Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Still no publication date

Every time I think of what the publisher put me through last autumn, making me race against the clock to get my book finished in time for publication at Christmas, steam comes out of my ears. My hands and arms were so painful I could hardly use them. My shoulders were so stiff and tense that I awoke with a headache every day. I was completely exhausted and all for nothing. My book didn't come out as they had discovered that asking for graphic sex in a teenage book was a step too far.

Ten days before Christmas, I made a valiant attempt at toning down the sex in Book 1, hoping that would allow for publication at Christmas after all. I heard nothing. January went by. Still nothing. By February, I was going crazy. I finally emailed the commissioning editor, who told me that various people had been off sick, including him, and they were also interviewing for new staff.

Now it is the end of Feb., a full two months since I sent in my revised chapters. Apparently the new recruit is now reading all the different versions, with a view to deciding on the amount and tone of the sex scenes. From what I can gather from their lack of speed and enthusiasm, they might have decided to hold back publication till NEXT Christmas! Still, I've had most of the advance so that's mollified me a bit. Only a bit, though.

In reality, I am so disappointed, I could weep. In fact, I have sniffled a bit on occasions. But I know that doing what psychotherapists call a 'poor me' won't get me anywhere, so I have now embarked on tweaking old, out of print books of mine, in order to get them onto Kindle. The first will be Sweet Temptation, which was published in the UK by Future and in the USA by Ace Books, back in 1982 (gosh, what a long time ago!) It's set in the era just before Victoria, and I have discovered one slight flaw in the plot, in that an ultra fussy young wealthy lady would never go to a ball in a carriage drawn by mismatched horses. It would have to be four greys, or four chestnuts, not two of each. This has meant rewriting a plot strand near the end of the book.

I have just emailed the manuscript to a friend who has promised to read it and let me know if the new version works, and if it does, my next task will be choosing a cover design. Any tips will be gratefully received!

Now I am working on bringing my old Pan Heartlines books into the 21st Century by adding computers, mobiles, et al. This is proving to be far more work than I had previously imagined. I never knew how many plots relied on people not being able to get in touch with people as the public phone didn't work, or they didn't have a phone in their bedsitter. You could be standing waiting for a boyfriend outside the cinema and think he'd stood you up when, in reality, he'd had some personal disaster and had no means of telling you! What a lot of plot twists ensued from situations like that. Now, it could only happen if someone's phone had been stolen or the charge had run down. Also, the type of colleges people attended and the courses they studied have changed, too. I had two characters meeting on a shorthand and typing course; now, that's far more likely to be an IT course, or training to be a legal secretary.

The glory of revisiting these old books is that, as I wrote them so long ago, I have absolutely no idea what happens in them! I am reading them as any reader would and it's great to be able to take an impersonal, critical stance, allowing me to strengthen weak sections and add more description and emotion. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has undertaken to rewrite an old book of theirs.

Well, must get on with editing someone else's book manuscript now. When the writer in question can't spell or punctuate, it can take me a week to do, which means a week away from my own books. Still, I shall return to them with even more enthusiasm as soon as I've finished adding commas and deleting ellipses which have about seventeen dots in them instead of the acceptable three. Cheers for now!

P.S. I've just noticed that this is my 1000th blog post. That's worth raising a glass to tonight!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

A plan at last. Well, maybe...

Last week, I had an offer accepted on a house on the council estate in North London where I bought my last house. I sold the latter when Mr Grumpy had his strokes in 2007. He had only just finished doing it up for me. He had spent months putting in a downstairs loo, adding a conservatory, decking the steeply sloping garden in tiers and improving the kitchen and bathroom. I sold it in order to be with him while he recovered.

Another house came up on the estate, which is now about 70% privately owned. It was in a better spot, quietly tucked around a corner and the houses on either side were owned by elderly people, so I reckoned it would be nice and peaceful for my writing. BUT... it was unmodernised. It needed rewiring, re-carpeting, a new kitchen and bathroom and goodness knows what else, but I reckoned I could just about manage it if I did it up bit by it, without Mr G of course, as he is no longer able to do that sort of thing as his right hand doesn't work too well.

