Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Big ring update

I've mentioned my fondness for big plastic rings before. The kitschier the better, as far as I'm concerned. They catch my eye while I'm typing. And I like to imagine them at author signings one day...
I've come across a few in the charity shops lately and added them to my collection. Of course, when I'm a published author, I'll spend more than a pound. Maybe as much as three or four pounds...


Sunday, 13 October 2013


Everyone knows about the Hunt Festival, but we have a really good Literature Festival in Cheltenham too. And far fewer horses have to be shot because of it.

There's a city of tents, talks, pop-up restaurants, workshops for children, TV cameras, stilt-walkers and balloons everywhere. And although it's slap on my doorstep, I never get around to seeing as much of it as I mean to.
This year's excuse is that the boys went down with a horrible sick bug (because it's autumn *sigh*) which has now morphed into  hacking coughs and snotty noses. Even stilt-walkers and balloon animals lose their appeal when you're green-faced and hacking.

However, we did manage to see Chris Riddell last Saturday AND Neil Gaiman this Saturday. Both of whom were likeable, inspiring and funny. Ten-year-old loved how delighted Chris Riddell seemed with the metallic purple sides his publishers had given his new book. He kept on caressing them and showing them off - he said they made his book look like a box of chocolates. Ten-year-old was further amused when Neil Gaiman showed off his new book and exclaimed over the shiny metallicness of its cover. He held it up to the spotlight and attempted to signal Morse code at the audience with it.
Seven-year-old's favourite story was of the time Chris Riddell had found himself on a long plane flight with a pen but no paper. He ended up drawing a small goblin upon the bald head of the passenger who was asleep next to him.
After Chris Riddell's talk, both boys got out their sketchpads (as per Chris Riddell's advice) and settled down to draw all day. The peace and quiet was blissful.
Ten-year-old's least favourite part of Neil Gaiman's talk was the way it prompted his mother to keep whispering remarks like...
"Oh my God - look - it's actually Neil Gaiman!"
"Oh my God - that's his real actual hair - look!"
"Oh my God - he's talking with his real actual voice - I can't believe it!"
Ooh, look - it's real Neil Gaiman and actual Chris Riddell!

After annoying my son throughout Neil Gaiman's talk, I persuaded  him that we should go to the Waterstones tent to have our books signed by Neil Gaiman. He agreed - in spite of the knowledge that this would mean further whispered remarks about how Neil Gaiman was using his real actual fountain pen and so on.
Long before we got anywhere near the Waterstones tent, we came upon the end of Neil Gaiman's signing queue. It was three or four abreast and it wound through the Waterstones tent, round and round the tented city and beyond - into the dark night and the rain.
"Forget about it," said the ten-year-old sternly.
So we went home and read the books again.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

One last summer holiday...

We spent last week chasing the end of the summer sunshine at Burgh Island Causeway - one of our favourite places to be.

Years ago, the ten-year-old learned to swim here in the Dolphin pool. And this year - hurrah! - seven-year-old managed his first few metres. Seven-year-old has a very stubborn streak coupled with a reluctance to get his face wet, so we were beginning to think he'd never let go of the side. But he did - and his father and I exchanged emotional glances over the top of his furiously bobbing head.

Meanwhile, the ten-year-old was seldom seen above the surface of the water...


I think he may be part-fish.
We also played in the gym and the sauna.We rambled over the island every day, explored the caves and rock pools on the beach and ate at the Venus cafĂ© - it was lovely. But it was very much the end of the summer. By the last day, the rain was coming down super-hard!

I took my laptop away with me and - as always - did no writing whatsoever. The internet connection was s-l-o-w and sporadic. The mobile signal was non-existent. Which was actually sort of relaxing. Besides which, my soon-to-be-published author friend had given me an ARC of the not-yet-out Jojo Moyes book 'The One Plus One'.

I wonder how many years of being a published author it would take for me to stop finding this kind of thing impossibly cool... (I really hope I get to find out!)
It was a good read too. There was barely any plot. Just a man meeting a woman - both of them struggling a bit with life and gradually getting together. But I really enjoyed it - and I didn't want to put it down. How - how? - has Jojo Moyes managed that without a plot? There aren't hilarious one-liners or steamy sex scenes or deadly knife fights. Yet I still couldn't put it down. I think it must be good writing. Not writing that's overly clever or flashy or lyrical...it's completely unobtrusive. But it must be good. Jojo Moyes just really knows what she's doing. *makes mental note to learn this.*  

When we got home, there was a mountain of bills, catalogues and junk mail blocking the front door - and as husband pushed the door slowly inwards, he fished out a padded envelope from my agents. Yay! My first ever line edits. As someone who's sent out dozens of those huge padded envelopes in the past...only to have them returned with rejection slips inside, it was brilliant to receive an agent's envelope with an agent's copy of my ms - plus handwritten notes - and even an agent's metal clip.
(Various agents have failed to return my metal clips or rubber bands in the past. Well, not this time - I'm keeping this one forever!)

(Yep - next to where it says EPILOGUE, she's written "Cut epilogue".)
I found the edits fascinatingly detailed. There were a few lines with a slightly unclear meaning that I had to wrestle with. There were a couple of questions about the tone here and there. And I had to swap hideous for grotesque and bottom for bum and truly for honestly - that kind of thing. There were hardly any mistakes with my grammar or punctuation...apart from my dreaded overuse of exclamation marks.
I know, I know - it's like adding LOL to the end of every line. It's horrible. So why do I keep doing it? Maybe I'm too eager to please. Or maybe I've absorbed too much Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer - their heroines are always very exclaimy... 'Oh! Mr Darcy! Pray do not, sir!'
Friends that I showed the ms to had already insisted on an exclamation mark cull. But - ow! - the humiliation of an actual agent circling AND crossing out every exclamation mark. It's made me wonder if I could have the exclamation mark key on my laptop wired to give me an electric shock every time I touch it. Or perhaps I could prise that key out with a penknife and throw it out of the window. The time has come to stop doing it!!!!!!
Oh, and if you're ever tempted to write a sex scene in the hope that agents will not read it all that closely, I now know that they will read it that closely. And they'll write things like "Tone this bit down," or "Would he really put that there?" or "Shouldn't she be a bit more nervous about this?"
And suddenly those exclamation marks don't seem so painful... *Reads rest of line edits through fingers*