Friday, February 29, 2008

Reclaim your Right to Wallow!

Did Worldwide Wallow Day go wrong for you? Kids fell sick, family intervened, didn't visit the blog until it was too late (naughty, naughty)?

Reclaim the Wallow!

All Wallows must add up to a full day, which in my calculation means 16 hours of bliss. I lost my evening thanks to Family Event, so tonight as of 6pm I will be resuming the sofa and recommencing the Wallow from the precise point where I was cruelly forced to leave it.

The calorie rule still works.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Worldwide Wallow Day

We have an extra day this year: Friday 29th February. I hereby declare it to be Worldwide Wallow Day. Here are the rules:

If at home: send kids to school as early as possible. Proceed to sofa. Lie on sofa. Read and watch tv while drinking tea/coffee and eating cake and chocolate. Around 1pm half of a bottle of wine should be consumed for fortifying purposes. Nap. More tea, cake and chocolate. (NB Because this day itself does not actually exist, neither do the calories). When kids return from school the television and electronic games may be turned on instantly and may remain on for the rest of the evening. Finish fortifying bottle of wine. At some point during the evening, feed kids any poor-quality frozen food you have on the premises. No actual cooking is permitted. Open second fortifying bottle of wine. Resume sofa position. Persuade husband, grandma or pet to wash and tuck up kids. Send husband, grandma or pet out for takeaway and romantic comedy on DVD. More fortifying bottles of wine may be opened if required. On no account move from the sofa until bedtime, other than for hygiene purposes. This is Severe Breakage of Wallow Pact, punishable by disdain of more wallowful friends.

If at work: follow above plan up until 'proceed to sofa'. Proceed to work, purchasing favourite breakfast en route. Turn on computer. Browse your favourite websites and find new favourites. Do no work other than work you enjoy. Leave everything else until Monday. I mean it. Nothing is more urgent than your wallow. Include extended coffee break with cake and chocolates, see calorie note above. Leave early for lunch, which you will take sitting down in a restaurant. Lunch at your desk is Severe Breakage of Wallow Pact. You may take a friend to lunch. Feel free to open more than one fortifying bottle of wine. Return to work. Afternoon to proceed as morning. Leave office early. Upon return home immediately turn on all electronic distraction devices for children, and then follow instructions above starting from: "At some point..."

Computer access is permitted from time to time in order to compare Quality of Wallow notes.

Sign up now!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Email wipeout!

Gremlins got into my email and devoured all my address details, and all my old messages, so I'm starting afresh. Oh, how liberating. Oh, how irritating. If I had your email address, then now is your chance to escape me. On the other hand, if you still want me baby, please send a message to the address in my profile so I can put you in my shiny new address book. Lovin' you all...

Real life update

I was ready to wallow, as prescribed. I finished my work to deadline yesterday; I spent the morning on admin. All done. I collected the library book, made a cup of tea and a sandwich. I was going to start by reading on the sofa. One bite of the sandwich. The phone rang. It was the school. It was The Call. I spent the rest of the afternoon ministering to a sick and grumpy Cricket Boy.

The rest of the family clearly need to get with the Wallow Program.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Precie in print!

Just wanted to highlight Precie for her great story today in Every Day Fiction. I think it's a really well-constructed piece and the ending is just perfect. Conduit had a standout story in Every Day Fiction a couple of months ago, so a late high five to him as well.

Precie is a fellow blogger with a secret blog whose address I once had, but can't remember (Precie, that's a hint). She hangs out a lot with Evil Editor and Chris Eldin, but don't hold that against her.

As for Every Day Fiction, it's a great way to read a new story every day - subscribe and they will send one by e-mail every morning. Heaps of different styles, lengths and genres - the quality is just as varied, but there are some real gems (and the gems include the contributions from Precie and Conduit needless to say).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Itchy and Scratchy

I'm spending some time with Itchy and Scratchy at the moment.

Itchy is my desire to scrub up my grubby house of appallingness now that both kids are at school. Scratchy is my desire to ramp up more work and earn more cash. (Guess which DH thinks is more important?)

Itchy is my desire to throw myself into the latest idea the Idea Salmon has flicked my way. It's not all that new, it's been bubbling since before Christmas and I'm pretty sure it's going to be my next new project. On the other hand, Scratchy is my desire to re-edit Maureen and get her into the best possible shape. I read a page or two the other day and I still love what I've done; but it will take time to sort out, including rewriting the last third.

