Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Don’t believe everything you read in the press

Yesterday it rained all day. Come on  - what do you expect? It was Bank Holiday Monday. I had a welcome rest: Dave and I had a quiet day at home. Such days have been rare lately, and it was very welcome. Next week I will be interviewed on BBC Radio Derby and BBC Radio Sheffield. Yesterday the only interview was a Skype one with my favourite granddaughter and daughter-in-law (see below.)

Lately my brain has been in exploding-mode (again.) At home I’ve been emailing and writing and phoning people for PR purposes, and outside the house I’ve been rushing round bookshops and local gift shops suggesting they’d like to stock my book. Generally they’ve been very receptive. There are several reasons for this  – their intelligence, my charm, the fact that the book has a very pretty cover, but actually, the most important factor is that the book is set in the Derbyshire Peak District, and people like to read books set locally. You may or may not know that this is the second most visited National Park in the world. We get 22 million visitors every year. At least some of them like to read. Let’s hope they also like family comedy with emotional depth. I am calling the book “A Bakewell love story” because that’s also a good description of it, even though it is very realistic, has no hearts or flowers in it and no trace of soppiness.

Today, it’s back to work. I have guest blog posts to write, I have books to post to important people, and I have to ring up the Peak Advertiser and ask them why they have the wrong time for my book launch in their published Diary. My launch party for But I told you last year that I loved you, is at

Scarthin Books, Cromford,

June 9th,  6 -7.30 pm

so don’t believe everything you read in the press. Everyone is welcome to come for sparkling wine and refreshments, fun (a treasure hunt and a quiz),  readings, and to buy signed copies, or for any combination of these.

And here are my Skyping companions – my beloved Wendy and Lux -

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Growing up 5,000 miles away

The last time I saw my granddaughter was eight months ago. I was hoping to see her again this spring, but the publishing adventure got in the way. Isaac sends me photographs every week, and sometimes he sends a video. Here is a photo from last week -isaac and lux may 2011

I saw it and yearned to fly over to San Francisco straight away to see them both, and Wendy too (my lovely daughter-in-law.) Then I thought – never mind, it’s not long to my trip in September. And then I counted the months in my head – FOUR. Four months is an awful long time when a tiny child changes from day to day. This week’s picture is below. How can I wait four months to see her?

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Friday, May 27, 2011

The Monsal Trail

I’m rushing around like a mad thing every day, sorting out book-related stuff, and then after tea I collapse and slump in front of junk TV.

But – but – I did find time one early morning to cycle up the Monsal Trail (and not on an electric bike.) The Monsal Trail is a disused railway line that has been used as a bridleway for many years, but last week, the Peak Park opened it up even further, so that now it stretches for about 13 miles through the most stunning countryside from Bakewell to Cheedale. It goes through four tunnels, and across a couple of high viaducts, and the scenery is fabulous. My pictures below give only a flavour. For several miles it is completely silent on the trail, apart from birdsong, because the limestone hills shield the trail from traffic noise. It’s magic. And it makes a guest appearance in my new book – But I told you last year that I loved you – out on June 9th and available everywhere, including here.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confessions of a novelist 1

One of the delights of writing fiction is that you can make your characters say all the outrageous things you’d like to say yourself, but don’t, because you know they’re unacceptable.

There is a woman who writes a column in the Saturday Guardian, and every single time I turn the page to her column and see her photo at the top, I think “Why on earth would a woman of her age have such an APPALLING hairstyle?” It looks as if she’s had it up in a bun, slept in it, and then pulled it out and not combed it through. Not even a little bit. She usually writes about interesting stuff by the look of her titles, but I can’t bring myself to read her column because of her hairstyle. How shocking is that? I’m ashamed of myself.

Here am I – a woman who espouses the belief that what you are like on the inside, what you do and what you say are all a gazillion times more important than what you look like, and yet I feel like this. I’m shocked at myself.

So to get back to the opening sentence of this post – the delight of being a novelist is that you can give all your awful thoughts and opinions and behaviours to a character in your book – you can SAY them, but not get the blame. When you read But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You, you can guess which character performs this function for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nightmare averted

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They’ve come! The long run is printed, stacked and shrink- wrapped, and yesterday afternoon 200 were delivered here. The other 1800 are at the printer’s warehouse, from where they will be shipped to the wholesaler, as and when they’re needed. So now I don’t have to worry about not having any books for the launch which – yay! – is only two weeks and two days away.

Are you going to come along and say hello?

