Tuesday 30 March 2010

Twenty-five times two without cheating

Miss Snark had a competition and I missed it. Work. I love work but it gets right in the way of spending hours on the computer checking out Blogs and entering competitions.

25 words, could you do it: catch a reader, get them squirming on the hook in the desperate need to know?

I tried. I found information about the untimely death of a water vole in the mouth of a much maligned moggy:

Didn't like the cat. With the limp-biscuit of a once-living critter, and dripping blood and saliva over the polished floorboards, I liked it even less.

I can write about demon cats - literal and figurative ones. My two psychopathic cats taught me to fear the sound of the cat flap rapping in the kitchen door. The cat flap only raps twice.

I also have a story I've never made notes about anywhere. The characters just turn up, periodically, to remind me I never did get around to thinking the story through to the end. The trouble is I love the start, whenever I think of this story I - just - have - to - begin at the beginning. So, for the first time ever I WROTE it down. I know their back stories, how all three of them got to be there. I know I care. But is 25 words enough?

She laughed. Bell bright it rang, piercing my dark haze. I stumbled. Missed my footing but not the rusted railing, that pierced me too.

The exact rusted railing is about 5 minutes walk from my front door. Creative photography would be needed to make it look like it was deep in the forest but I could do that.

Saturday 27 March 2010


Patience is a virtue, apparently.

I might be lacking in virtue.

What do you do when you can't work on submissions or even play the Re-edit game, again?

The simple answer is write something else, I know.

What if I don't want to?

I can hear the call to work on Book 2 but I'm treating that like the noise outside in the slash-horror movie - don't do it!

This feeling isn't fear, I'm going to take my teen - with her newly qualified driver status - on the M1 in 5 minutes, I know how fear feels.

I'll open RAISED later, see if it can distract me.

Did you all play the create a bumper sticker game? Terresa set the challenge. It distracted me for at least ten minutes yesterday. This my sticker.

WRITING: the only thing better than reading.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Leaves, bulbs and other stuff in the non-gardener's realm - RESEARCH

Ok, the season of sticks and furrowed footfall mess is officially over.

My garden shrubs, caught loitering in states of undress, can't claim to be covered in a gauzy haze of greenary profuse enough to spare their blushes, but there are definite signs that drapage is on the way.

The rain is doing that watering thing other gardeners do and the warmth, I believe, is doing the rest.

The leaves on the evergreens - dark green, light green and the oddly two-tone ones where yellow and vibrant green war for attention in the self-same leaf - are being joined by the first hint of dark brown buds on all the twig like bushes and trees that grow alongside them.

I love winter in the garden, it's the time when I get away with not knowing what anything is.

You know in A Fish Called Wanda when John Cleese impresses Jamie Lee Curtis to extremes? It's a good job my gardeners are octogenarians. They speak, I listen. My eyes grow wider while my ears hear an assortment of words flowing like a river tripping and falling over stones on its way. (Handy considering the state of my garden.) Their speech appears to be an entirely different language, to be exact two different languages intermingled. When I analysed the syntax of the speech I discovered it was still very hard for me to decipher what they were saying in full flow. I couldn't even be certain of their word groups: some nouns sounded like active verbs.

I was impressed - very impressed... not that impressed.

Flora and fauna feature hugely in NEAR EDGWARE - when you base a book 40% in woodland it will do that. So how is it every word related to the trees, plants and wildlife is totally accurate given my extreme lack of knowledge on the subject? RESEARCH: I had about 50 books on the woodland habitats littering the room, more webpages than I care to remember bookmarked and my favourite semi-retired experts on hand, whenever I was writing a scene.

My favourite discussion was about whether a particular plant could - in any circumstance - be seen to flower approximately one month later than my catalogue said it should. My faithful and trusty gardener said I should get a life and give the plant the freedom to live a little. He informed me that, as plants do not know what the text books say they can not be held responsible if they last a little longer! I translated this as yes. :)

Then, in a later re-edit , I cut this section out of the book :\

What did you have to research, so you could write with authority?

Thursday 18 March 2010

A full manuscript request and I have to string coherent sentences together?


Oh, why?

Why did I decide to check my e-mails in the middle of Parents' Evening?

There was a gap of ten minutes, just thought I'd check what was happening in e-mail-land, like you do.

