Sunday 28 February 2010

INFLATION who'd have thought a novel could suffer from it too

My teenage daughter changed, almost overnight. She became the proud possessor of every classical cliche imaginable. She took her school's strict uniform regulations and identified ways to bend, if not break every one.

  • Tights went from woollen to barely-black
  • Her skirt got shorter by three turns of the waistband
  • And don't remind me about the discussions on whether black was an appropriate colour to wear under her school shirt

She discovered boys were not just irritations or class members to compete against.

And no - Jess Trainer is not my Minnow in book form. However, if I want an anecdote to add realism there is no substitute for having a daughter with hundreds of friends - someone has always done something that sparks the necessary train of thought to get the writing moving again.

So, I wrote a story of how one girl fell, fast and hard for the boy she should not have been attracted too.

Worried about the word count I described EVERYTHING - I didn't want to write a short book - but I found my manuscript was completed at nearly 130,000 words. It had a severe case of inflation. Letting the air out was a long and painful thing. Some sections I had slaved over were the first to go. This was hard. It took a year and three revisions to trim the tale to 72,000 words and still keep every plot line going and every character fully rounded.

But I revised - word by word - the entire book. I became (am) totally obsessive about the thing. I learned how to polish. Vocabulary selection and word order could not remain untampered, I was heading for a book where subtlety and nuance reigned.

Then I was shown a historical romance written by someone with a masterly control of punctuation - it glowed with a purple glow visible from the other side of the room. I discovered that writing a novel is not about using perfect grammar because there was no heart in the work at all.

Eventually the tinkering stopped.

Until the next time I open the pages

Thursday 18 February 2010

Today was a good day....

It was raining in Manchester when we drove past the places we'd danced, drunk and loitered outside in the first couple of years together. It was still raining in Warrington when we climbed the fire escape at the Hall of Residence trying to get closer to the first place we lived together - despite the small technical details like the non-cohabitation rule.

It wasn't raining when we reached Birmingham. It was snowing. I don't drive across town when it snows. The whiteout didn't know that.

The outside lane was safest because the guys who make their living driving the trailers, containers and car transporters didn't want to be late. Hurtling through the snow they played chase and overtake, using the slow lanes . I guess they thought everyone else could see them easily and we should all keep out of their way, I know I did. I pulled out wide and let the big guys play.

The flakes of snow were huge, fluffy but basically softies: couldn't land, couldn't stick, couldn't do much apart from cut down the visibility and melt into noise-hating, shushing slush at road level.

But, Car transporter guy saw a gap and threw his rig into the centre lane. The car there braked, I would have, too. But speed and slushy snow are a bad mix. The angle, as he veered from the well worn path, forced the melted snow to syphon through the tyres grooves and spew impenetrible slush onto my windscreen.

It fountained up and across at speed. Shock, lack of visibility, and the noise all combined to create the moment - the one where you wonder if there was anything you regretted not having had the chance to do, if the will was in order, if the car behind had left enough distance to not be involved in the mayhem.

Strangely calm, I held my breath and pictured the road as I had seen it last and kept the line.

There followed ten - hours - minutes - seconds of trying to do the same-old-same-old, not being reactionary and keeping the car under total control.

I drove home and decided today was a good day because it wasn't the day I died.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Cold shoulder to warm hearts....St Valentines' Love at first sight


I was on my fifth length of front crawl when I realised there were three other swimmers preparing too. On the wall at the other side, two Ridgeway brothers were sitting dipping their goggles ready to put them on. Caleb was standing above me on the edge of the pool, his lips pulled up into the smallest of smiles.

"I thought you were never going to surface."

He was talking to me. My ears were blocked because his words sounded muffled. Shaking my head to clear the fog of confusion, I remembered to breathe. My heart sped up rather than settled down.

His smile grew a little wider, as I reached for the wall to steady myself. But when he sat, and stretched his hand closer to me every system in my body, supposed to work on the autopilot, malfunctioned.

I moved my hand, as a reflex reaction. I thought he was offering to help me climb from the water. But it faltered to a stop in the space which stretched between us. He wasn't offering to help. His face was solemn. This was an invitation into his life. He scanned my features intently.

"Jess?" His hand didn't waver, as he waited.

I clenched my fingers into tight fists beneath the surface of the water, tilted my head so I could see him better. This had been planned. Alex and Raphael were official observers, their faces were lined with concern. Caleb still waited.

In the minute details: the gentlest of smiles, the narrowed eyelid and the arch of eyebrow were glimmers of his hope and trust, and endless patience.

Raising my hand, I kept my eyes focussed on his as our palms met. The warmth between us grew. My hand burned hotter than my red-stained cheeks. A pull somewhere deep inside me demanded I left my hand in his, but time had passed and I had to break the connection.

