the flowers in the small front gardens - a great waterfall of purple aubrietia cascading down one of the garden walls; magnolias and camellias covered in flowers; tulips, bluebells and muscari in abundance, as well as the last of the daffs. Lovely to see. I do love spring. I went on to Sainsbury’s for my weekly shop; picked up some petrol and came home for lunch. Alas by early afternoon, I was exhausted and had to have a 40 minutes’ sleep to recover. I have, since then, quickly reverted to my normal late hour for bed and for getting up.

Today, we have had some friends over for lunch. Once again the day seems topsy turvy, as I’m not used to eating properly at lunch time. So I have just nibbled this evening. The pounds have been creeping up on me again, and I’d like to lose some of them by next week. It’s a forlorn hope though. You can’t do much in a week. I can hide the stomach, but there's not a lot you can do about a surplus of chin. Other than wearing a bandage round my face.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ticking boxes; buying books; reading books

With less than two weeks to go, my launch party is getting more organised. A visit from the caterer tonight and we are going to have another discussion on Friday at the hall. At 8.30 a.m. I will have to go there in my nightie. I will no doubt see dawn break.

I telephoned the off-licence today, too, and organised drinks, etc. How nice it is to tick things off my list. And I chased one or two of the recalcitrant potential guests at the party and pinned them down and forced them to say whether or not they were coming. We are now at between 80 and 90 guests, so getting pretty near to a definite figure.

Oh and in addition to that, I've booked our holiday, booked the flight, and a car to take us to the airport.

What I haven't done is clear the contents of my desk, which are getting higher and higher again, while I've been making telephone calls, etc. The Winchester Writers' Conference brochure arrived, but I can't throw that out until I've decided whether to submit things to the competitions. Goldenford are putting in an appearance there. Irene and I will be there on one of the days, and Anne on another, so come and say hallo to us.

We're also doing a talk at the Guildford Institute in May and I'm separately giving a talk on self-publishing at the Creative Writing Class, also at the Guildford Institute. Anne in the meantime, has been getting articles all over the place. In one of her articles, she mentions that she has put in an order for a copy of her own book from Amazon, and they couldn't get it for her. She did it as a test, but it just shows how hopeless they are. Any book with an ISBN can be obtained. My daughter and husband run a book business and are constantly seeking out books from obscure publishers. That's not to say that getting books from Goldenford would be difficult for any reader or bookshop, because we have an account with Gardners, who act as our main distributor and who supply all branches of Waterstone's. Amazon are just being lazy and creaming off the easy stuff from the top. I had this confirmed myself when one of the family (who I don't see very often) told me they had tried to get one of my books - The Fruit of the Tree - via Amazon, and it had never been sent. It's not a Goldenford book, but it's easily available from me. I've had orders from bookshops all over the country, some of them via Gardners and other wholesalers. It makes me very cross that Amazon have such a high profile, but can't be bothered to behave like a proper bookseller.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the dentist. It's time for my six monthly checkup, but the tooth I had such problems with last year is still not quite right. I suspect another bit of tooth has broken off, but I don't want anything drastic done. I'm hoping that the dentist can just patch it up.

My two books on the go at the moment are Irene's Darshan and Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I am the second editor of Darshan, so am reading carefully, but since I have heard the first part of the book at Guildford Writers' sessions, am very much looking forward to the latter third of the book, and the conclusion, which I haven't heard yet. Black Swan Green is, I think, the best of the most recent books from my reading circle. The tale is told by a thirteen year old boy with a very authentic voice - both amusing and appealing, even though I don't always understand his teen language. Funnily enough, when I started reading, I found echoes of my recent bullying story - which takes place on a school bus - even though I hadn't read BSG at that time. It just shows, there's nothing new under the sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stars in my eyes, ringing in my ears

On the Today programme on Monday, an item about poetry caught my attention. The representative of the Queen’s English Society was having a go at the representative of the Poetry Society about what constitutes poetry. I must admit I had a great deal of sympathy with the QES man, who said that too many pieces of work were described as poems when they had neither form, rhyme or metre. I know I am a reactionary, but I would like to see at least some of those elements included in a work, in order for me to regard it as poem.