So, there amongst the usual emails and regular notices I spotted the name of one of the agencies I submitted NEAR EDGWARE to at the end of December. (You remember the miserable post about attaching the wrong version of the first three chapters in January? Illness? Sending a drafting copy instead of the one I sweated blood over?) I sighed. Left the email until last.

But, with nothing else to do and only a minute until the next parent (already looking at books in the room next door) was due to pop in for my teacherly insights into the nature and progress of her precious poppet (I have a slightly different view, so I wasn't rushing) , I opened the e-mail and thought I read it.

I read the little black squiggles again because they seemed to be saying stuff like:

Dear Ms Smith

Thank you for your e-mail; we enjoyed reading your sample chapters. Would you please e-mail the complete manuscript. Here's what to do :-

When I wanted to run around doing the chicken dance of "But-I've-Never-Even-Read-What-To-Do-Now-On-Any-Of-The-On-line-Blogs" , I had to remember how to string polite phrases that adaquetly described the disparity between the fantasy and reality of the Mother's pride and joy.

At home later, I broke every one of Nathan's rules: my crowning achievement being to send it to the wrong e-mail address only to get a - fortunately, still polite - explanation of where I should st... send my submission from the agent herself.

This was my tenth submission (the next four I effectively disbarred from doing more than making the agent's reader laugh) so, number ten has proven to be a very lucky number!

I don't know if it is polite to say which agency has staff with incredibly impeccable taste?

However, has anyone ever mentioned how fabulous Sally, at Eve White Literary Agent, is?

Monday 15 March 2010

How do you explain fermenting goats' milk into cheese to forty children who don't speak your language?

The answer could be simply, or with the help of Albert Mehrabian and he didn't even know he was there.

Sweet local speciality biscuits softened them up.
Goats fascinated them, despite the smell.
The kids they held were that mix of cute and mischievious while fluffy chicks had them eating out of the palm of their hands whilst eating out of the palms of their hands!
Then Madame invited everyone to come inside and stand around her kitchen table so she could explain about fermentation and maturation in the language her audience could manage: "Good Morning. How are you?" in.

What followed was ten minutes of voice 50%, tone 38%, and words 7% - a "Show and Tell" and chip in when the Spirit of Understanding moves within you/Cloze comprehension exercise. They understood every word she said and the thousands of other words she didn't.

If one of us had been fluent in French the children would have lost rather than gained from this situation. In this process, they were as essential as Madame or the rennet to the milk in the manufacture of the cheese.

Now, for the writerly part:

I've read books and articles about the need to "show" rather than "tell" what is happening but I walked through the 3-D version while forty children interacted with their learning.

I think I learned to trust the reader to understand.

Sunday 7 March 2010


When I was four I discovered black marks at the bottom of the pictures in my books. I ran my finger over them in fascination because they were different lengths. When my sister read to me I noticed she ran her finger along them too. I have no idea how or why the black marks resolved themselves into words, but they did. I know the first work I read started with letter "s" something about its shape and sound just clicked and, because I have a warm feeling when I think of it, I bet that word was "sun".

I began to recognise lots of whole words - they were everywhere. I found my words in magazines, comics and the newspapers that lay on the coffee table. I hunted for them to see if I could find them on different pages. Then I noticed I could find them outside the house too. Everywhere. It was amazing: shapes had meanings - who'd have thought?

Of course, I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. My first teacher set me right on this when I started school. She called my parents in at the end of my first week and explained they had done a very bad thing (I remember how confused, and annoyed, they were. They hadn't known I could read. Why would I tell them? Couldn't everyone?) So, my first memories of school: Gerald crying all day, the boy who wouldn't take off the coat he had fastened up to his chin and that reading was bad.

My first teacher laid the perfect foundation to create a truly obsessive reader: she made reading a subversive activity.

My parents told me not to read when she could see! Illicitly, I would sneak off to the Book Corner, having first checked she was engrossed somewhere else. Then I would become immersed in alternate realities that were all the more thrilling because I wasn't supposed to be in them. Dissident status at age 5; I read.

Things never really got much better. Wherever I was:
  • getting dressed for school

  • on the bus

  • walking through the streets

  • at meals

  • on family holidays

  • instead of homework

  • as an alternative to sleep

I was reading.

In lots of photos, I was the family member with the rectangular head.

I don't like reading, I love it.

All thanks to Mrs Jensen who banned me from reading.

I was wondering: do you love reading?