As I began to draw back Caleb turned his hand over so my palm slid slowly over his. Fingertips curled, clung, tried to maintain the contact. His smile of pleasure shone in a face which already glittered with the pool's reflected light. When my nail scraped beyond his I lowered my hand into the water, surprised it didn't bubble, hiss and sizzle.

Caleb slid down the wall beside me but it wasn't his nearness which made me realise we had just bridged some serious divide.

I can't wait to read all the Love at First Sight passages.
Happy Saint Valentine's Day - my wedding anniversary <3

Thursday 11 February 2010

And the award goes to....

Anne has presented me with an award!

I have been pondering what I could possible write, can't say I'm too sure of the rules either :s

I'm going to give this a go:


  1. I don't have any pets - when I was a child I had a goldfish I took for walks (in his goldfishy bowl) on a skateboard. I called him Joey - what can I say?!

  2. We are a family with 2.5 children - our oldest is definitely worth an extra half in time and trouble

  3. I teach where substitute teachers fear to tread

  4. I was so excited when the snow fell with blizzard intensity today that I went dancing in the garden

  5. I hate being too hot or too cold (I didn't last long outside!)

  6. I have endless patience up to the point when I blow - then I storm like a tornado but blow myself out very quickly.

  7. I was born in the middle of a pack - with three brothers older and three younger than me

  8. I have a sister who lives in Melbourne, Aus and that is too far away

  9. I was born in Dublin, Eire.

  10. I have a wish list of countries I want to visit based on historical events or books and movies (some of the "off-world" places might be harder to tick off my list)

There you go 10 facts.

Katie Davies won the Waterstone Children's Book Prize with The Great Hampster Massacre.

She and my goldfish Joey, who I wanted to be a bird but had to settle for being creative with, would have a lot in common, I think.

Monday 8 February 2010

I want to go back in time - just a few weeks would do

All the submissions I sent off in January have a colossall mistake in them - not wishing to say I was ill or anything but I attached an old file where I'd been cutting out sections to re-order them and experiment. It was the last file I had saved so it looked like the right file but any non-infected human (polite version) could see the mistakes - they started on page two for the love of *****!

I check all four submissions in a row and once again admired the bird table in the back garden. UNRELATED?

Since I've stopped coughing quite so regularly I've started to notice a lot of different things:
  • How ill I was

  • How many files I haven't tidied into sub-sections labelled "Rubbish" (Only the author, with time on her hands, would ever want to look at them again)

  • How some mistakes are easy to make and impossible to put right

  • How many birds come to the bird table when you have enough time to put food out, and to stand still long enough to notice the affect this has on the flighted population in the urban landscape.
7 days into my enforced rest I started work related to school :s

8 days in I re-read NEAR EDGWARE (all the way through). The double entendre section still makes me laugh - neither Jess nor Caleb were intending to have the conversation they realised they were floundering in!

NEAR EDGWARE is riddled with double meanings. A superficially small iceberg floating in seemingly still waters, truth will out, eventually.

9 days in I'm editing STAYING LOST and realising how close to querying it is - that will be a struggle. It is aimed at a different reading audience - MG - but, basically, the same agents.

Resting his forehead on the stone shelf, Jon pressed harder to take the pain away. The rustling from the blanket added music to his desolation. The pain in his head gave him comfort and dispelled the sensation - not of weightlessness, but of nothingness. He didn't cry. He was in a place where pain could not be helped, or halved, by crying: the wound was too deep and the pain too great. He wanted to go back. He wanted what he'd had twenty-four hours before.

If you could have anything at all - what would you want?

Thursday 4 February 2010

Judging books?

NEAR EDGWARE - front cover? Well, maybe.
Dad parked in front of the white stone entrance. Even here I could see things had changed. On the new school crest a beast with sharp teeth and raised claws stood on two legs, it glared down at the visitors to school.

There are a few technically incorrect details with the image I picked for the front cover of my book but I couldn't get an picture of an heraldic wolf looking over his shoulder this way. The school shield is missing too. Blast! I'm glad publishers employ designers, they earn their weight in gold. I'd be happy to part with a little of mine - once I have any. : )

When I was catching up with Blog reading - I've been too ill, coughing, to keep awake long enough to read - ah, poor me! Now I can't find where I read about front covers!! But I've thought of nothing else since!!! I'll stop with the incremental exclamation marks now - sorry.

In the days before writing, when I was unhampered by the "quota of books in your chosen genre that must be read" dictate, I would forage through libraries and book shops in search of something to read.

I dreaded finding a "new" author because I knew I'd read everything they'd written - addictively - but I loved it too.

I would wander, wide-eyed, amongst the bright, the shiny and the shocking images - scanning for the cover that called to me loudest.

Sometimes it was the author's name, occasionally it would be clever word-play in the title but mostly it was the image.

The large, simple, interesting image that suggested rather than stated what lay within the pages dragged me into the author's web.