Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Writing, Nathan and Bookbag


"There's good reason for this rule to apply -- one of the absolute most important attributes of any successful writer is the ability to scrutinize their own work in order to improve it and make it better. The minute a writer starts thinking what they write is genius is the moment they stop scrutinizing their work for places where it can be improved upon, changed, or, most importantly of all, removed. A healthy skepticism is an essential tool in a writer's arsenal. Also bourbon."

This quote comes from Nathan Bransford's blog and it is so true.

However, it is too late for FAR AFTER GOLD. In exactly one month's time, my book will out in the world for public scrutiny. I cannot improve it now, but believe me, I worked hard on it, and I learned a great deal about writing while revising it. The picture above is my image of Oli, one of the characters in the book. Elaine Dingsdale of Bookbag says in her review: He's a beautifully depicted character who really brings the book to life with his hero worship of Flane and his empathy with Emer, whom he immediately recognises as a kindred spirit and fellow misfit. His maturity and attitude were tremendous and with wisdom beyond his years, I was moved close to tears on several occasions."

This time of year is for reflection on what has gone and what is to come. I'm comfortable with what I've achieved in 2008. I'm not one for making resolutions and even less do I broadcast the ones I think about in my deepest thoughts. What I will do is spend the next month publicising my book whenever and wherever I can. It needs my help. I'm an unknown name and I don't want Quaestor to regret that they took a chance on me.

I'll still be working on KEEP TRUST, which is going well, but I must become a PR person. It doesn't come easily. Those who ask me about my writing must think I don't want to talk about it, because I can never think of anything witty or interesting to say about it. To say creative writing takes up most of my waking hours sounds pretentious and dreadfully snobbish, and unless the person you speak to does it themselves, it is hard to make the subject interesting.

Perhaps when (if, girl, if) I become established, (if ever) I'll have learned how to talk about what and how I write and an interesting and friendly way. I remember how Phillippa Gregory performed so confidently at Bowes Museum and applaud her. At the moment, I feel tongue-tied with embarrassment. And I notice my over use of the word interesting in this piece.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas Battles

Here's one incident I observed over Christmas.

Now I'm not usually this nosy, but...look at this. A heron and a crow. Not a normal sight on our neighbour's roof ridge.


And not just one crow.


Two crows.



Two distinctly aggressive crows.

The battle went on for ten minutes and you may notice the effect it had on the heron by observing the roof...shortly after that, the heron departed.




Our Christmas has been updated almost daily by photographs coming via e-mail. The offspring are travelling, and we received pictures of their various stops as they travelled west to east across America, and north to Tremblant in Canada. The Canadian party of two almost didn't make it as their plane from New York was cancelled due to snow. They got to Montreal and somehow made it to Tremblant where they reported temperatures as low as -40 but I think that was at night. I hope it was at night. Two days later they reported rain washing away all the snow. They were not pleased. I believe a retail therapy trip back to New York was negotiated by one of the party.

The second party of two will be travelling on to France and Switzerland soon, and we shall meet up with them in Zermatt. The other party head back to Oz after New Year.

We have been going for long walks across wet muddy fields, and peering into all the nooks and crannies you can't see in summer for the abundant vegetation. Houses we didn't know existed have suddenly sprung into view now that their shield of leaves has vanished and left them open to the wild winds and my gaze.

I had a couple of days relaxation infront of the tv and I'm still going through the cds that make up the boxed set of Shogun, which I bought to fill the gaps when there was nothing but rubbish on the box. Christmas stuff is usually so sentimental that I can't watch it. Black Beauty, for heaven's sake, drives me out of the room and I dare not switch over to Lassie. Even Johnnie Depp as JM Barrie had me surreptitiously sniffling in my handkerchief.
Then it was back to work. Today I managed 1600 words very easily between Daisy and Rookhope. KEEP TRUST seems to be going very well now I'm concentrating on only one story.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas is almost upon us, so let me take this opportunity to wish anyone who reads this blog a peaceful and happy time, and I hope it continues into 2009.
Some people, like us, don't bother with Chritmas lights. We have no children at home so have no excuse to glitter up the house and garden. Dh no doubt thinks of the money saved on power and I think of helping polar bears stay afloat. I first saw the habit of decorating the outside of one's home when I was in Philadelphia in the late seventies. I was amazed at South Street - I think it was South Street, or was that the market? Anyway, I remember the Italian section of Philly where rows and rows of houses went wild with Christmas decorations - unknown in the UK as far as I knew at that time. Maybe they did it in the decadent south but not in Durham, oh no. In the nineties dh and I drove from Dallas to Steamboat Springs through the Rockies, creeping through a snowstorm behind the snowblower, and then I found the Christmas lights on remote farmhouses reassured me that there was life out there in the howling darkness. I could see why they did it in Colorado.

Now the habit is fully established here, too. Our cul-de-sac has children, so the blinking lights have appeared, day by day, along the eaves. Little electric signs have been stuck into the lawns and twinkle through the evening. One house is a theatre set, with snowman and Rudolph staring up at the sparkling display. and you know what? I love it!

On the corner of the main road not far away, one householder has decided to take full advantage of his prominent position. Last week his house was so ablaze with Santas, reindeer, sledges and a steam train chugging around its walls - a few things I remember from a hasty, wide-eyed view - that I went out in the dark tonight with my camera to take a picture and display it here.

But you know what? He must have known I was coming, for he hadn't switched them on.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Ghostwriting

"There wasn't a lot of room to work, but that didn't bother me. Of all the human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin - the desk's too big, the desk's too small, there's too much noise, there's too much quiet, it's too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start. I plugged in my laptop, switched on the Anglepoise, and contemplated the blank screen and its pulsing cursor.

A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book that's ever been written. But the best must never be allowed to drive out the good. In the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship. One can at least try to write something which will arrest the reader's attention - which will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second, and then the third. I picked up McAra's manuscript to remind myself of how not to begin a ten-million-dollar autobiography."

Above is a snippet from THE GHOST by Robert Harris, and I thought it would resonate with any writer! I found the story entertaining as a thriller, and recognise that a likeness between the hero Adam Lang and Tony Blair could be claimed by many readers. Leaving that to one side, I enjoyed the discoveries made by the ghostwriter drafted in to take over the hero's memoirs when the first ghostwriter dies in mysterious circumstances. I liked the idea of the sat nav taking the reluctant "ghost" to the last place his predecessor visited, thereby moving the plot several blocks forward almost as much as I enjoyed reading about the life and skills of a ghostwriter.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Christmas...


