Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Progress report

It is becoming increasingly hard to break off from writing The Sequel in order to write to you, dear readers.  This is partly because I only have so much writing time and energy, but also because my head is stuffed full of the characters and plotlines of the new book, and it’s hard to get into another mindset.

The book is going well. Jane liked the first 12,000 words I sent her and the problems with the key scene have been easily rectified, and I can tell she is enjoying the book as much as I am. Yes, she had some criticisms (this is Jane we’re talking about – editor extraordinaire – Sue said politely ) and if she hadn’t emailed me back a list of detailed edits and broader long-haul points I would be thinking she wasn’t engaged. We do sometimes fight, but it is rare.

The main triumph is this: it’s been seven years since I wrote as Sally Howe, heroine and narrator of Plotting for Beginners, and Jane and I wondered how long it would take for me to recapture the voice of Sally. Well, I’ve done it.

Bodmyn Corner has not yet made an appearance in the text however, and I am wondering why. Has Sally outgrown her creative writing guru?  Will readers miss him?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Big S, here, at last

Here in the Derbyshire Peak District, it is Spring – at last: at 6.15 this morning when I switched on the light and turned on my laptop to write, the birds were singing.

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This last week I’ve been romping along with the sequel to Plotting for Beginners (still no title, as yet). I told Jane I’d have the first 12,000 words to her by Friday night, but I failed. There is a key scene I’d been looking forward to writing at the end of this section of the novel, but by the time I arrived there I was exhausted and also, not very well. But you have no idea how needy writers are, unless you are a writer yourself, and I was desperate for feedback on everything I had written thus far, so I wrote a bum key scene and emailed the whole lot off.

Bad mistake. Jane has zero tolerance for rubbish, so when I wake up tomorrow I shall get a no-nonsense email telling me precisely where I have gone wrong. She is an editor par excellence, as well as an overflowing fount of hilarious comic material. I am so lucky to have such a great co-writer. On with the show!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

,,,when you have no stomach for it…

I try to remember not to have poems on my blog unless I have permission from the poet, or the poet is dead. I am not someone who subscribes to the current popular notion that everything should be free. Why should teachers and bakers and call-centre staff get paid for their work, and artists and writers and musicians give their labour for nothing? So I asked Ellen Bass, who wrote the following piece, for her permission to use it on my blog. I thought there might be one of you who finds it helpful today.

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Ellen Bass

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let there be light

The fraternal family member who declines to be named asked how my new book was coming on (the sequel to Plotting for Beginners that I am writing with Jane Linfoot – and as yet without a title) and I said “Great! I’m loving it!” and he said “I don’t know how you can bear to come away and leave it.”

And it was a delight to come back to it. I started writing at 6 this morning with the SAD light on, and I was so engrossed that the next time I looked up it was light outside. Light at 7.15 am ! A miracle!

The spring cannot come quickly enough for me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The trouble with blogging

Back home in the land of real tea, after a fab fab time away.

I went to see the Hockney exhibition with a bunch of my siblings, and then stayed with one of them for all kinds of fun.


But I don’t want to tell you any more, because

  1. The two sibs I spent the weekend with are very private people and would hate to be mentioned here (one said he is another “family member who declines to be named”)
  2. I made a lot of notes about the trip and I may want to use the material in my new book, so I don’t want to use it here on the blog.

All I will say is that the Hockney was FAB, and if you haven’t been, get your asses down there pronto.

Feb 2012 037

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OK, if you must know…

I did have a lovely day on Monday and I am going away on Thursday, but the reason I’m taking a break from the blog this week is because I am fed up with February, and I don’t want to go on and on about it here and bore you stupid.

But I have got to the middle of the month before I’ve been beaten by its grey, grey, gloom. One of my sisters – attempting to cheer me up, no doubt – asked me last week what flowers were out in my garden, and I said NONE. Now - at least - at last - the snowdrops are out.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Laughter is the best medicine

Even novelists have half term hols – well, the ones who live at Hepworth Towers do.
Yesterday I spent the day on the floor with my grandsons playing with Castle Lego. This involved a lot of laughs and imagination. Unlike me, Tate and Gil use Space Lego accessories when they’re building their castle so they had a laser system to scan the brain of approaching people (i.e. my people)  to see if they were goodies or baddies, a parrot (from Pirate Lego) who hypnotised opponents so they became friends,  and a shark (from Pirate Lego) as an aid in their jousting matches. Somehow or other my castle always gets plundered and I am bested in every way possible.
This is the high-tech control centre for their castle, below. Their castle is in another location – i.e. the floor. Me? I just had a castle. Is it any wonder they always get the better of me?