Here are my events so far: -

Thursday June 9th, 6 – 7.30 pm - Launch party at Scarthin Books, Cromford

Saturday June 11th, 2 – 4 pm – book signing at Chesterfield Waterstone’s

Thursday June 16th, 7.30 pm – talk and signing at Nice Cafe, Bakewell

Saturday June 18th, 11 - 3 pm – book signing at Sheffield Waterstone’s, Orchard Square

Saturday June 25th, 11 – 3 pm – book signing at Derby Waterstone’s

If you live overseas, you’ll be pleased to know that the Book Depository are selling my book with 25% off, and they will post it to you free. Bargain! (And if you don’t live overseas, the same deal applies.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Life on a narrowboat doesn’t do a lot for your hair, and when I got home the first thing I did – even before seeing my grandsons – was to go to the hairdresser’s. I have a big month ahead with the publication day on the 9th June: so far - three bookshop signings, a talk, a book launch, two newspaper pieces, one in a glossy magazine, and two slots on the radio. When I got home I thought my hair was a mess with a capital M. Although now I look at the photos, it’s not so seriously awful…

this is me looking pleased because I have just opened a very heavy lock gate on my own…

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The one above is me waiting for a lock to fill.

Anyway… since I got home from The Hair Rooms, Dave has not mentioned my hair. Usually he says something like -

“I can’t see any difference” or

“Hmm, that’s a bit unusual” or

“Exactly why do you like going to that particular woman?”

But this time he hasn’t said a dicky bird. Is that because it is is so very bad he can’t trust himself to comment? Or is it because he hasn’t noticed any difference and didn’t even clock I went to get it cut ?

(I’m not posting a pic of the new cut here in case one of you says it looks terrible.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back in the real world

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On a bright sunny morning, the sunshine bounces off the canal and plays lovingly on the ceiling of the narrowboat, and I like to lie there and stare at the shimmering patterns. Sun is streaming in my window now onto my patchwork quilt: I’m home.

The thing that makes a canal holiday so relaxing is the feeling that you’re away from everything, and that’s the feeling that makes me not want to actually live on a boat. After a while I want to get back to reality, to see the rest of the family and all my friends. To get on with LIFE.

But yesterday, my first day back, I thought of my to-do list and looked at the book, my book, and I thought - “Whose idea was that?”

After moving at a speed of 4 m.p.h. for three weeks out of the last four, I needed to rev up again. We cleaned the house, I played my sax, i talked to various members of the family, and then I went to Sheffield to see my grandsons. Yesterday we had fun playing a made-up game with a large Lego wheel on the windowsill, and then we watched Blue Peter. Yes, Sue: that’s real life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My awful dream

I woke at 5.30 from a horrible dream about my book launch on June 9th. I got to the bookshop early to sort out last minute stuff and found a crowd of eager friendly guests already there – most of whom I didn’t know. One of them asked me if my friend Jane was bringing the books along later, and I said “No, why?” and she said “Because there don’t seem to be any here.”

I couldn’t see any books either, so I rushed downstairs to speak to one of the bookshop staff and he said in an off-hand way - “No, they’ve not arrived. But, it doesn’t matter, we’d only have sold about 80, anyway.”

This was not a comfort.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I’m not fitted for this life

Did you ever read Zuzu’s Petals? Do you remember all the disasters that Corinne had on board the barge? They are all things that have happened to me. (Not a first edition floating in the canal, but a roll of film, in my case.)

Today I was standing in the teensy-weensy bath having a shower. When you have a shower you’re supposed to turn on the water pump to empty the water into the canal. I forgot until half way through the shower, so I was standing up to my ankles in shower water. Then I knocked the plug into the bath and didn’t notice that it had found it’s own way into the plughole. So then when I finished the shower I was still standing up to my ankles in shower water, the pump was still going, and the plug had been sucked so tightly into the hole that I couldn’t pull it out.

I am a stranger in the world of even simple mechanics. I just look at the mop for swabbing the deck and the head falls off.

Dave fixes everything. He’s my man.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lavatories and writers

The boat we’re on has a different kind of toilet facility from the hire boats. They have a ceramic loo and a sewage tank on board and you have to pay to have it pumped out once a fortnight. This boat has a plastic loo with a toilet box underneath which fills up every two days, and you have to find a sanitary facility where you can empty it. That’s fine for me: Dave is happy to do the honours. But when we arrived in Banbury yesterday and got a speedy internet connection and a place to get some food – Morrisons – it was a treat to use the flushing loo there.

I think everyone on the boat should have their own toilet box,” said Dave this morning, when we were chatting in the bedroom.

Me: “Why on earth do you say that? That’s the kind of thing a character in one of my novels would say.”

Dave: “No doubt they will.”

Sue: “That’s very funny. I’ll have to put it on the blog.”

He drew the curtains.

Sue: “Hang on, is there anyone on the towpath?”

Dave: “No. But people don’t look in, anyway.”

Sue: “I do.”

Dave: “Well, thankfully, the towpath isn’t teeming with writers searching for copy.”

Sue: “That’s very bloggable.”

Dave: “See. It’s not even six o’clock and I’ve contributed two things to the blog already.”

