Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas afterglow

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I had a really lovely Christmas. It was quiet, just myself, Mr Grumpy and a friend of his, who I shall refer to as Mr Double-Grumpy (D-G for short). Mr G gave me a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. Remembering how hurt he was (and still is) that I still haven't started using the HTC smartphone that he game me LAST Christmas, due to an attack of extreme technophobia which culminated in my being so cackhanded at working the touch screen that I managed to delete not only most of the icons but also some of the inbuilt instructions that made the thing work, I knew I had to make an extra effort to master the Kindle.

And I did! I managed to RTFM (Read The F---ing Manual) and download some books. I still haven't connected myself to Facebook, Twitter and email on it, but, having read five chapters of Eileen Thornton's highly entertaining ebook,, I declare myself up and running and a fully-fledged member of the Kindle generation.

I gave him a Trail Camera, aka a Stealth Camera, one which you stick in the garden to photograph passing wildlife, as it's movement-activated. With any luck, it will capture the evil faces of would-be burglars, too. And the padded gilet I also gave him, in a khaki shade to blend him in with the foliage, will allow him to watch the camera watching the wildlife, and with any luck he will lurk among the bushes for so long that I will be able to watch all my favourite TV progs in real time, for a change!

Seriously though, the turkey he not only prepared and covered in herbs and spices down at his friend the butcher's, but cooked, too, was absolutely delicious, as were the roast spuds and parsnips. And my sprouts and carrots were okay as well. As Mr G doesn't drink, and D-G was driving, I drank all the wine by myself, then stuffed my fat face with chocs, as I was given a Thorntons hamper by my lovely employers at Writing Ltd. Yesterday was a non-day. Bilious was an understatement. But today I feel fine and am even looking forward to my New Year job of toning down the sex scenes in my book. (Any bids for the unexpurgated version, anyone?!)

Happy New Year to you all!

 (photo by Joan Byrne)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Peter Pan

Last night I went to see Peter Pan at the Beck Theatre in Hayes. Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale in Eastenders, was Captain Hook. In my opinion, he wasn't nearly scary enough. He played the role using his supercilious, smug Ian Beale smile, he camped it up for an adult audience and didn't connect with the kids, of which there were tons.

I made the mistake of not buying an expensive programme. I didn't think it was a mistake at the time, but now I find myself unable to heap praise on the actors who were the real stars of the show as I have been unable to find a cast list online anywhere. A pretty girl with a wonderful voice played Wendy, forced to wear a ghastly nightie while all the other young girls wore a variety of pretty, skimpy costumes. Peter Pan himself was played by an elfin-looking youth with amazing red hair and endearing charm. But, for me, the true star of the show was Smee, a barrel of a man who projected and connected with everyone, old and young, who skipped, danced, sang and clowned and had a personality that filled the entire hall. If only I could find out the name of the actor. I suppose I'll just have to go back and buy a blasted programme!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Charlie the Outdoor Cat

He must have fur like a husky to withstand the temperatures we've been getting, but he seems quite happy to sit and survey the frosty garden from his perch beneath the stand on which I grew my tomatoes.

We think he's been sleeping under a shed a few doors away, but as he comes here for his meals, Mr Grumpy cut a hole in a big box, wadded some paper underneath to keep the base off the cold concrete path at the side of the house, where it's sheltered by a plastic canopy, and I put Chi Mimi's old cat bed in it. He seems to have taken up residence.

Only problem is, Chi Mimi's owners are going away for Christmas and we are feeding her, her brother Junior and their mum, Mimi (a devil cat who attacks everything and everyone!). What this means is that Chi Mimi, who loves company and pines if she's not with humans, will move in here and will, of course, look for her old cat bed. I can foresee a major dust-up and a few scratched noses.

Heirs and Disgraces

I've just been watching Heir Hunters and it got me thinking about the difficulties the hunters have had if I died intestate. I found it interesting that they assume an heir's relatives would still be living in the same area where the deceased person died. How would they have coped with me? Born in Liverpool, lived in London for decades, one child who was adopted and now lives in Devon, and one sister who has been married three times - all those different surnames! - and now lives in Cumbria! It's lucky I've made a Will, isn't it?