I put in the offer and then, lo and behold, my old house came onto the market, beautifully modernised of course, at only £10,000 more and, if someone could move quickly, it would only be £5000 more. Suddenly, my purchase of the other house didn't make sense, so I pulled out, intending to buy my old house back.

Then my god-daughter rang from Vancouver. She had lived in the house for two months while she and her husband waited to move into the house they were having done-up and she reminded me about all the things I would hate if I moved in. The nosy neighbour who popped out the moment she spotted you in the garden and wouldn't take the hint and shut up and go away; the noisy kids who played out on the communal green opposite the house - a no-no for writing as both bedrooms had windows on the front so there was no escape; the old, redundant TV aerial that creaked and banged against the chimney and kept you awake every time it was windy (I had rung loads of people to try and get someone to remove it, to no avail). And then the were the rabbits, who came in from the school fields at the back and ate every single thing you'd planted.

So I am not buying back my old house, BUT... I have another plan. The house next door to Mr G, which is empty because our lovely 98-year-old neighbour has gone into a home, is being sold. It needs tons of work, far beyond my financial capabilities, but our other lovely neighbour desperately wants to buy it and turn it into his dream home as it sits on a third of an acre plot and has a HUGE garden, half of which has degenerated into a spinney full of foxes' dens and lots of bird life. So I have put in an offer. I will write there all summer and at the end of the year, when our other neighbour gets his accident compensation through, I shall sell it on to him for a small profit, by which time I will, I hope, have sorted out my tons of boxes that are costing me £238 per month in a storage unit, and will have downsized enough to move back to North London at last.

Friends disagree with this sideways move. However, another has come up with a cunning plan involving getting planning permission for two houses and selling to a developer. That would upset our neighbour. I need to do some thinking. More anon...

Friday, 22 February 2013

Charlie's little problem

Charlie, of course, is the ginger cat who ran away from his home a few streets away and has moved in with us. His previous owner informed us that he had a problem with crystals in his urine and was on a special diet. The reason I mentioned this will shortly be revealed.

The first time Charlie did it, I thought I was mistaken. The second time, I was mystified. The third time, I wasn't sure. By the fourth time, I was. You see, if you stroke Charlie when he's lying curled up in his bed all sleepy and warm, he, er... how can I put this politely?... gets aroused. I have never known this behaviour in a neutered male before. I stroke him, he begins to purr, then he starts to knead with his front paws and the next moment, his head is 'down there' and he is licking himself with gusto.

I have Googled the problem (found myself watching some very strange YouTube videos!) and kept coming up with answers that told you to take the cat to the vet as he most surely had... a urinary problem. Well, I'm sure if Charlie had one of those, we'd know, as he'd be in obvious pain and distress. Instead, he's a happy, well-fed cat. I reckon the reason his last owner took him to the vet was because she'd been on Google, too, and the reason he left home could have been the fact that he hated his special diet... and wanted to be allowed to indulge in his favourite vice without being stuffed in a pet carrier and carted off to the vet's yet again.

He doesn't behave this way if I stroke him while he is sitting up, so that's what I will have to do if I don't want to be subjected to his embarrassing behaviour. Embarrassing for me, that is, not him. He looks perfectly contented. We used to have a cat called BC. I think we'd better rename Charlie BJ.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Car Park King

I watched the live conference in Leicester avidly this morning and am SO thrilled that it really is the skeleton of Richard lll. Mr Grumpy and I had a bet on it and I won.

The most fantastic thing of all is how he was found, as a result of screenwriter Philippa Langley's hunch. To quote from an interview in the Sunday Times, she was ambling across a nondescript car park when, although it was a hot summer's day, "I had goosebumps so badly and I was freezing cold. I walked past a particular spot and absolutely knew I was walking on his grave."

She was researching for a play about Richard and wanted to visit places connected to him, but how weird is that? She raised the cash for a dig, and they found the skeleton in that spot and what was even weirder was that a large red R had been painted there - for Reserved and Richard!

As you know, I do believe in things both synchronistic and psychic. I can't wait to see the facial reconstruction, which I think is being shown on telly tonight, and find out just how accurate those medieval portrait painters were. Maybe he'll look like Laurence Olivier in his famous role! My kingdom for a horse or, in the case of his last resting place, horsepower.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Power of Nightmares

I know, I know, there's nothing more boring than hearing other people recount their dreams. But what I want to know is, am I the only one who can have their day ruined by a particularly nasty one or does it happen to us all?

