Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Almost ready for blast off

I know I haven't blogged for a week, but I haven't just been swanning up the Trail on my bike, taking photos:

...or rushing outside in the middle of an evening game of Scrabble with Dave because the light has changed and I want to take photos:

...or drooling over my tulips:

...I've been helping to run a refugee hospitality day, and uploading the text of my new book EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU to Amazon.



I'm just waiting for the front cover to be completed and uploaded. I'll tell you when it's all systems go. It will be the ebook edition to begin with. The paperback takes a little more work - a back cover and a spine for starters. I hope it'll be out in a couple of weeks after I get back from a trip to Northumberland and Mull with the Californian Aging Hippie. Remember the Aging Hippie?

By this time next week, I hope you'll have all read the book and reviewed it online in as many places as possible - Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook(?) - and told all your friends they HAVE to buy it. I'm depending on you, dear readers. I have no-one else.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Passing moods, whims and must-haves

It's a two part blog today...

Part 1/  Do you ever think out of nowhere about an item of food that you haven't had in ages and feel you've got to have immediately, today, or you'll die?  - 'Ooh, I fancy an X! Yes! I really want an X! Where can I get an X?' 

Yesterday afternoon I had that feeling about a scone. I could have baked a batch, but as the family have left home and Dave doesn't eat them, it would have been excessive. I only wanted one. So I went and bought one and had it with butter and home made blackcurrant jam and it was just as delicious as I imagined it would be.

Last year, I bought Anita Shreve's book The Stars are Fire and began to read it and thought 'I don't think this if for me' and I put it on the shelf. This week I started reading it again, and I was hooked. This has happened with other books. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood, and later I enjoy them. 

This got me wondering about damning reviews people put on Amazon. Some people say they tried twice to read a book and then gave up. And then they say the book is rubbish. Were these people just not in the mood for the book?

Part 2/  Every Wednesday morning, before I wake up, Dave goes to Sainsbury's to snag his weekly supply of family sized yoghurts, along with other varied supplies for saner family members (i.e. me). I always give him my list the night before, but sometimes when I wake up in the early hours for a pee I remember something else and email him...such as last night when I remembered spring onions and sent him an email with just a subject title, in the dark without any specs: 

When I woke up I got this reply:

and thought he'd finally lost it.

What? I emailed back.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Letter from home

It's been a full, rich week:

- Playing my sax with a pianist friend - such good fun.

- Sitting in the sunshine watching Dave and the family member who declines to be named raising a shed in the latter's back garden. (Gosh, there are a lot of clauses in that sentence.)

- Cycling, cycling and cycling.

- Looking for a new novel to read. I am looking for something that's beautifully written and is romantic. Any suggestions?

- Going out early in the morning for two photo-shoots on the Monsal Trail, to take a cover picture for my new book. The first was with my friend Liz, and the second with a friend I made through Twitter - Valerie Dalling, who lives in the next village and is a talented photographer. I now have two shots I love and am trying to decide which one to use.

- Trying to make attractive tealight holders, using coloured tissue paper, PVA and jamjars. 

This is what the sitting room table looks like this morning. Note the sweet pea seedlings getting frisky.

And these are the results:

My fat fingers have been struggling with this craft because next Saturday we have a refugee hospitality day and we need some new crafting ideas - things that are pretty and/or useful that can be made in a short time and taken home at the end of the day. We always have a jewellery-making table because it's so popular

Most of the above were made with recycled beads. We have also decorated cotton shopping bags with fabric paints, and decorated photo frames and small mirrors with all kinds of pretty stuff.  We are always looking for new ideas so if you have any, please let me know.  On the other side of the room, people are playing with toddlers and babies, so whatever happens on the crafting tables has to be safe for that environment. (I hope you manage to negotiate the comments section below. I know it's a trial and sometimes eats comments, but there appears to be nothing to be done about it.)

Have a lovely weekend. I'm going to spend a lot of mine in the garden...

Thursday, April 18, 2019

America and its bloody guns

On Tuesday night Wendy got a message from the school principal saying that the girls' school would be closed on the following day because of a 'credible threat.'

The girls are used to having lockdown drill at school. They think it's a routine practice for tornadoes. They don't know about America's crazy gun laws or about the NRA or about school shootings. They don't know that 20 years ago, the Colorado school Columbine had a mass shooting and that the anniversary of it is tomorrow. 