I had no idea that heir-hunting was such a cut-throat business, with firms vying to be first to track down the heirs, like a flock of vultures - though the ones I was watching this morning had a pleasant, soothing manner with the deceased's family. I wonder what percentage they take? If it's ten percent and the estate is only valued at £10,000,  a grand doesn't seem much for all that sleuthing and dashing about the country, petrol to pay for, wages to pay. But why should the government snatch somebody's life savings? That doesn't seem fair at all. It's a bloody disgrace! It would be far better to give it to charity. What do you think?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rights and wrongs

In the absence of any further suggestions from agent or publisher, I decided to contact the Society of Authors. I had a very nice reply from one of their lawyers, saying it was a highly unusual case and she'd never heard of anything like it. She has asked for a copy of the contract and correspondence between myself and the publisher, but the trouble is the only emails I kept were those containing editing instructions. I didn't think to keep the ones that asked me to make the sex more graphic. If I had, I may have had a good case for... for what? I've had two-thirds of the money and can't expect to get the third I was to receive on publication..

I suppose all I can push for now is to get the rights back so I can publish the damned thing myself. Or to ask to be paid a further advance in order to rewrite what will in effect be a very different book, with all the smutty jokes and talk and raunchy references taken out, as well as the sex scenes themselves. Any views, anyone?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Breaking the Moulds

An apology from the publisher would have been nice. A bottle of wine would have been even better. But Sweet FA is just insulting. Maybe they are licking their wounds.

So I have been getting on with appraising a manuscript by a favourite author of mine. His name is Clifford Peacock, he's 80 and I hope he won't mind my blowing his trumpet for him. After we had worked on his first book together, Robert Hale offered him a two-book deal. He has now written a memoir of his years spent as a District Officer in Kenya in the 1950s and it is such a fascinating and absorbing read that I am finding it hard to break off for meals. The sense of time and place is just terrific, the anecdotes are a mixture of dastardly and entertaining and I just don't want to it to finish - though it's nice to know that I still have 40 pages left to work on tomorrow. It's called Donkey Down the Well and I hope it will get published, as it deserves to be out there on Kindle and on the book store shelves.

I have just finished reading Hilary Boyd's Thursdays In The Park. One reason I enjoyed it so much was because it contains references to Waterlow Park in Highgate and even the coffee bar that I used to frequent. It was good to read a heart-warming romance about older people for a change. I tried to place a Gran Lit book for ages, but agents and publishers told me there was no market for it - just as they told me I was too old to publish a book (!!!) and they'd have to hire a model to pose as me for publicity purposes (how insulting is that!). So thank you to both Hilary Boyd and Clifford Peacock for breaking the moulds.

(Clifford can be found at:

Monday, 3 December 2012

Bad news about my book

I am writing this in floods of tears. I've just heard from my agent that my two books, that I gave up other work and holidays for and slaved to complete in ten weeks because of the publisher's ridiculously tight deadline, are not going to be published after all, as Amazon have refused to list them because they have deemed them too sexy for teenagers.

I have been paid for the first one, but that's not the point. Originally, the book was written as a soft, sensual romance for an adult readership. Then I was asked to lower the characters' ages and put in lots of explicit sex, which I did. This required writing two brand new books to take the place of the single 85,000 word original. Only last Friday, I had an email saying if I could find any places to add even more sex, please do so.

Now I am being asked to rewrite both books and take out all the sex and change it to dreamy romance. That loses the whole point of the books. It also negates one of the characters, who is a raunchy, bouncy girl full of dirty jokes. I am too exhausted and dispirited even to contemplate it. I have discovered that the whole sex thing was driven by the French publishing market, who wanted steam. Now they have back-tracked. So I have the Frogs to blame for the whole thing.

I was so happy about becoming a published author again after an eight year hiatus. I felt that at last I had my identity as a writer back again and had something to look forward to. All my friends were poised to buy the book. I'd even told Margaret Drabble about it when we met on that coach journey last week! I had bought the champagne to drink on publication day. I had a lunch booked with my agent in the Midlands tomorrow and had bought the train ticket and now that's been cancelled as she says we've got nothing to celebrate. She says that if they decide to ditch it and the book needs re-selling for the adult market, then she can't handle it because she is purely an agent for children's literature, so I will be left high and dry.

I can't tell you how upset I am. I feel as if my world has fallen apart - and to cap it all, I have toothache again, in a different tooth this time. If the world ends on the 21st as the Mayans predicted, I don't give a stuff, the way I'm feeling right now. I feel as if mine has ended already.