Overweening all this is my desire to spend some time for myself now that both kids are in school. The seems to show itself in constant procrastination and not actually achieving anything; mooching about, cleaning this and that, (a little bit of Itchy) but nothing systematic. Reading a chapter of a book, then feeling guilty and going off to half-do something else (a little bit of Scratchy).

I'm broken! Fix me! What's the right brand of oil to sort me out and get me going properly again?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Advice from a master

Over at Oxyjen, the very lovely Goblin asked us to post any lines from books that had inspired us. I interpreted this a little loosely, and offered my all-time favourite writing advice: 'if you don't know what to write, just write it'.

This was a piece of advice I was given when I first started out working in Public Relations. Oh, how I hated PR. Really, really hated it. The only part of the job I enjoyed was the writing part - news releases, letters, brochures - so it did get me started in that it showed me what I should really be doing (I moved on to become a copywriter). So while putting in the hours trying to presuade journalists to write articles about boring widgets and discussing lack of articles on said widgets with irate clients, while not mentioning the word boring and pretending it was all my fault nobody would write a story on boring widgets but my boss hadn't told them that their widgets were boring and nobody would write a story about them, because he wanted their money....where was I?

Back to the start. I worked with a very experienced PR consultant, who was fed up with writing. She was good at it, but she was fed up with it. So she sent it all over to my desk. I loved it. Flowery stuff here, flowery stuff there, make it all sound artsy and lovely and tremendously significant. One day she read a particularly florid piece of mine, looked over her glasses at me and said: 'you're fired'.

No she didn't. She said (you knew it all the time, didn't you?): 'if you don't know what to write, just write it.'

OK, so it's slightly enigmatic, but that's what I love about it. At the time she was telling me I was an idiot and I needed to call a spade a spade, not a gardening implement. I still have this phrase in my head at all times, but now in addition to trimming the blooms off my flowery language, I also use it as an incentive.

If you're stuck on something, just write it down. To me that can mean either 'skip this bit it's too hard, but e.g. write down a placeholder'get Martha to the lorry depot', and then move smoothly on with the bit that inspires you - worry about getting her to the depot later when you're feeling inspired about that. Or it can simply mean, whack whatever you can down on paper before the baby wakes up.

I can also interpret it to mean, stop procrastinating.

Or, don't worry about not having an idea about where this story is going, just write something down and the idea will come.

It all adds up to one thing, though. Just get out your pen and paper and write the damn thing down.

Real life update

You're not going to believe this. Princess had a damn good try and knocking out her new best friend's teeth on Friday night. She definitely needs a new name. Fangkiller? The Dental Recruitment Officer? Suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Do you have photos of yourself in your house?

In most of my friends' homes there are many photos. Kids, husbands, dogs, relatives, friends.

Guess who the one person is who is usually missing.

Then tell me about the photos in your house. Are you in them? With family? On your own? Big? Small? Framed? On the wall?

Why are they there and what do they mean to you or somebody else in your family?

Real life update

Princess may need a new name. Not satisfied with kicking out one of Cricket Boy's teeth two weeks ago, this week she managed to knock one of the dog's out. She may look cute, but...

Heaps of work on, which should help me adjust to the empty house pretty fast. It's just me and my keyboard and a stack of website copy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Out of the slush pile!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and visit and leave so many lovely messages on my agent post. I know some people want more details, so here's the story.

Sealsong is a contemporary fantasy for young adults. It's built on one of the great Scottish myths I loved as a child, the selkies - the half seal, half people of the seas. When I started to think about sending it out to agents, I figured out that my ideal agent would be a person who would not only read the story and think 'sales potential', but also a person who would actively enjoy the novel for themselves; somebody who would throw themselves into that world. I thought this person would probably be young, female and working in a smaller agency. It turned out I was right about that.

Around the middle of last year I found an article, which I have never found again, extolling the virtues of young, enthusiastic agents. One of the agents named was Kate Scherler of Fletcher & Parry, so I sent her off my query by mail. A few weeks later she asked for a partial. She came back and said she loved the chapters (ahhh) and asked to see the full. At the time I had other partials out and another agent asked for a full a week or so later, so I was starting to think I wasn't a complete idiot - and getting a little bit excited.