I’ve been to the doctor this week, and she confirms that I probably have tinnitus. She’s arranged for me to have a hearing test, but once that’s done, I think the best thing I can do is to try to ignore it. It’s fine when I’m listening to the radio, but gets noisy when I’m sitting at the computer with no surrounding sound. Maybe I’ll install a radio in my office and listen to music while I’m typing and filing.

Listening to Woman’s Hour this morning, before I arrived at the computer, I heard a description of a cult. A couple of young women were talking about the abusive life they experienced when they grew up within cult families, and how they eventually made up their minds to leave. What was astonishing was that an expert, who also spoke on the subject, said that almost anyone could be brainwashed to believe what was being said to them - it would take only three or four days. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Irene’s forthcoming novel, Darshan in which the heroine is involved in something similar. I was doubtful that someone could get so involved in a short time, but now I’m convinced. I’m only one-third through the novel, but it’s going well, and hopefully will be published by Goldenford this year.

In the meantime, I’m selling a few pre-publication copies of Tainted Tree. My gardener has bought a copy for his wife, who enjoyed A Bottle of Plonk, and the hairdresser, who I visited today, also wanted one. And of course, copies can be obtained from my website, as well as from Goldenford.

It’s quite unconnected, but I was emailed today by someone at the Evening Standard, who wanted my comment on the JK Rowling court case. I immediately got something down on paper, including the fact that I’d written a dissertation on the Harry Potter books for my degree in 2002. Hopefully, my letter may be in the paper tomorrow.

Tonight, I shall relax in front of The Apprentice. I might learn something about promoting my business or promoting my books, but the main reason is to watch the interaction of the people involved.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Old bags and books

Goodness, where has the week gone? I thought I had nothing much to do, but after the wedding, gradually things popped up on the calendar.

First I had to reinstate all my bits and bobs into my large handbag. This is not quite on the scale of Lady Bracknell's, but it is, for starters, a portable pharmacy - indigestion tablets for M and for me; tablets for even more unsavoury stomach problems; aspirins, toothpicks, emery boards; tissues. Then, there's the makeup - eye pencil, eye shadow, lipstick, stuff to touch up spots - you name it, it's in there. And of course, on the whole, I don't make use of any of it. I just feel insecure without it. But at the wedding last week, I had to condense all my stuff into a smart little bag that went with the dress. I had a wallet with one credit card, and I could barely squeeze into the evening bag my reading glasses (for the menu) and two or three bits of makeup. Anyway, all's back to normal and I can be a slob again, in my trousers and jumpers.

I was out at a meeting on Monday evening; met my ex-neighbour for a natter on Wednesday afternoon and then to Sainsbury's; visited a friend who's husband just died on Thursday morning, and went to the Book Circle on Thursday evening. I hadn't quite finished the book, Love on the Dole but I have now. It was actually a revelation. That things could have been so bad, it's almost impossible to believe, except of course that they were. The writer, Walter Greenwood, was a young man, himself, at the time of writing and had various jobs, and drew the dole himself several times. There was barely any food to go around for the unemployed, and they lived in the same rags for years and years. It was an authentic view of poverty - real poverty - of people living lives almost completely devoid of hope. It made me think of The Grapes of Wrath. My only complaint was that I found the dialect difficult to understand.

On Friday night, my brother-in-law came for dinner, and we had our usual battle of the sexes.

Anne has completely restyled the Goldenford website, and it's worth going to have a look at it, because it's very elegant indeed now. I, in the meantime, have been adding to my own website, the ability to buy my books through Paypal. Unfortunately, I couldn't upload what I'd done, and had to keep beggin my service provider to sort it out. They finally sent me six sides of information and it turned out to be something to do with pop-up windows, which could have interfered with the upload facility. My son, when I told him this morning, on the phone, didn't believe a word of it, and humphed and huffed as if I had done something stupid. I grumbled at him and reminded him that he might have studied computers for his degree, but I've never had a lesson, just muddled along. The reason for sorting out my site was that Elizabeth Grace, one of my friends on Myspace, has asked for a copy of each of my books and Paypal is a very efficient way of receiving money from America. The books are going off on Monday, and I really hope you enjoy them, Elizabeth.