Hungry little beaks anxious for food. An injured blackbird arrived in our garden a with limp and a dragging wing, unable to fly, about ten days ago, right at the start of the coldest December in the UK for thirty years. I doubted he would survive, but he has. I hope my offerings of brown bread, sultanas and raw bacon helped. He certainly snapped them up.

No word from the Newcastle Journal as yet, but I've received a request from Historical Novel Review to be reviewed and do an interview around the time of publication. Of course I'll do it! No doubt about it. The site is newish still, but doing very well, and I'm delighted to be asked. If you don't know it, pop over and have a peek.

Shopped till I dropped yesterday with a best friend (mates since we were about twelve!) and finally got dh's pressy sorted. Today he is out on a retired-colleagues-reunion-Christmas-drink-thingy, so I got rushed up the street and bought the wrapping paper (we used the last to send stuff to Oz), wrapped it

and now it sits smugly in its tartan wrapping paper with the gold and white flowers for decoration. He's bound to see it next time he walks into my study and I can't decide if I'm going to tease him and make him wait until Christmas or give it him today.


Back to my reading list. I finished The Queen of Sorrow by Suzannah Dunn. Mary Tudor is at the centre of the story, but the tale is told by a Spaniard who arrives with Philip's entourage, supposedly to build a sun-dial for the Queen's pleasure. He is unpaid and unhappy, anxious to return home, but meets the Queen by accident and they like each other for the ten minutes they converse. The story moves along slowly, with lots of small incidents, lots of historically accurate detail of life at the time, but I must admit that from half-way through I wished the tale would hurry up and arrive somewhere. In the last few pages it did, and it makes me shudder every time I think of it.
Since then I've finished my first Tracy Chevalier story - The Lady and the Unicorn. Set in Brussels in the later 1400s it weaves (yes, I know!) a story around the Unicorn tapestries now in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective and it certainly makes for a closely woven (!) and intricate tale that held my interst all the way through. The brief epilogue suggests that all the characters once lived - even Alienor the blind girl, whose tale engaged my sympathy far more than Claude, daughter of the rich man who commissions the tapestries. It is an intriguing thought that the artist drew portraits of Claude, Alienor and their mothers and put them into the tapestries. I enjoyed the story very much.

Now I've begun Robert Harris's The Ghost on my friend's recomendation. Up to page 95 and it's looking good. More on this one later.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Books, reading and christmas shopping

Wallington Lake under ice. Pretty colours, I think. (Remember you can click to enlarge the picture. I've noticed that if I do not crop the pic then it will not enlarge, so now I make an effort...sometimes the pics enlarge to a size bigger than my entire computer screen, but hey - who is perfect? Not me!)

Today we went into Newcastle ON THE BUS, thereby leaving our cars at home and saving our carbon footprint. (I am haunted by dreams of polar bears swimming, swimming as the ice melts beneath them, swimming to exhaustion and no land in sight... )

Visited my favourite hairdresser - my only hairdresser - whom I've visited through thick and thin for over twenty years. He soon smartened me up and I left feeling good about myself and having probably ruined all the carbon saving I'd done with the bus. Still, better than none at all. At least I probably came out equal. The town was busy busy. When is it not? I learned long ago that there is never a quiet day in Newcastle.

But the difference is that there are a lot of men out shopping, both alone and with wives, and that is because Christmas approaches. Some stand there, particularly the older men, hanging onto a counter or a clothes stand, gazing off into the distance while the wife diligently hunts through every garment on the rack just in case she'll find what she wants. Other blokes finger things in a puzzled sort of way, eye the price ticket, purse their lips and let go a soundless whistle. Then they drop the tag and seek something else.

Others - a few, but some - rifle through half a dozen things, seize one with a pleased smirk and head for the cash desk. Usually its underwear they've got hold of, and I don't wait to hear the "How much?" when the assistant announces the cost.

I've got a followers widget on this blog, and today I moved it up to the top of the sidebar. I'm not exactly sure what it does, but I think it makes it easier for readers to read my blog. If anyone knows any different - let me know. I'd hate to invade anyone's privacy or something weird.

I've just finished reading two Adele Geras novels - A Hidden Life and Happy Ever After. Both good, both enjoyable, though A Hidden Life had a lot of confusing characters at the start which meant a lot of flicking back and forth for me - but perhaps I'm just slow at picking things up these days. Happy Ever After is the story of an engagement that slowly disintegrates against the central story of the bride's mother's reluctant infidelity with the groom's step-father. Sounds like heavy stuff and yet it manages to be both tender and funny at the same time. I'll certainly look for more of this author's novels.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to read heavy, hurtful stories. I did not finish The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini even though it was beautifully written, for the brutality inherent in the tale is not what I want as I read myself to sleep at night. I have one of those unfortunate imaginations that translates brutalities into dreams, wakefulness and even, if its very bad, depression that can last for days. So I've learned to close the book and look for something lighter.

Harry Potter is just the thing. Just enough nastiness to make me turn the pages faster, but not bad enough to turn me away. I tried The Tudors: King takes Queen by Elizabeth Massie, based on the Showtimes series but found it irritatingly episodic - short scenes, obviously intended for screening, and gradually lost interest even though it is one of my favourite periods of history. Now I am halfway through Suzannah Dunn's Queen of Sorrow.

Oh, and I should have said days ago but if you go to Authors and Books - check the sidebar - they have been running a giveaway from the 8th until the 14th. Check it out!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Another one gone and now the long wait...



Sent off my Tudor story today to Roger at Quaestor to see what he thinks of it. I'm sure he'll tell me if it's not up to scratch.

I now have two reviews for Far After Gold. I was particularly pleased by this chunk about my hero:

"Flane is an attractive character, cheerful and humorous. He comes over as just a little bit immature at the start of the novel, wanting to have his cake and eat it, acting on impulse without much regard for the consequences, and unwilling to make a difficult decision until he is forced into it. He seems genuinely baffled that Emer doesn’t fall into his bed at the first opportunity, and his willingness to wait for her to do so rather than force her seems to be due in about equal parts to a belief in his own irresistible attractiveness and a desire for a quiet life."

I couldn't have put it better myself! Has the reviewer been reading my character notes? I will post the link to the full review when I know it has been"properly published" but I was so pleased by this excellent appraisal of Flane that I couldn't resist a taster. (Heh, heh - and just for the record, darling Flane has little idea that his easy going world is about to disintegrate!)

The other surprising thing is that the book is up and available on Amazon.co.uk* already - for orders. The release date is 30th January. I must check and see if it's up on .com tomorrow but right now I'm off to bed to finish the Geras story. More on that later.

*One click will take you to amazon and my book. Go on, have a peek!