What was Wendy to tell them?

Last night Isaac let us know that the situation was resolved. The 18 year old woman from Florida, who had an obsession with the Columbine massacre, was dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot.

She had flown into Denver and bought a gun and ammunition. Had she lived in Colorado, it would have been a legal sale. As she was from Florida, it was not. The laws of her home state as well as those of the place of the sale have to be obeyed. And in Florida, there have to be several days between sale and possession, while checks take place.

I despair of America ever being sensible about guns. I'm used to the idea of the family sometimes having bears, bobcats and mountain lions in their garden. What about the bloody guns?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The way to do it

Do you recall a previous blog post when I was railing against a rude rejection I'd received from a literary agent? It absolutely wasn't the rejection I was cross about, but the dismissive tone of their one line email: 

'Many thanks for your email and material but I'm afraid we're going to pass.'

You spend three years writing and rewriting a novel, agonising over it, trying your best to make it precisely what you want it to be, and they send you one dismissive sentence.



This morning I got another rejection. This is how it should be done.

Dear Sue,

Thank you for giving the xxxxxxx Agency a chance to consider your work. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your submission.

Whilst I enjoyed reading your opening chapters, I am afraid that I did not feel quite gripped enough to absolutely fall in love with your writing.

As an agency, we feel that it is immensely important for new writers to have an agent who believes completely in the potential of their work to sell and who can therefore take that enthusiasm to the publishers. Accordingly, we need to feel really passionate about a writer’s work before we sign them onto the agency.

We receive nearly 600 manuscripts a week and can only take on a select number of debut writers every year. The result is that we have to be incredibly selective. This is an entirely subjective decision and I have no doubt that another agent will feel differently. 

I wish you the very best of luck in finding an agent who is right for you.

Best wishes,

OK. Rant over. 

Dave is still formatting the text: there are an awful lot of anarchic indents in it that need to be brought into line. He said this morning that seeing all the dialogue in the text - seeing it, not reading it - made him feel ill. What a good job he isn't my target reader.

You, my dear blog readers, are my target readers. 

I'm aiming to publish it in May.

I had a fab bike ride this morning, and met my friends up the hill again:

Friday, April 12, 2019

Weekend homework

Do you recall this interchange from Plotting for Beginners:

'I detest dialogue,' he said, shuddering.

'But dialogue's the best bit.'

'When I open a book and find dialogue, it's a stark reminder that there are going to be people in there.'

That, my friends, is a direct quote from Dave, who is currently formatting my new novel for publication.

Yesterday, mid-format, he came in the room and said 'Do you think you've got the right title for the book? You're looking for click-bait. Who's going to be attracted by a book called EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU?'

'I would,' I said. 'I'd be intrigued.'

'Really? Well, OK.'

I'm looking at you now, readers. 

1. Would you check out a book called EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU?

2. What does the title EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU suggest to you?

3. How do you feel about the original title FRIENDS, LOVERS AND TREES?

Answers in the comments section below. The easiest way to comment is to click on the Anonymous button and if you want to, you can give your name at the end of your answer.

I'd so love to hear from you. 

Monday, April 08, 2019


I woke up on Saturday morning after a good long sleep, after the nine and a half hours in hospital waiting rooms the day before, and I felt euphoric.

It was a bright spring day and the sun was shining. i was alive and well and free. I could be outside in the fresh air all day long if I wanted! I really was euphoric. It was peculiar.

The day filled up with a photoshot on the Trail for the cover of the book, a coffee and chocolate brownie with Liz (the photographer) a bike ride up the hill

the crossword with Dave, and then some gentle gardening. I was happy all day. Joyful. I was well. I was outside in the sunshine, doing things I enjoy. This was how I should feel every day. Thankful for my health and freedom.

The next day I woke up and discussed the cover photos with my brother and felt cast down. He didn't think they were right.  Gloom and despondency. Quaker meeting didn't help: I couldn't settle. 

Why is it that I can't sustain the joy and thankfulness from one day to the next? Is this the human condition? Or is it a failing in me?

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Waiting for Godot

late night email from my friend:

So glad they didn't find anything wrong. Love Chrissie xxx

That is the best thing that can be said about my yesterday. 