In the evening I had tea (supper to those of you who live in the south) with a group of friends I see once a month. This  involved a lot of laughs and a lot of talk. Topics covered included The Artist and whether it’s been over-hyped; why people love their children and their grandchildren, and if the feelings we have for them are different; whether the University of the Third Age (U3A) would be snooty about having an astrology group; Zen Buddhism; Coronation Street; primal painting; predicting the future; and whether it is true that you can’t help loving someone if you know their story. 
I’m working (if you can call writing a comic novel “working”) today and tomorrow, but on Thursday I am going to London to see Hockney with a  bunch of my siblings (woo-hoo!) so I am taking the rest of the week off from the blog. See you next week.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This is what Tiggers like

Don’t you think I’ve done really, really well?

It is 10 days into the most execrable month of the year (Happy Birthday Little Red Hen!) and the weather has been beyond crap, and I have not yet complained. Today it is grey, cold, misty and vile and even the gravel on our drive is iced over. And I have not complained.

Today is good. Dave is out, and I am sitting here in bed with the cat and my laptop, in two jumpers and my elephant trousers (fleecy grey jogging pants circa 1983) and I am writing. I adore the characters in Plotting for Beginners, and it is such wonderful fun to be working on the sequel…

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The wonders of Google

I came across Kahlil Gibran’s piece On Friendship this week for the first time, and when I came to the last line it was oddly familiar. i read it several times trying to remember where I had heard it before, but I was stumped. For the next couple of days, every time i thought about it I heard a deep male voice, attractive, American, saying the words. Who on earth was it? The only American male voice I can hear in my head is Garrison Keillor’s, because i listen to him reading his Leaving Home stories in the car all the time. But this was not him. Who could it be? It was driving me crazy.
I turned to Google. i typed in the words and searched and got loads of links to Gibran, of course, but then there was a link to Friends, specifically the episode where Chandler proposes to Monica (oh how I hate the nauseating sickly sweetness of that scene) and immediately I realised who was saying the words that I liked so much – Richard, played by Tom Selleck.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

He still won’t admit he’s wrong

Did you know that I put a lot of what Dave says into the mouths of my fictional characters?

There is an exchange in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU that comes straight from our sitting room:

They carried on watching Jessie Levine, and Jessie’s flatmate said to Jessie, “You make me a margarita, and I’ll make you a Sea Breeze.”

“What’s a Sea Breeze?” said Sol.

“A cocktail, of course.”

“Really? I thought it was a rissole.”

(Jessie Levine is a fictitious TV series, made up because David E Kelley Productions ignored my faxes asking for permission to quote from Ally McBeal, even though the scripts are freely available on the net.)

Well, last week when I  was cruising the drinks aisles in Sainsbury’s I noticed a bottle labelled Sea Breeze, so as soon as I got home I told Dave - “You see! I’m right! A Sea Breeze is a cocktail!”

“I refuse to be cowed. It is just as likely to be a product made by Captain Bird’s Eye.”

So I told him I’d put it on the blog and see if anyone agrees with him. I can tell you here – because Dave rarely reads my blog – that as well as being downright infuriating, there is something rather appealing about someone who sticks to their guns and won’t admit they’re wrong about something really, really trivial. But I am probably a bit weird (as well).

Friday, February 03, 2012


It’s Friday morning, it’s 5.55. a.m. and I need to say hello to you, and then immediately start work on the sequel to Plotting for Beginners (known in emails between Jane and me as PfB2.)

The house has been quiet this week in a good way and a bad way, and we’ve caught up with our sleep after the lovely rigours of the visit from @JetLagToddler and her family.

Dave has had a flu-type virus since Sunday, and is still feeling awful. I have managed to keep from catching it – thus far - by dosing on aconite as a prophylactic, using a different hand towel from him and a different tube of toothpaste.

Wednesday was a good writing day. Yesterday was a bad one because I couldn’t concentrate.

On Tuesday I got a great statement of sales from the wholesaler which made me feel very optimistic about the success of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU.

And then yesterday I got a bill from the printer’s warehouse for the storage and packing and transport of the book (to the wholesalers) and it made me think there is no way to make any money in this business.

And lastly, at teatime I went with my friend Mary to see Like Crazy, a bittersweet romantic drama, at the Sheffield Showroom. Mary always tells me how many stars the Guardian man has given a film, but she doesn’t read the review till after she’s seen it, because he once spoiled a film for her by giving away the plot. The man in the Guardian and I have very different tastes. He liked Greenberg, for example, (he gave it 4 stars) and I LOATHED it. So when Mary told me, as we sat down, that the Guardian man had given Like Crazy 4 stars, my heart sank. As I watched the film, my heart rose. At the end of the film, I didn’t know where my heart was. And it’s been that kind of a week.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My February header

For those of you who have never been to the Derbyshire Peak District, my February header shows the 14th Century bridge over the river Wye in Bakewell. The riverside walk on the left is where Fran and Chrissie ate their sandwiches together, in But I told you last year that I loved you.