PS The picture is the corner of Wallington Hall and the ancient yew tree against the winter sunshine. Interesting shapes, I thought...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Loglines and the NJ

I mentioned on here that I joined a new group a few days ago. Now they're helping me sort out the difficult art of writing loglines. I gave my attempts on the last entry. Two members have made helpful suggestions:

Linda: Christian slave Emer, bought as a bedmate, confounds Flane, her Viking owner, when she refuses to sleep with him unless he marries her.

and Joanna: When Christian Emer is kidnapped and sold as a slave to Pagan Viking Flane, she has two options: bed him and risk physical harm from his future wife, or escape.

There was much excitement here yesterday when the Newcastle Journal rang to say they'd like to interview me about my writing. Gulp. So an appointment was made for 5.30pm and I spent the day thinking about the things I wanted to say. Promptly at 5.30 the phone rang and it was the NJ. (Silly me - I'd thought he was actually coming to the house!) I put the phone down about 6.45pm feeling elated. I only hope he made sense of it all. He has to put it all together and get his Editor to OK it for publication, but he'll let me know if and when it will go in the newspaper.

End result? I couldn't sleep! Kept waking up thinking oh I should have said...and that...I should have told him that in the end Flane has to choose between love and power, and...I should have told him that the book cover is from a photograph I took of Sandwood Bay in the far north west of Scotland...and did I mention...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Northumberland and loglines



I needed two pictures and even then couldn't show the whole of the landscape I could see as I stood there in late afternoon sunshine at minus 2 degrees. Nor could I get this silly blog format to publish them side by side, which is what I wanted. However, this is Northumberland, folks, looking west five or six miles north of the Tyne valley where the land starts to rise to the Border hills. Smack in the middle of the one on the left is some sort of ruin perched on top of a small rounded hill. It is listed on the map as Ancient Homestead and Dovecot, doesn't even have a name. We drove right by it as we continued home from Wallington and these little chaps.


Work continues on Till the Day Go Down. I went through yesterday and added costume detail where I thought it would enhance the scene. Today I'm thinking about landscape, though I think I've layered that in as I went but it wouldn't hurt to check. Anything to make the scene REAL to the reader.

As for loglines....here are my next efforts: "Christian Emer, kidnapped and sold as a slave to Pagan Viking Flane, thinks of nothing but escape and refuses to sleep with him unless he marries her."
Didn't seem right, so tried again:
"Pagan Viking Flane buys Christian Emer as bedmate and then finds he must either rape or marry her before his future wife gets rid of her for good."

H'mmm. More interesting, but not exactly polished. More thought needed.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Squirrels in the snow

We had a dusting of snow yesterday. It was hard to tell if it was a severe frost or snow at times, but it certainly looked pretty and the temperature was minus 1.5C in the sun mid afternoon. We went to Wallington and had the beautiful grounds to our selves. I think we passed only a dozen people in two hours.
We saw this little squirrel foraging like crazy and I have lots of pics of them with heads down and tails up! The National Trust have taken down the feeding stations because they fear they spread the pox that the greys carry, which is good, but it means the little fellows - and they are little - have to work that much harder in this cold hard world.
This is the landscape in which they live. Overnight we've had more snow, and it is snowing as I look out of the window so I'm not going into town for shopping and lunch with a friend as planned. "Half and inch of snow in the UK and chaos ensues on the roads as every one drives as if they are an old-age pensioner" commented someone on the radio this morning, and much as I resent the Old Age Pensioner tag I have to admit it is true.
So it is back to work again. I'm running through Till the Day Go Down (the new title I've given Warden's Bride) before offering it to my publisher. I knew I needed a better title because the heroine never became the bride of a Warden, but it gave me a tag to hang on to until I thought of something better. The next thing is to try my hand at loglines for it. I find it really hard to condense the story down to one sparky sentence. "Confident Harry finds his mission and life endangered when he runs foul of Alina's brutal father. " Doesn't seem like enough, does it?
I have to add that I'm revelling in the ITV3 concentration on historical fiction this week. The Jane Austen films and tv specials are being re-run, and there's a lovely series on Costume Drama running alongside. It is a fascinating compilation of clips from old and new historical dramas from Brideshead to Sharpe via Pride and Prejudice. Wonderful! The only problem is deciding wether to watch The Devil's Whore, a new first showing of the Civil War story about Angelica Fanshaw or Billie Piper's Mansfied Park. What a choice - I opted for Angelica. It's pretty gory in parts, but the cast is good and the story sound.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Reeth and language



Last picture of Reeth.

I don't know if this is of interest to anyone but me, but I've been "thinking aloud" recently about language in historical novels, and quoting one or two authors views as well as giving my own. Lindsey Davis is eloquent on the topic. As she says, we can be pretty sure that people in 1st-century Rome didn't speak like one of Cicero's speeches when they were talking to their friends/arguing with their landlords/chatting up a girl, and ditto people in Anglo-Saxon England didn't talk as if they were declaiming Beowulf, or Norsemen as if they were reciting a saga.

Slang and colloquialisms tend not to be used in the formal records posterity has handed down to us, just as they are not used in formal written records today - but that doesn't mean they didn't exist, and some authors think colloquial modern English gives a much better 'feel' for the people and their world than the stilted dialogue you sometimes see in historical fiction.
I've just been reading a couple of paranormal romances that would have us believe half the clans of Scotland turn into a wolf or a hunting cat at the full moon and while I was prepared to go along with that for a while (They are sold as paranormal romances, after all) what really put me off is the linguistic style - "doesnae, cannae, willnae" in almost every sentence of dialogue. I do wonder how the authors see/hear these words being pronounced in their heads - and I wonder if they pronounce them differently to me!

Anyone got any thoughts, views, opinions on this? I'd love to hear!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Sting and that painting...

Muker, Swaledale.

Originally a Norse settlement, derived from the Norse word "Mjor-aker" meaning "the narrow acre". People have lived where the Swale meets the Straw Beck since the Bronze Age and the promise of good mixed farming in the valley bottom is probably why the Vikings chose to settle here. It seems a long way from the sea...

Went into town yesterday to view a painting. Not something I do often., but this was on the recommendation of a friend.

Stephen Hannock, an American from Massachusetts, has painted an 8 feet by 12 feet (2.4 metres by 3.6 metres) view of the city of Newcastle on Tyne. The most distinctive feature is the river that divides Newcastle from Gateshead. The Millennium Bridge, The Sage and the Baltic are represented far more clearly than that other icon - the castle built in the eleventh century. I struggled to find that in the murk beneath the Tyne Bridge. The city is rendered as if looking down on a map spotted and blotched with bluish lights of differing sizes which represent coal mines. The painting combines what is there on the ground with what was once there in a way that reminds me of an advent calendar. A hazy outline of a gigantic miner lies along the south side of the Tyne, hewing coal for ever. Personal memories that must mean something to the man who commissioned the thing are scribbled at numerous points across the painting, but your nose needs to be four inches from the painting to read them.

