Sunday, 29 January 2012

A book in a nutshell

When I do an appraisal of a manuscript, which happens most weeks, and am asked to give the writer advice on getting a submission package together, I always ask them to sum up the essence of it in as few words as possible.

Whilst lying awake in the wee small hours, thinking about a book idea which I have germinating, I wondered what few words I would like to see used to sum up this particular book. In the end, it came down to just two: 'darkly funny'. So, in the next couple of weeks, I intend setting down the first few paragraphs. Actually, I find these two words quite inspirational. Already, I have a subplot forming. Pity I don't have the main one yet!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Signs of rain...

I spent most of my childhood in Booker Avenue, Liverpool. If you turned left out of the door and kept going, half an hour later you would be down at Otterspool Promenade overlooking the browny-grey swirling tides of the River Mersey. Once, when I was an unhappy, overemotional teen, I rushed down there intent on drowning myself. Fortunately, the tide was out and I didn't fancy landing with a splat in the filthy mud and wallowing like a hippo till someone rescued me!

We always knew when rain was on its way as we could glimpse the top of Moel Famau in the distance, the cairn on top looking like a nipple on a gently rounded breast.

Where I live now, we have another sign of approaching rain - the smell of coffee from the Nestle factory in Hayes, Middlesex. In this week's local paper, there was the sad news that the factory is going to close down, with the loss of 230 jobs in an already run-down and underprivileged area. Yet not so long ago, it was reported that the company were going to pump money into the site and improve it. It's a magnificent art deco building and I would rather see it turned into flats than pulled down.

Imagine what the views from the penthouse would be like. You'd be able to see right over the Chilterns. Think I'll put my name down now!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Hockney, houses and holes

Although the Hockney exhibition was slated in the press (by those jealous of his success, I can't help feeling), I loved it. Surrounded by shapes and colour, I felt uplifted and energised and if art can do this, I wish I could visit the exhibition every day as it's better and healthier than Prozac!

On Saturday I went to view a cottage which I had high hopes of. Alas, it was everything I couldn't live with. Nowhere to stick my piano or books, tiny, poky kitchen, downstairs bathroom and ill-fitting double glazing. The poor family who were currently renting it were crammed into the bedroom while viewer after viewer trooped in and out. I should think someone will buy it for their portfolio of rental properties. It had that sad, neglected feeling of not having been a real home for a very long time.

Meanwhile, the lengthy saga of my teeth is still dragging on. I am now seeing a local dentist. He is an interesting man, a part-time actor, and very chatty. We get on well, but... he is private, with bills to match. Though his price for root canal and implants is less than that of the West End practice I was going to. He did some temporary root canal surgery to relieve the pain of the tooth beneath the large gap. To do this, he had to destroy the crown that the previous dentist made, which left a mere stump of a tooth, so the right-hand side of my mouth now looks like crumbling castle battlements.

I now have to decide whether or not I want the tooth out as, in his words, 'it has almost reached the point of being non-viable'. Meaning that I could spend a lot of money on it but, a few months or a couple of years hence, it would still have to come out. So... what shall I do? I have a nasty feeling that if I say, "Take it out," the rest of my teeth will start collapsing like a row of dominoes and I shall have to have a set of grinning white dentures. Mind you, they'd look a lot better than what's there right now! Plus, I'd never get toothache again.

Off to see War Horse (the film, not the play) tomorrow night. Bet I'll cry...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

What to wear in the rain?

I admit it, I'm wimpy about rain. I don't possess a really good waterproof mac, for a start. Yes, I could walk around in one of those plastic ponchos from Oxfam, looking like a giant knobbly condom, but there's the problem of feet. Keeping them dry, I mean. The kind of shoes you want to wear around London aren't compatible with keeping the wet out.

My sister in the Lake District (Lake = rain = lots of wet stuff) doesn't have this problem. Where one person might have a country-style waxed jacket swinging from a peg in the hall, she has an entire roomful of the kind of stuff that you can wear at vast altitudes in the snow, and the sort of boots you could cross the Red Sea in, with or without the divide.

None of which solves my problem. In 15 minutes time, I have to go out in the pouring rain as I have tickets for a preview of the David Hockney Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Perhaps, if I want to look vaguely arty, the Giant Condom Poncho will have to do!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Oh dear...

Since I had my grumble about not being able to write while I was editing other people's work for a living, I have been inundated with jobs. And I mean INUNDATED. They are queuing up, from writing authors' synopses for them, to editing a 150,000 word novel. The job I've just done was set in Vienna, all the chapter headings were in French and the author himself was Spanish, so all his sentence constructions were very non-English. It has taken me days to do and of course I have to slave away for half the fee as the agency takes the other half. It is extremely hard work, especially with my arthritic fingers, but hey, it's work I can do from home so I know I shouldn't grumble. But the dream of a nice long holiday is occupying my thoughts more and more...

Last week, my gorgeous god-daughter was over from Vancouver with her delicious toddler, who I am also godmother to. God-daughter (GD) is pregnant with number two, a boy this time. Perhaps Vancouver is where I shall go for my long holiday, once he is born.

Meanwhile, until I can think of a new blog topic, here is a piccy of Flad, asleep and dreaming with his tongue out. Aaaaaaah!

Monday, 9 January 2012


Apologies for having posted nothing since December. Mea culpa! I had no work at all for the entire month and got into sloth mode, but all that has changed now as more editing jobs have come in, which means postponing yet again the moment when I start work on another book. One day...

... Or maybe not. The editor of a magazine I used to freelance for, who was also father of five, trained himself to get up at 4 am every morning to work on his novel before leaving for the office. It took such a toll on him that one night he sleepwalked right out of the first floor bedroom window and broke his back. He made a good recovery, but has since been made redundant and I believe he is now freelancing and still writing books.

So what is my excuse? I don't have five children, only one slightly disabled Mr Grumpy and a fat old cat. But when you have stared at the screen for five hours editing and annotating 50 page sof someone else's writing, the last thing you feel like is spending another couple of hours writing your own. Working on other people's material numbs my own creative senses. Like an actor, I get thoroughly absorbed in another's style and plot, to the extent that I can't switch back to my own in the blink of an eye.

Right now, I'm off to edit another five pages while Mr G is watching The Gadget Show. As for my book, I think I shall have to book a longish holiday in a quiet cottage with the sea lapping gently outside the window and a G&T being gently lapped by my tongue!