Right now, I can't stop crying and the nightmare I woke up from this morning is as vivid in my mind as if I had watched it in real life. I was a guest in a big, posh house and I had brought Flad and a fluffy ginger kitten with me. Maybe I was 'on the run' - if you snatched a glance at yesterday's post before I deleted it, you'll know why. It was agreed that while I was there, my hosts wouldn't allow dogs into the house.

Maybe I should stop at this point, as I'm sure you can guess what's coming next... But maybe, if I get it down on the page, the power of the dream will diminish and I shall start to feel better. 'A trouble shared', etc.

In a nutshell, a couple arrived with an Alsatian dog which was used to being allowed in the house. He was a nice dog, the sort with a lolling tongue and a big grin. Before anyone could say that dogs were temporarily banned, the couple had let him off the lead and he dashed into the house, tail wagging, seized what he no doubt thought was a cute dog toy rather than a sleeping kitten, and the next thing I knew, he had dragged it down the steps and presented it like a tribute at the feet of his owners.

I ran to the kitten, snatched it from under his great paw, hoping it was only dazed. But the dog had seized it by the head and one of his fangs had pierced one of the kitten's emerald green eyes and, as I watched, it took its last breath and the life and light went out of the little cat and I watched its fluffy pink pads relax and uncurl and it lay on its back with its fluffy tummy upwards, completely dead. Now, I can't stop crying and I feel as if I am crying for all the innocent creatures - children as well as animals - that have ever been unfairly and cruelly slaughtered.

Perhaps dreams can be catalysts for the emotions. Maybe I needed to have a good cry so the dream gave me a reason. Or perhaps I am just an over-sentimental fool. And now I've ruined your Sunday, too! I'd be interested to know what dreams have haunted you...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Fact and fiction

I removed my last post because it was too personal and too miserable. I have to get through this bleak period somehow, so am burying myself in writing my spooky memoir and editing my first novel, Sweet Temptation, which a friend kindly scanned onto disk for me as it was written on a typewriter. Remember them? Remember carbon paper and Tip-pex? Oh, the joy when electric typewriters were invented!

What a chore writing was in those days. All the retyping when you made a mistake or wanted to change something. I used to end up with pages consisting of stuck-on strips of new typing labelled A, B, etc., with accompanying arrows in the margin.God only knows how the publisher deciphered it all. Because I was useless with carbon paper, I often had no second copy of my manuscripts, so I used to deliver them by hand as I couldn't risk them getting lost in the post. How much easier things are now, when all you have to do to make an extra copy is hit Save As, or whiz them onto a memory stick.

Yet I have a sneaking fondness for the bad old days of the manual typewriter. How I used to hammer the thing. The complaints I got from the downstairs neighbours when I was bashing away at Chapter 12 at 3 am and keeping them awake with the distant thunder of keys and the jingle of the end-of-line bell! No wonder I destroyed my finger joints. I must have written trillions of words.

Two of my novels were accepted by publishers but, for one reason or another, never published. Sadly, the manuscripts were destroyed when Mr Grumpy's workshop roof let in water and all my boxes got soaked, so they will never make it onto Kindle. But I hope that Sweet Temptation by Caroline Standish (my first and only pen-name) soon will. It was published in 1981 and actually did rather well, in that I earned quite a sizeable (for those days) royalty cheque from American sales. Oh, all right, it was about £3,500, far more than the tiddly few hundred here and there that I earn now. I hope it can sell all over again, and I shall keep that pen-name for any new romance novels I write, as my children's agent says I should keep my real name for books for the younger market.

I chose 'Standish' as my ancestors once lived at Standish Hall in Wigan. It burned down in the 1930s and the site is now a pig farm - how are the mighty fallen! But I remember Mum telling me that the Tudor part of the house was shipped to Boston in America and re-erected there because of its connection to Myles Standish, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed there in the 17th Century. They could have saved themselves the expense and trouble because they later discovered that a different branch of the family had lived in Standish Hall. The legend goes that my ancestor was a gambling man who put up the Hall as a stake in a card game and lost. Why do I bother to write fiction? It's all there in reality!