The painting is called 'Northern City Renaissance, Newcastle, England'. The man who commissioned it? Sting. Here's one view

It is an interesting concept. I admire Sting for doing it, and putting it on view before he whips it away into one of his many mansions. I'm glad I saw it. But I won't rush to see it again.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Two down, one to go

A couple of pics taken as we drove through Buttertubs. Evidently it is so called because near the summit, just off the road, are a series of fluted limstone potholes. Click here to see them - next time I'll have to go find them!

As for writing, I've finished my re-draft of Warden's Bride and decided to name it Till the Day Go Down. It's a quote: the quiet, ominous words of English reiver Hobbie Noble planning his last foray.
"But will ye stay till the day go down
Until the night comes o'er the ground,
And I'll be a guide worth any twa
That may in Liddesdale be found."


(Dramatic cloudscapes arriving at the top of the Pass)

So now I can concentrate on the third story I've been struggling to re-draft. This one needs a spine so it can't be criticised as a series of nice episodes....and I think I have the spine. I just need to work it in so that it all hangs neatly and believably together. Easier said than done, I think!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Back to work

This is taken from the car as we drove up the Buttertubs Pass. Some day I must find out why it has such a strange name, but for anyone looking for a spectacular drive through Yorkshire countryside - look no further than Muker to Hawes.


Today I am clearing the decks prior to starting work. Checked for e-mails, and joined a new Yahoo group just setting up - click here to find out more. Hopefully this one will not become a place where authors send in excerpts of their books but never stop to discuss books in general. I yearn for a good discussion group!

I've downloaded a couple of titles to my new Sony e-reader and spent time yesterday scanning e-publishers. I was surprised to find that publishers like Sourcebooks, Avon and others sell at almost the same price as a paperback. I expected them to be substantially lower, but perhaps I am not looking in the right place. I also need to find if there's a way of scanning an e-book for a particular chapter. I haven't found a way to do this yet.

As for my reading - I've just finished the last Harry Potter. I enjoyed it as much as all the others and applauded the author's imagination. Of course, it could have been shorter and tighter, and there was a mid-section where not a lot happened. I did not question how 3 growing teenagers could survive on mushrooms for what seemed like half a year. Highly improbable, I know, but at least the author did not take the easy way out and have them steal food to survive. I was pleased that Snape was vindicated in the end, and could see why Harry would annoy him so. Poor man! I'd better not say more in case someone still has the pleasure of reading it to come - and it was a pleasure for me.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Swaledale


Here's a lovely old north country pub bar - it's the Black Bull at Reeth in Swaledale.

We had a day out yesterday and the pics will keep appearing over the next few entries - everything looked so lovely. After a tasty lunch in the bar we set off west and drove through a tiny hamlet called Healaugh and my memory jolted awake. I have surely seen that name in connection with Lord Wharton Deputy Lord Warden of the West March in the 1540's - the man who masterminded the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. It was one of his properties. The Manor House looked deliciously old - I must find out if it is the same Healaugh.
On through Gunnerside and Muker, where I bought a lovely Swaledale sweater - click here to see the lovely shop and the goodies inside, and then off up the curiously named Buttertubs Pass, off onto the 684 to Garsdale Head - one of the Settle Carlisle Railway stations and then up the single track winding old coal road over the the 1750 foot pass to Cowgill.

A shot of the old fireplace in the Black Bull. I swear everything looked level when I took the picture! The pub dates back to 1680 and the owner says all the floors are crooked, so maybe that's the explanation. It has a web site too: http://www.theblackbullreeth.co.uk/


Step outside and the fine hillside opposite fills the eyes-

In October 1680 Charles II's
fourth Parliament met. In November came the first
reading of the second Exclusion Bill
which not only barred James from the throne but made it treason for him to enter Britain. And in Reeth they were busy building the Black Bull.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

John's gone!



Another autumn picture. Our weather forecasters tell us to expect snow tomorrow down the whole of the east coast of England, so I don't doubt we'll get some. In preparation I've been out and about this week so that I can hibernate tomorrow if I have to.

All this gadding about means of course that I haven't done much writing. Still, I've only got 60 or so pages to check over and then I'll be finished ageing the heroine in Warden's Bride. I've almost decided to rename it Till the Day Go Down - and no, that's not bad grammar, it is a quote. More on that later. Because of the request from Black Lyon to make the heroine older and my own experiments with Save the Cat's Board, I think it is turning out to be a better book anyway.

Don't we live in a strange world when the news programmes find the fact that John Sargeant resigns from Strictly Come Dancing is newsworthy? I mean, in the scale of credit crunches, Somalian pirates and global warming, that such a thing should dominate our tv screens is unbelievable. Poor John may find he is now more unpopular for resigning than he was for staying. And the more interesting thing to my mind, is that the BBC is finding there is a downside to interactive tv and getting people to vote on everything. They may rue the day it ever started, because no one can predict the public vote. It is so volatile, favouring one person today and another tomorrow and it could become positively dangerous. Or exciting, depending on your POV. There, I knew I could make that writerly!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Black Cat


Two pictures taken on one walk - and how very different! Both autumnal and both pleasing in their own way. It occurs to me now (thank good ness it didn't occur to me on the walk!) that this dark and gloomy foresty habitat is probably the sort of country the fabled Black Cat of Tynedale stalks. According to local people the panther-like creature lives in the forests south of Hexham and believe me there is a lot of open and wooden space in Hexhamshire.

Since Wednesday I'm ashamed to say I've had only one day writing. Friday was my local authors' group meet, and because I tagged on a visit to my local farm shop - it was only a small detour - and stocked up on Aberdeen Angus sausages - yum! - that took a good chunk out of the day.

Saturday I spent my time fiddling about with a story board as described in Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I'd already roughed it out on Thursday, and went back to it with a vengeance using small green and blue post-it notes in a large spiral drawing pad that opens out to quite a size so there's lots of scope. Trouble was I've had these particular post-its for more than a year and the glue seems to have weakend. Every time I pick up the drawing pad at least one little post-it floats to the floor.

At first it was tricky to get the hang of his act breaks and turning points. Not difficult, but time consuming to get the sequence correct. Once I had it, I couldn't understand why I'd taken so long. Does it work? I think it does. It certainly clarifies the story. I used to think I planned a story before I began writing, but more and more I find the story evolves and changes as I go and I find myself getting to the end and then thinking oh but it would be better if.... and off I go, re-writing.

So next time, I'm playing on the story board before I put a finger on the PC.