I went to see my lovely GP about a mystery symptom, and because of my history he sent me to A and E with a letter so they could give me tests he couldn't do. It would be unlikely I had the thing he was worrying about but he is diligent and cautious and the consequences of his not sending me (if I did have the thing) could have been death. So I went.

It's a 45 minute drive to the hospital. Dave, who was about to go out on his bike, offered to go with me, but we all know how long you have to wait in A and E and I didn't want him to miss the fine spring day as well, so I declined. I'd be fine. There was no point in both of us having our Friday screwed up.

I checked in at A and E at 12 noon, and I left at 9.30. The staff were wonderful, but the waiting, oh, the waiting. The trouble with going on your own is you have no-one to listen out for your name while you go to the loo. You have no-one to fetch you a cup of tea or a sandwich. I'd only taken a bottle of water, a banana and an apple, so thank goodness for the orderly bringing sandwiches round the Clinical Decisions Unit at 7 p.m.  A girl needs her blood sugar boosting while she's sitting in a busy waiting area directly opposite a huge screen that has pop videos constantly streaming, that thankfully said girl couldn't hear. 

After four hours of sitting opposite that screen I can tell you how ridiculous the dancing and writhing on them is when there's no sound, and how sexualised they are. What we needed was wall-to-wall ballet, or David Attenborough, or a travel programme, or sheep dog trials, or anything, anything other than people doing stupid formation dancing, or writhing on this and that while looking at the camera. Aarghh!

Dave kept ringing me up to ask how I was and what was the news and should he come?  "No, don't come," I said. "I'll be finished soon." 

I wanted to say "I'm tired and fed up and I've got a headache," but it felt inappropriate when someone in a wheelchair opposite me was throwing up, and behind that poor man, there was an old woman with a black eye and a bandaged head.

At 8 p.m. when I was still waiting for a scan, I'd given up hope of ever leaving the place. I imagined being there at 2 a.m. still waiting.

The NHS staff were all lovely - of course - from the A and E receptionist to the nurse who took my blood to the X ray man, the Scan man, the receptionist who surreptitiously fetched me a cup of tea, the gentle, smiling doctor who said of course he was still there at 9.30 p.m. - hadn't he said he'd look after me? 

And I shan't forget the 80 year old patient who shared his Werther's Originals with us all, before the sandwich lady arrived.

Hey ho.

The second best thing about yesterday was Dave arriving in a taxi to come and drive me home. I could have managed if I'd had to, but it was a relief to be rescued. My hero.

I do not have a life-threatening illness, just an annoying symptom, so I'm going to celebrate by riding my bike up the hill to see this little chap:

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Sartorial ecstasy

I'm staying off B****t on the blog, because we all need a break. 

One day in Boulder I was looking for my boots in the shoe rack and came across some bright blue shoes and I fell in love with them. 

I tried them on and joked to Wendy - 'These shoes obviously won't suit you, so I think I'll have them.'

'Of course!' she said. 'I ordered them online and when they arrived I knew they weren't for me, and saved them for you.'

I don't believe her: I think she bought them with me in mind. She's that kind of girl. And she never wears blue. 

Do you have an item of clothing that brings you joy? Something that lightens your heart as soon as you put it on? That's how I feel about these shoes. I catch sight of them on my feet and I can't help smiling.

You may recall that a month ago I said I was going to treat myself to something from TOAST which was far too pricey but which I was buying as a 70th birthday treat? (Don't worry, this 70th birthday fixation will be over by Christmas.)  It was a pair of dungarees. I bought them and they were too wide and too short so I sent them back, but in Boulder's famous hardware shop, McGuckins, I found some I loved, which were a third of the price. I ADORE dungarees. I had three pairs in the 80s - bright yellow, bright green and bright turquoise - but we lost them in the fire and I have always mourned them. 

I asked Dave if there was anything he wears that makes him feel unreasonably happy and he said yes, his light brown carpenter dungarees (we are so made for each other) and his leather jerkin. He rocks his dungarees but I loathe his jerkin, which amongst other faults, is two sizes too big. I hate it, but now I understand what joy it brings him, I shall not complain when he wears it to walk down to Hassop Station with me. Sartorial joy is rare and should be honoured and celebrated.

See how happy I am?