Kate sent me a few e-mails in the next couple of months letting me know that she was still interested in Sealsong. In October she sent a more detailed message explaining some areas that she thought could be improved and said she would love to read a rewrite. A few weeks later I sent her a new version and in early December she came back and said she would like to submit it!

I had a ton of questions, most of which were probably very silly, but we spoke on the phone and she cleared them all up with ease. Kate was extremely pleasant and also had a very pretty voice - I love pretty voices! She then sent me a copy of the agency letter of agreement by e-mail and that was such an exciting moment - seeing my name on the top of that document! That kind of made it real.

Christmas then slowed things down a little, but we exchanged some e-mails in the meantime, and, as most of you know, I went a little crazy setting up a website. Kate suggested that as I was so far away from US editors and readers it might be a good idea to have more information readily available - something to show that I wasn't really that far away and that would offer people a way to contact me.

So it's really real and now we're moving on to the next step of sending the novel out to publishers. Fingers crossed for me!

Friday, February 08, 2008

A tiny child starts school

Thank you so much for all the good wishes on my agent post. I promise I will post a more detailed story, but time is a little short at the moment. One of the reasons is in this photo - at the age of only four and a half, Princess has started school. And she's doing great. She even won an award this week - her first week! Which means that we have now finalised her place and we are about to rush off to the school shop and equip her properly - note lack of school shoes and regulation bag in the photo! I kept her school kit minimal until we were sure we were doing the right thing. Scary though it is, it does seem to be the right thing. She's ready.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My little secret

I have a secret. I have been keeping my secret since just before Christmas.

I have an agent.

Why have I kept this secret? Mostly, I think, because I didn't believe it was really happening. I needed the agreement to be signed and sealed before it would be real.

That's all done now.

My first YA novel - Sealsong - is going out to editors this week.

OMG! There's a party going on in my head!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Of the 11 resolutions...

...only these remain:

5. Finish half-done rewrite on Maureen. Consider whether or not it needs third total rewrite (she's my problem child). No deadline. I want to get it right, as long as I'm working on it and progressing I'll be satisfied.
6. Try and find a mag that might be interested in the two short stories I am happy with.
7. Write more short stories.

Some of the others require year-long attention, such as continuing to blog and doing Church Lady's writing exercises (or do I get out of that one now that she's changed her name - vote here!). After years of resistance, I'm liking this resolution thing. It's really focusing my mind and giving myself deadlines has been fantastic. I completed the website one ahead of time, which gives me another golden opportunity to give myself a pat on the back.

Now, of course, I have to focus on the rest. Life is as little fragmented at the moment so I'll leave Maureen for now. I think I'll concentrate on short story markets and maybe on writing some more stories. I'd like to expand on one of Church Lady's writing exercises, namely why Calcutta servant Bir Singh is looking through his employers' windows. I think I typed it directly into her blog so I'll have to go on a find and rescue mission through her archives. Some research will be needed into India in the time of British government, so it will be a slow writing process, but I know who Bir is and what he's about to do. My mother's family were in India, so I've got a little background in my head about expat life in those times, but I want to make it as accurate as possible.

Real life update...

Princess has started school at the age of only four and a half, but brimming with confidence and a desire to learn. We think it's going to work out; but what will happen when she's sixteen and her classmates are eighteen? We've had to leave that question for the future to resolve. Padlocks and chains could be a good answer.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Back up to speed

Yee-haw! Ride 'em bandwidth, cowgirl!

And, tarantara, the website is up. Needs a smidge of correcting (blows kisses to the beta readers), but job pretty much done. Wow. It was a challenge, but yanno, it was fun too. Now I have to try and remember everything I learned while I was doing it, so I can make changes and add pages as time goes on.

Last, but not least, Cricket Boy resumed his place on the cricket pitch today. 'There's no way I'm playing cricket next year,' he informed us in the car on the way to the game. 'I'm playing summer soccer.' With that gung ho expression of enthusiasm he took to the field like a duck to treacle and dreamed his way through fielding. However, when he bowled he got a wicket - first ball! (American friends, that means he knocked the stumps over and sent one of the batsmen back to the dugout, although we have no dugout, just a line of mums in folding chairs holding jackets and water bottles and pretending to watch).

On the way home in the car he reminded us again to sign him up for summer soccer next year. Five more weeks and then his cricket career is over!

Drama on the sidelines when Houdini Polly Dog wriggled out of her harness and ran away from Husbad. She was just looking for me. Aw. Thankfully she found me before she found the road.