If you want to find out more about the Black Cats, click
Here

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Tunstall



A lovely walk today and good compionship - both human and canine!


County Durham in November. We set off from Wolsingham car park and headed northwest towards the reservoir through glorious countryside. I poked my camera through the wrought iron gates of Faunlees Hall to take this picture and then kept on walking uphill to Park Walls where we sat and late lunch in the sunshine. I should have taken more pictures on the way up, because by the time we reached the highest point, cloud cover had set in and made the hillsides and the pictures hazy.



By the time I took this picture of my friend against the sweeping background looking south to the Cleveland Hills, we were close on 900 feet and I for one was out of puff and the dog was plodging around in every muddy bit of bog she could find. I opted for heading back down to coffee and a scone in Wolsingham and that's what we did.

Back to work tomorrow, after taking Mini in for her MOT. I expect her to pass with flying colours. She'll be in for a sound talking to if she doesn't.

Friday, 7 November 2008

And finally....

I found an interview with Phillippa Gregory in which she states:

"In terms of styles of language‚ I deliberately took the choice to use fundamentally modern language‚ but quite pure and quite simple. So I don′t use slang and I don′t use modern idioms. This is to make it acceptable to a wider audience and to write as well as I possibly can without being limited by language. For example‚ if I was to write a novel set in France and there were French people speaking French to each other − I wouldn′t put that on the page in French‚ I′d put it in English − and the reader understands as it′s part of a convention of reading a novel‚ that when someone is speaking Russian or French you don′t get a page of Russian or French − you get it in English.
If someone said to me that the past is a foreign country‚ it seems to me that it speaks a foreign language. So in terms of any notion of thee and thus and thy‚ superfluous words‚ I tend not to use them as it′s so strange to the modern eye. You also gain nothing by using them and the chances of rendering them correctly are very slim.
In the case of early modern society we don′t know how they spoke‚ we know how people have written down Shakespeare plays‚ but we don′t know how people actually spoke or what they sounded like. We do believe however that Anne Boleyn maintained the French accent throughout her life as she believed that it made her a bit special‚ I mention this in the novel. But in terms of how actually people spoke‚ we don′t know‚ so I won′t even make a guess."

An author who thinks differently is Patricia Finney. I once tried her book Firedrake's Eye but didn't get very far with it as I found reading it was rather more of a struggle than a pleasure. A review of her book A Shadow of Gulls says she "endows her players with a rich language--essentially modern English lightly laced with fanciful syntax and Elizabethan vocabulary."
On Nov 26, 2003 Roz Kaveney wrote in the Telegraph : "The books' language is a triumph. Finney finds a workable compromise between anachronistic slanginess and a verbose rhodomontade that would probably more accurately represent much of Elizabethan speech."

Now rhodomontade is not in my trusty dictionary, but rhodo means rose coloured. However, the internet tells me it means "pretentiously boastful or bragging." Still, it doesn't tempt me to go find the book and read it. Would you?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

More thoughts on language styles


"I know that some readers don’t like my ‘modern language’ approach – and, I mean, really don’t like it! Well, I can understand that; I do sympathise with that. I understand that, for some readers, the modern language ‘gets in the way’, breaks the spell, even seems ridiculous. But that’s how the stilted dialogue of many other historical novels seems to me. I wanted to write a ‘historical novel’ that I’d want to read. When I’d finished The Queen of Subtleties, my agent and editor each compiled a list of words that had jarred, for them: words that had gone too far. I did study those lists (and was grateful for their efforts!), but in the end I decided to ignore them. Because, otherwise, I’d be writing by committee. I’d had a vision for the book, and I had to stay true to that. And you can’t please all the people, all the time."
This is a snippet from Suzannah Dunn's website, and it is well worth reading the whole piece.
I read the Sixth Wife, and to be honest I was put off by the modern language the author used, not only for her dialogue but I think I'm correct in saying she used it for exposition too. But you know, by the middle of the book I was easier with it and by the end I'd forgotten about it. My mindset had altered and embraced her use of language.
I know that Dorothy Dunnett wrote in what I have to call "modern language." I had no problems with her novels because she did not use modern jargon or slang - nothing too twentieth century. If I checked I'd probably find there were no words in her Lymond series that would have been unfamiliar in 1560. (Though occasionally there was a tiny slip - I'm not convinced that even the brightest person alive then would have know of the existence of brain cells.) In her first book Ms Dunnett made a glorious game out of using "old" words like passementerie - and I hope I've spelled that correctly - I don't use it very often! - that sent many of us off on a chase through dictionaries to discover the meaning. I enjoyed that, but some people found it irritating.
Ms Dunnett had a style all her own, and one I enjoyed tremendously. The opening line of Disorderly Knights, for instance: "On the day his grannie was killed by the English, Sir William Scott the Younger of Buccleuch was at Melrose Abbey, marrying his aunt." Now doesn't that get your attention? It got mine.
Or, a little later in the chapter - "Swearing with great spirit from time to time, always a good sign with Sir Walter, he flew through the filmy splendours of autumn, primed to nick Kerr heads like old semmit buttons."
You don't need to know what old semmit buttons are to pick up sense of glorious adventure and tongue in cheek humour to know you're going to enjoy a wonderful read.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Language in all it's forms


I'm still interested in modern/versus archaic language in historical novels. I really think I ought to qualify archaic and say less modern, or language more true to the time period of the novel. Possibly not even that. If I wrote a book in the language used by Elizabethans, I doubt it would sell very well. But conversely, is it OK to write a book set in Elizabethan times and uses phrases like "She was drunk as a skunk and well out of order...." I wonder.


Trawling the web, I found this snippet from writer Mary Renault. Her books The King must Die and Bull From the Sea fuelled my imagination when I was much younger and I still have them on the shelf today. This is what she said on the topic:

"Greek is a highly polysyllabic language. Yet when writing dialogue for my Greeks I have found myself, by instinct, avoiding the polysyllables of the English language, and using, as far as they are still in the living language, the older and shorter words. This is not because the style parallels Greek style; it is entirely a matter of association and ambience. In Greek, polysyllables are old; in English, mostly Latinised and largely modern. They have acquired their own aura, which they will bring along with them. Their stare, like that of the basilisk, is killing. Take the following sentence, which I have just picked at random from a magazine: “High priority is to be given to training in the skills of community organizing and conflict resolution.” It contains no concept which Plato did not know, or, indeed, did not in fact deal with. But it comes to us steeped in notions of the company report, the social survey, and so forth. When I see writing like this in a historical novel I know what the author is after. He wants us to identify with the situation of his characters as if it were our own. But it isn’t, and identification thus achieved is a cheat. You cannot, as an advertising copywriter would say, enjoy a trip to fifth-century Athens, or Minoan Crete, in the comfort of your own home. You have, as far as your mind will take you, to leave home and go to them."