In what was left of the week, I dealt with some of the things on my current list, including booking the doctor, the dentist and the hairdresser, all in the next couple of weeks. I also sent off a terza rima to the Writing Magazine poetry competition, and dealt with a couple more invitations. If I send out any much later than this, they'll arrive at the party in time to see the rest of the guests departing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Spring came briefly last week; a really warm day that caused me to discard my winter jacket. Earlier I took some photos of the daffodils in our garden, together with lots of lemon yellow polyanthus, and also a much better display nearby. Here they are.

But on Sunday, as anyone in the South probably knows, winter returned and here are a couple of views from our house. The one on the left is the same flower bed viewed from our window. You might just make out the daffodils and blue muscari. The right hand one is the garden at the back.

We went to a wedding on Sunday, in London, to be precise, not very far from Sloane Square and Knightsbridge - the haunts of Princess Diana. Very classy area. Would you believe that even the car park cost £5.60 per hour. We have a bit of a reputation for arriving late for weddings. It's not that we're disrespectful, just that we're optimistic about travel time. On this occasion, though, we thought the roads might be bad, and we left two hours before the start time. So we actually arrived in plenty of time to see the 'full Monty.' And we spent much time talking to family too, most of whom will be with us for my launch party in May.

Now, having had some sort of social event every weekend for the past few weeks, we have nothing happening in the next couple of weeks. Just as well, as I feel overwhelmed by lots of little jobs to do. And the end product is that sometimes when I'm in this situation, I don't know what to start on, so I do nothing.

I'm reading two books; one Darshan by Irene Black, which will be a worthy successor to her earlier novel, The Moon's Complexion; the other, Love on the Dole, which gives an interesting picture of life in the UK in the thirties. But I'm nowhere near finishing it and the book circle is on Thursday.

I spent some time uploading the front cover of Tainted Tree to my website, and also to the Goldenford website. If you've a mind to, you can order a copy of Tainted Tree from Goldenford in advance of publication date and, up until the launch date, save £1.50. Amazon is also taking advance orders, but they don't have the cover picture yet. So do have a look. It's a lovely cover, and you can see it - back and front too, on the artist, Janice Windle's site.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Books Arrive

The first copies of Tainted Tree have arrived. They're big books and they weigh a ton, but I've managed to find cupboard space for them in the 'children's rooms', as the Son&H and the PD will not be here again, before the launch in May.

There are some problems with the formatting of the text in these first ones. It's ironic, isn't it, I was so careful with the other Goldenford books, printing out pages to make sure they were right, and with my own, I didn't achieve quite what I should have. Still, hopefully, the story's OK, and that's the important bit.

Tainted Tree has also made its appearance on the Amazon site, though it says The Tainted Tree, which I will have to get them to correct. Beneath it are ads for nurseries where you can by trees, and similar. How do they manage that? Not a mention of the genealogy or Family Trees. But then my first book, The Fruit of the Tree (do I have an obsession with trees?) was once found in the garden section at Waterstone's, whilst A Bottle of Plonk was assumed to be a guide book on good and bad wines. There isn't a cover picture, yet, on Amazon, but you can see it, by going to my website and looking up Tainted Tree. And it will soon be uploaded to the Goldenford site, where you can order a pre-publication copy at a discount.

The daffodils have been lovely this year, and I will upload a picture of them in the next day or so. Also the moles have gone.

So that's the good news. However, the bad news is that before my camellias have even flowered, half the buds have been eaten by the local deer. Obviously very short deer, because the bushes are shorn about two-thirds of the way up and then bush out like mushrooms. I didn't think that deer ate camellias, because they've never touched our rhododendrons - just polished off our roses. I'm still trying to find deer-proof plants for all the season. So if anyone has any advice, I'd be grateful, but please don't tell me Lion Dung. Sometimes you have to consider very carefully which is the lesser of two evils.