Monday, May 09, 2011

The couple who need to be connected

So there I was, gaily telling everyone that the narrowboat we’re currently sailing on had wifi and I could keep in touch with printers, wholesalers, the ISBN agency, journalists, BBC Radio producers, Waterstone’s, my family and friends (note how they come last in the list these days) and yet, and yet, the wifi has been non-existent, and I’ve been freaking out.

Dave, too, has concerns he needed to keep in touch with.

Now we are moored in a spot that works. Yay! I have dealt with my gazillion emails, and paid the printer. Now he can print my book. Phew.

Off to enjoy the sunshine now.

Friday, May 06, 2011

We’re off again

Well come on…if someone offered you a free holiday looking after their narrowboat for them, what would you say?

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We said “Yes.”

Feeling better

An afternoon off with my daughter and grandsons did the trick. Playing racing cars and arranging football cards in an album worked their magic and cleared my head wonderfully, and when I got home I found the first order from the wholesaler for my new book (as yet unprinted) in my Inbox. Yay.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

“You could write a book”

“You know how it all works, now,” they say. “You could write a book about self-publishing,”
My book would contain three words- “DON’T DO IT.”
I don’t have time for fun. My saxophone thinks I’m a stranger, my garden is becoming a jungle, and my slackline thinks I’ve fallen off it for the last time.
And anyway – I don’t know how it works. The printer is friendly and helpful, so is the warehouse man and so is the man at Gardner’s. But I still can’t fathom Amazon.
The exploding brain has returned: I’m taking the afternoon off. I’m going to see my grandchildren. Yay!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

“But you are enjoying it, aren’t you?”

That’s what Dave said to me this morning when I was telling him how many things I had on my publishing to-do list for today.

…and I said to him, “Actually, no. I’m not enjoying the process.” I love the actual book we’ve produced – I mean the cover and the printing – the actual paper product I take to bed with me every night. It’s fab. And I love the text. I think it’s a GOOD book. And I love it when people tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it. Which one or two readers of the pre-release copies are beginning to do. I can’t wait until my regular blog readers get to read it too.

But as a beginner publisher there are so many new things to get to grips with and to make decisions about that sometimes it does my head in. The hardest decision I’ve had to make is what paper to have it printed on. Who would have thought that was a consideration? And as for the Amazon Kindle Publishing contract – that is a murky beast I wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley. With the help of Dave and Isaac, I think I now have it sussed, but time will tell.

I have to say to anyone out there that if you want a professional, patient, knowledgeable and so far bullet-proof guy to see you through the process, Geoff Fisher, sales exec for CPI printers is your man.

The good news which I got on the barge last week is that Gardners Books, biggest book wholesaler in the country, is going to stock the book, and this opens up all kinds of possibilities. It’s HUGE for a self-publisher to be taken on by them.

You will be able to buy (or order to buy) your copy of the book from

  • your local bookshop
  • The Book Depository – who send books abroad and don’t charge postage
  • Amazon

And you will be able to buy it for the Kindle on Amazon, too.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

An uncanny correlation

Last week on the narrowboat, the only person who always moved from back to front of the barge by walking along the side while the barge was in motion, rather than going below deck to make the transition, was also the only person who fell in.




Admittedly, he was trying a more complicated manoeuvre at the time – trying to shove the boat away from the pillar of a bridge where it was headed - but even so.

And on the publishing front – I’ve come back to a great list of tasks which I have to get done before Saturday. To calm me down I keep a talismanic copy of the book on my bedside table. The trouble with this is that I have now spotted two new typos in there. What to do? Pay to get those pages typeset again before I get my big batch printed? Or leave them and hope that no readers will spot them (on the grounds that up to now none of the publishing team has done so)?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Day

Dave and I should have been up on Longstone Edge this morning at dawn, singing

“To welcome in the summer, to welcome in the May-o!”

like we usually do, but we didn’t wake up till a quarter past five: too late. We had a bit of sleep to catch up on. I don’t know if you’ve ever slept on a boat, but when I come back home I always feel as if the bed is bobbing about on water.

The holiday was great (gave me respite from my exploding brain) and being home is great, too. I am sitting in bed as I write this, and sunshine is streaming in through the mucky windows onto the patchwork quilt. Outside, the wind is rustling the new green leaves on the row of lime trees opposite, and the copper beeches in the garden. Through the side window I can see may blossom and cotoneaster blossom. This is a beautiful place to come home to after a holiday. It never feels like a let down.

We’ve been round the Avon ring, made up of the Worcester and Birmingham canal, the Stratford canal, the river Avon and the river Severn, and in case you’re interested, we went through 132 locks, all but two operated manually by us and our two friends on the boat. May is my favourite month, and combining it with boating in a week of sustained sunshine was pretty awesome.

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