I totally agree. The trick is to find the right kind of language for the particular era in which you wish to write your novel.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Saturnalia



Here's an autumn picture - newly ploughed fields....and Halloween went by without a murmur in our cul de sac. Put it down to the nasty cold rain that night, or the fact that the kids have all grown beyond wearing mum's old sheet with two holes cut for eyes. Yet in town, adults were standing in a ten, twelve yard queue, outside in the cold, waiting to get inside and make purchases of some kind at the only Halloween shop in town. It seems to me a very odd thing when adults take over festivals that twenty years ago were considered fit only for children.

I finished reading Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis last week and thought I'd offer a comment or two. I was particularly intrigued by her use of language. I knew she used modern langauge, but now that I'm writing myself I looked at what she does with new eyes. Isn't it amazing how this happens? Something I've taken for granted for years suddenly takes on a new aspect because I started to question how I used language in my writing.

Lindsey says in the notes section: "I write about another culture, where people spoke another language, one which has mainly survived either in a literary form or as tavern wall graffiti. Many an argot must have existed in between. People sometimes discuss whether the Romans would really sound as I portray them - forgetting firstly that the Romans spoke Latin not English, and that on the streets and in the provinces they must have spoekn versions of Latin that did not survive. I have to find my own ways to make narrative and dialogue convincing."

She goes on: "It is no good hoping that the carbonised papyri from Herculaneum that are now being so painstakingly unravelled by scholars will produce clues; so far they are all Greek to me, and indeed to everyone. If Calpurnius Piso, thought to be the villa's owner, owned a Slang Thesaurus, we have not found it."

So she deploys metaphors and similes that work in context, and sometimes she invents words, although she has to struggle to get them by her British editor. And above all, she uses modern, slang English. It works. And people like it; after all, this is her eighteenth book about Marcus Didius Falco.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Taking a breather

I ought to confess that I haven't yet read A Country House at Work even though I've had it sitting in my This Week slot for several weeks. Suffice to say that it details the lives of servants in country houses, and right now I don't need to know about servants but I'll keep it against the day that I most surely will.
I have begun a new Stephanie Laurens book. This one is about Sir Giles, and was published 2007. I may keep a count of the er, h'mmm, sex scenes this time just to see what percentage of the book is taken up by them! It could become my new hobby.

Things are calming down in my life. I've sent copies of FAG off to hopefully be reviewed by local press. I've posted the cover on here, my website and notified my critique group and my local and national writers group. The next step will be to begin tapping into Yahoo groups and breaking the news there.

I have finished off and despatched a short work for the UNDONE series, sent off two historicals and now I can concentrate on Daisy. This time I am weaving a "crime" into the romance and finding that I keep losing track of who done what where. But now that I have only one work to worry about, I should get to grips with it soon even if it means sitting down with a print out and noting, synopsis style, what has happened so far. In fact, that would be a good idea for several reasons. I've got about 31,000 words down to date, with several completed chapters of what happens later in the story already complete. They just need working in. Reminds me of reading Diana Gabaldon's website and seeing that she writes each chapter and prints it out. Then she'll do another, and another, and at the end, she sits on the floor with all these chapters spread out around her and decides their order in the final book. Makes my eyes water just to think of it!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

My cover!

Here it is!
My cover!
My very first paperback cover!
And the publication date has moved up to January 2009!
I'm very pleased with it. I didn't want what I call a "half-naked-couple-in-a-clinch" cover even though a good friend of ours reminded me, once he heard I was writing, that "shagging sells!"
My publisher assures me that the runes top and bottom roughly spell out my name and the title and not something like "Halfdan was here...."
The other highlight of the day was the visit to Bowes Museum to hear Phillippa Gregory speak as part of the Durham Literary Festival. She is smaller than I imagined, and spoke very well for over an hour. Mary Queen of Scots she'd always avoided as a heroine because everybody's done her, and besides she'd always thought her an idiot. Mary had claims to three crowns and lost them all. She had three husbands and lost them too. Well, to lose one is unlucky, to lose two is careless and to lose all three must mean she was an idiot.
Phillippa went on to explain how she'd come to realise that most of the original documents were written by Polydor Virgil and deliberately biased. There are one or two letters, but they are suspect. No one wrote of Mary until the Victorians took her up, and they too were biased, though in a different way. They saw her through a blinkered male perspective and the resultant histories made her sound romantic but idiotic. (I rush to get this down before it all fades away. If you get the chance to hear Ms Gregory say it, do go and listen. She says it all so much better!)
So she read My Heart is Mine Own by John Gay and began to see Mary in a different way, began to do the research, visit the locations, and walked around the house talking to herself until she felt she had grasped Mary's "voice"- how she felt, how she was - and then began to write. The tale begins once Mary leaves Scotland and instead of finding herself at the head of an army ready to take back her Scottish throne, is quietly taken to Bolton Castle and locked in. Her jailor is Lord Shrewsbury, married only 14 months to Bess (of Hardwick fame) and inevitably, he falls in love with Mary. To make matters worse, Bess is a self-made woman of frugal habits. Can you imagine anything worse if you were Bess than having this Queen thrust upon you, demanding not only 32 courses at dinner every day but white wine too - not to drink, but to wash her face?
There was much more and all of it entertaining. Such as why Ms Gregory uses the first person - to really get inside each of the three protagonists - and why she does not write of Mary's death -
because the sixteen years of Mary's imprisonment were filled with plots to escape and that would have been too tedious to recount. So the book covers only a portion, and uses the Duke of Norfolk's execution as a forerunner of Mary's own death.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

FAR AFTER GOLD arc

I have my book in my hands! FAR AFTER GOLD! by Jen Black!
Half a dozen ARCs arrived in the post today. It felt strangely unreal to think that I'd written it, because it looks like a normal paperback book. Stylish, even. One for me and the others to go out for reviews. I love the cover and I wish I had the approved cover art to put here for you. Soon, soon... so come Monday you know what I shall be doing - I'll be making those all important calls to secure reviewers. Wish me luck!


The picture is of Durham Cathedral. For both of us it was a case of going back "home." So many of the old places are gone, replaced by cafes and restaurants and it is difficult to walk twenty yards without the smell of food and coffee drifting out on the air. No wonder the nation is rapidly gaining weight!
The cathedral is about the only place safe from change. Difficult to remember cowering by the walls as the old red buses lumbered up the middle of Silver Street. Now it is a pedestrian thoroughfare, and probably rightly so given the size of modern buses. They'd be scraping people off the walls these days. Traffic has increased so much that only those who pay or have special passes are allowed to drive up to the cathedral.
Sometimes I'm surprised the weight of motor vehicles doesn't tilt the world off its axis.
On the other hand, we've all adapted so well to having cars that our lifestyles are now built around them. We live in places inaccessible by bus or train or so far away that to get to work in the morning we'd need to leave home by six to get there by nine - and this in a country as small as the UK. The old corner shop has all but disappeared because we all drive out of town to shop at the superstores like Tesco and Waitrose. Our lives are so busy that we don't have time to spend travelling anywhere by bus when we can get there in a third of time by car. Governments are going to have a dickens of a job persuading people out of their cars. I'm off to Bowes Museum tomorrow. How will I go? By car, of course. I have no idea if I could get there by bus. To go to Durham, much nearer than BM, I would have to use a minimum of two buses (a maximum of three) and the journey would take me two hours and four minutes at best, two hours and twenty five minutes at worst. And that is with connections within minutes of each other. Imagine what would happen if one bus was late...
No contest, is it?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Autum colours are slow

Autumn is coming slow this year. Only the horsechestnuts have turned so far and the rest of the trees are thinking about it. For sheer eyecatching colour we'll never outdo places like Canada, but we do get a sublety here in a our native trees which I find pleasing. The ornamental rowan in our garden is bright scarlet, yet the same variety of tree fifty yards away on the other side of the cul-de-sac is still partly green.

Today I finished the final check on WsB and sent it off on its journey to some publishers' in-tray where it will wait to be judged. In fact I was so keen to send it off that my finger slipped and the publisher duly received a copy of their last post to me - and I didn't realise I'd sent it until the automatic acknowledgement popped in to my in-box. By then I'd sent off the real post, and duly received another acknowledgement. They'll be tired of me already.

Today I sent my publisher an author bio and a photo of me. I expect it will go in the media kit he's proposing to put together. Any day soon I should receive some copies to give out for review - if I can persuade any newspaper reviewers to take it on!

I bought a ticket to hear Phillippa Gregory speak on Sunday. She's taking part in the Durham Literature Festival (17th-26th October) and we'll drive down to Bowes Museum for 3pm since that's where she going to be. Look out for pics of the museum....and maybe the lady herself, if she doesn't object.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

If only...

Lots of water coming down the Tyne today after all the rain. The river looks high, but not noticeable so until it hits the weir - and then look!

No salmon leaping today.

"The spine of your story is defined as what happens to your hero as we chart his transformation from the start of your tale to its finish. The demarcations of growth that hero goes through IS the story."

Quote gleaned from Blake Snyder's blog today. I wish I'd read this before I started writing my Victorian piece, because I got in a tangle with it. The happy couple had adventures, sure - but I'm not sure they transformed. I don't think they grew in understanding by one teensy, tiny inch. In fact, they didn't seem much different at the end of the story to how they were when they began.

Soon I shall be concentrating on them totally, and they'd better look out. I've only 40 pages of a last edit to do on WsB and will complete that tomorrow morning. Then I have the last three chapters of HsD to edit - funny how I've fallen into this trap of doing things in tandem. That may take a day or two. Then I will be clear to concentrate on one story and that, I can tell you, will be a relief. Though I live in fear that all 3 heroes will merge into one, and thank the Lord that doublet and hose, like knee breeches and cravats, are a world away from frock coats and Norfolk jackets. The costume angle keeps me sane!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Skipping sex


I thought it was about time I commented on some of the books I've been reading and listing on here. (If you haven't noticed, look to the right....)

Last read has been a Stephanie Laurens. This is perhaps the fourth one - I've done Vane, Devil, and Lucifer. This time it was one of the girls as protagonist- Amanda, to be precise. I adore the way the author gets her character psychology so right, the Regency times so precise and love her excellent use of language. But...you can tell there's a but coming, I suspect - I now skip pages describing most of the sex encounters. At first it was Vane and Priscilla and the encounters were well done and in character. (And new, of course. To me, anyway.) Slowly, as I've found and read the other titles, I find the level of sex is increasing until in the last two books I've been tempted to count the pages that detail the encounters - sometimes seven, eight and nine page encounters and more than three, four or five encounters per book - perhaps more. What percentage of the whole book, I wonder? Not that it isn't well done, but...there's only so much lapping, laving and silken skin a person can take before it begins to feel just a tad repetitious. I'd much rather have more story, which the author also writes very well indeed.

Perhaps I've read too many of the series in too short a space of time. Spread out over a few years, would I notice? I don't know.

Does this demand for sex come from the reader, the editor, the publishing houses? and how much is enough? and how much becomes too much?

I'm wondering how far and where this trend will go. If you have a view, let me know! And if Ms Laurens happens, by some strange internet quirk, to see this - don't worry - I'll still be reading your books!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Too many eggs

Another view taken on our walk at Wallington. My local newspaper tells me that 20,000 grey squirrels have been culled in Northumberland this year in order to save the native red. We didn't see any leaping about at Wallington but then there were so many people and dogs walking that any self-respecting squirrel would be miles away. The greys, brought here in Victorian times, weigh three times as much as the red and eat three times as much. They also carry a disease that is lethal to reds, but there is hope that some of the native species have deloped an immunity.

I hope to have the cover art for FAR AFTER GOLD in about ten days, and then I can display it here and other places. Such excitement! Also I've finished off my attempt at a novella for the UNDONE series. That 13,000 words went off today.
Now I must concentrate on Daisy's story, which seems to have lost the plot around chapter 8, and read through Warden's Bride. (second edition with older heroine.) Sometimes I wonder if I'm trying to juggle too many eggs at one time...
All this sitting at a computer leads to wide hips and general unfitness in my case, so I am making a special effort to walk up the hill to Prudhoe every day. If not every day, then several times a week. It is too easy to look out of the window, see the rain and decide to stay indoors. Lately when I walk up the hill, I've had to stop more than once to ease the ache in my chest. So yesterday and today off I went. Monday I did a mile on the stationary bike - that has to count for something!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Kitchen and writing

The autumn colours are creeping in - this is a shot across the lake at Wallington Hall. The last few days have been splendid - clear blue skies, crisp weather and sunshine. Who could ask for more? Even dh was persuaded to leave his kitchen renovation and go out for a walk and a breath of fresh air. Everyone else had the same idea - it's a long time since I've seen so many people at Wallington.

Since my last post we've taken delivery of a new double oven and fridge and installed them into the awaiting units. I say "we" because I was involved in the heaving into place, positioning and levelling up, but dh knew what he was doing - I simply did what I was told! Both items look wonderful, and both work. All this installation work has meant not much writing or revision being done. That isn't too bad at the moment, because I need to think of a way to finish off the short story - it doesn't even have a title yet. H'sD is just about done; I'm awaiting critiques for the last three chapters. Daisy's story is renovation work (think re-writing, incorporating new with old) and needs to have time spent on it. I've aged my heroine in W'sB and need to give the ms a final check over then that too is ready for the world.

On Sunday I receieved an early version of the cover for FAG and I'm pleased with it - not a hero/heroine, sexy clinch or a heaving bosom in sight. I don't know if I'm allowed to reveal it yet, but as soon as I can, I will.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Edits


This is a duck house, photographed at Jarrow acouple of years ago. Typical of Viking and early medieval dwellings to keep the birds safe overnight. The sort of duck house my heroine Emer would have known in the story FAR FROM GOLD.
Well, the edits for FAG are done and returned. It wasn't bad at all - only two points where a sentence needed to be removed and I didn't disagree with my editors decision. Apart from that, it was mainly removing commas and semi colons. That shows how long ago I wrote the story, for I rapidly grew out of using semi colons and hardly ever use them now. The incorrect commas, I fear, are partly a legacy of my critique goup and the computer grammar rules. At one point it seemed that where I put them in, critiquers took them out. Where I omitted them, critiquers put them in, and I became so confused they were spattered anywhere! The computer butted in whenever I used "and"... and as we all know, computers are totally inflexible.
Now I'm looking forward to a pre-release version of the book for reviewers in November.

This morning I must return some books to the library, buy some cottage cheese which I forgot yesterday during the grocery shop, and then settle down to some work on Heiress's Dilemma. Critiques to check, amendments to make before it goes off as a complete ms. Meanwhile dh goes on working in the kitchen. Tomorrow the new oven and fridge arrive and then, dear friends, it will be complete except for a total clean down and re-arrangement of storage. I'll have so many cupboards I won't know what to do with them all! I expect I'll walk to the wrong cupboard for weeks until I get then hang of where I've stored everything.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Do I have time for Edits?

I received edits for FAR AFTER GOLD yesterday, and immediately set to work. By 8pm I reached Chapter Twelve and found that I was reading than checking, so I stopped. Today I was due to meet friends in Newcastle for a days shopping, which was great for friendship but bad for edits. (We devoured a white wine spritzer with Eggs Benedict in the new eatery where the old French Salon used to be in Fenwicks while Bill carried on with the kitchen re-vamp. Some days it feels as if I have all the fun!)
True to form when something important comes along - like receiving edits - I had also received a request for a full ms of Heiress's Dilemma from a publisher in America, I have a coffee date tomorrow morning, and I have just begun to play around with pictures for another YouTube video. I should also do some critiques for the group.
However, back to edits. No time to waste. When they are done, I'll get back to everything else.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

What is a trillion?

With all this talk of credit crunch and the BBC News endlessly going on about whether the American Senate might or might not vote $700 million/billion - I've heard both reported - to cover the deficit caused by mortgages that never had a hope of being repaid, I remembered Bill Bryson.

In 1999 he published Notes From A Big Country and he did a piece on the economy. This is what he says: "No matter where you turn with regard to America and its economy you are going to bump into figures that are so large as to be essentially incomprehensible." He goes on to quote the annual gross domestic product as $6.8 trillion, the federal budget at $1.6 trillion, the federal deficit around $200 billion.
Do you have much idea of what a trillion is? I don't. It looks like this:
$6,800,000,000,000. I'd like to work out what % $700 billion/million is of that total, but my calculator won't take that many numbers.
Snookered.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Autumn and kitchens

So far there are few changes to the trees, but autumn is approaching. The temperatures are starting to go down at night, and we have warnings of the first overnight frosts. No doubt in a week or two, these woods, where we walked last Friday - the day the car decided to play its nasty little trick - will be a mass of gold and brown.

I like autumn - especially its clear blue skies and brisk, bracing days. I'm less keen on the mists in spite of the mellow fruitfulness...we have picked a lot of blackberries this season, but the raspberries were not at all fruitfull. On the plus side, our apple tree produced its first crop of ten apples - hurrah! I noticed that we didn't have the usual hordes of bees this summer, and those we did see were a much smaller variety than the usual bumble bee. I've replanted lavender, which bumbles love, and some hollyhocks in the hope of tempting them back.

I often think this world is going to the dogs but now I'm convinced of it. Words I recognised drifted from the tv set and I stopped reading to find that Elizabeth Barrett Browning's wonderful words, from the poem that begins How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height... were accompanying an ADVERT. I was so shocked I didn't take note of the thing being promoted. Sacriledge, I thought. They'll have Shakespeare's sonnets advertising sausages next. Have admen no souls?

I've done work on critiques today. Critiques I've received, and critiques I've done for others. Often illuminating, often thought provoking work. But I must get back to my writing, which I've neglected it today. I think it was because I spent a good two hours this morning helping dh heave new kitchen units about between the garage and their final resting place in our wrecked (as of this moment) kitchen. We'll be in upheaval for a little while longer, too, but I must not allow that to stop me writing. And I must remember not to get too enthusiastic with the hoovering. We recently retired our ancient Hoover and got a new Dyson, and this is probably only the third time I've used it. Wafting the long nozzle about proved disastrous - it sucked down the pretty pink ribbon bow that decorates my bedside lamp, a green ribbon I never saw but it found somewhere and some old fashioned replaceable nibs for pens that I kept in a Victorian glass inkstand. They tinkled merrily as they vanished into the maw, and I haven't dared tell dh...but there seem to be no adverse reactions, and I got the ribbons back when we emptied the bag.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

It's been fun...



We sold our wonderful 2000E roadster yesterday for a more sensible Type R. We've had enormous fun in it over the last five years but it's immobiliser system has developed a serious glitch - it keeps immobilising us!

It did in in Cornwall this year, and did it again on Friday. This time we were only a few miles from home, but when we finally got it to the Honda garage, dh decided he would never trust it again...so in a day or two we shall have a new car.

No writing done for a couple of days. We had old friends over on Saturday night, and for us that means a rushed regime of housecleaning as well as preparing food for eight. Since I'm not the world's most accomplished chef, this means hard work and concentration - I'm far too likely to wander off and leave things to burn. There always seems to be something more interesting to do...

My mind is really caught up with the Undone line story I started a couple of days ago. I like it, and it could be expanded later into a full size novel. There are so many things going on at the moment - kitchen, car, and I still haven't got my Sony e-reader totally connected up. But my mind is simmering the story and come tomorrow - aw, then I'll have to go to the library and buy groceries! I need a housekeeper!