Friday, April 28, 2006

Countdown to P-day. Oh...

Word Count: 57,631 (after lots of editing)

I think I'm about half way through book 4 now, which means I am lagging slightly, given that book 3 is out in 5 days' time...

Well, I say 5 days. Actually a writer friend has just spotted Brown Owl's Guide to Life on sale in Warwickshire, so perhaps it's time to stop counting down, and go for a look myself. Actually, the pleasure of seeing a new book on sale is reduced by seeing The Competition, all those thousands of other titles looking as tempting as yours, if not more so. Even though I adore my jacket, sometimes someone else's typeface seems more tempting, or you get title-envy.

I do love holding the first copy in my hands, but this time round I am being a little more sanguine about racing round the shops, or checking my amazon rating (or, I'm trying to be!). It's just that now, all I can do is hope for the right combination of fairydust and enthusiasm that will help sell the book. Wish me luck, eh?

The day job is very busy too, despite the fact that I have less than two months before I leave. Now I'm getting rather nostalgic about the canteen, going for coffee, bumping into colleagues in corridors, even the smell of festering rats and the dodgy lifts.

It's been a busy week on the publishing news front, too, and I have been fascinated by the coverage of the whole Opal Mehta saga, where Kaavya Viswanathan, 19-year-old author of a sassu high school chick lit book (she was paid $500,000 for her first book) has been accused of plagiarism. The best accounts have been on Galleycat.

I've been talking to other authors about the whole topic. I have to say that the similarities here mean it's difficult to believe that there wasn't some conscious ahem 'borrowing' but more generally, we all live in utter fear of accidentally copying a phrase or plotline from a favourite novel or author.

Now we Brits have another long holiday weekend ahead, yippeee. Am planning eating, drinking, reading and no shopping. Oh and maybe one day of very hard work at writing.

Lovely Link of the Day:
This brilliantly detailed account of how the figures do - or don't add up when a book is published should be required reading for all writers. It's by American editor and blogger Anna Louise, but the basic information is relevant to other markets too.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Radio and romance

Word count: 55,297

A whirlwind few days...began with my Radio 5 Live interview on Wednesday afternoon. Because it's a news and talk channel, our slot got squeezed by Stuff That Was Actually Happening (i.e. news) so we spent ages waiting outside. Once inside, the studio felt extremely full as there was Simon Mayo, a film director, plus the four of us.

I enjoyed doing it, though it was frustrating not to have time to develop what we were saying in detail: for example, I think I annoyed the Brown Owl (who was a very smart and savvy lady) by saying the Brownies weren't cool - she later said her Brownies would feel they were cool. The point I was making is that the image overall of Guiding isn't 'hip' because it has such a strong heritage in this country. I actually feel that a place where 7 to 10-year-old girls can be girls, and not worry about boys or boy bands, is something to be celebrated. I upped my brownie points later though when I talked about how I feel the Brownies and Guides are actually feminist organisations, in that from their first origins in 1912 (with the first handbook that I've used excerpts from, in Brown Owl's Guide to Life), they were fairly revolutionary in the way they encouraged independence and self-reliance among girls. All good fun.

Then on Thursday it was the Romantic Novel of the Year lunch at the Savoy Hotel. I went with lots of fab people from Orion as their brilliant author, Erica James, was on the shortlist with her novel Gardens of Delight. It's the fifth time she'd been nominated and I have to say, had that happened to me (as if!), I think I would have stayed at home simply because it must be so stressful to work yourself up every time.

It's a riot of pastel colours and gossip at the reception - before a very good lunch of asparagus with a sauce rather like lemon curd, mushroom risotto for veggies like me, and a tasty choc pudding with a peculiar odd thyme sorbet. Chocolate and thyme isn't a combo I will be repeating. Then came the speeches. One of the judges was a GP - Dr Susan Horsewood-Lee - and she gave something like a school report on each of the nominated books which was quite funny if you weren't nominated but would have been AGONY if you had. She also made a comment along the lines of 'thank you to everyone who read the 23 long-listed books - so I didn't have to!' which could be taken either way, so it was slightly surreal.

Then finally the lovely lady from Foster Grant (the sponsors) announced the winner - and it was Erica! Massive cheer from all at our table, and she was whisked off for photos and to be given her £10,000 cheque. She made a very short and pithy speech about how people at readings and events always comment on 'how tiny she is' - it's true, she is such a petite woman and a lot of fun. Then the rest of us sat through an extremely long speech from Stanley Johnson, father of 'blonde bombshell Tory' Boris Johnson. It wasn't really my thing so naybe I shouldn't comment on it directly, but he seemed to spend a lot of time talking about his novels about Eurocrats in Brussels, and not much about the matter in hand, apart from telling us we were all 'jolly professional' - gee thanks, Stanley. Maybe I just don't share the same sense of humour...certainly there were lots of laughs from the audience so perhaps it's a 'love it or hate it' thing.

Overall, it was a terrific day, wonderfully organised and very British, one of those events you feel gives you a glimpse of the glamour that people always imagine constitutes 99 per cent of a lady novelist's life. Whereas actually it's perhaps 0.3 per cent but all the more appreciated when it happens!

Now I am back to the WIP. Trying to hit 60,000 words before publication of Brown Owl. Oh, yes, got my first copies yesterday, they do look gorgeous.

Lovely Link of the Day:
If you feel inspired to write romantic fiction, try this cool and free online course from the BBC Get Writing site.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Listen Up!

Yep, I've been a bit useless lately. It's hard to blog when things are up in the air - not in a bad way, they just are...

However, if you want to hear yours truly on the radio tomorrow, listen between 3pm and 4pm to Radio 5 Live's Simon Mayo show when I'm taking part in a discussion about the Great Brown Owl shortage AND volunteering generally.

You can also listen online by clicking here.

Wish me luck...

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Word count: 52,194

Yep, I'm back, and back to chirpiness. Another day, another house. That must be 180 or more I've viewed now. Three more this week: one nice but bit over-priced, one not over-priced but not that nice, and one neither nice nor reasonable. Haven't felt inclined to offer on any of them...

I went to Middlesex University on Tuesday to give my talk on Finding Your Author USP and also to take part in a discussion on being a woman writer. Gorgeous campus (I've never seen so many daffodils) and brilliant people. I love talking about writing with fellow enthusiasts.

The cat is in the grip of a high-furball-production phase, with predictably icky consequences. And I am being fairly productive on the writing front, must be not far off halfway now. Well, the truth is I don't quite know.

On Friday I had my picture taken for a feature in eve Magazine (the lower case is deliberate). I had to sit on top of the balcony edge at the boyf's pad, and look dreamily into the distance. Of 104 photos, maybe 15 were OK but the marvellous photographer managed to get the right angle so that I looked at least 10 lbs lighter. Superhero...

I've also spent the week running my online tutorial on the Open University writing course, A215. We're still all getting accustomed to working that way - it's harder than face to face and certainly more time-consuming. I also spoke today to one of the students and really felt I was able to help, which was satisfying.

I might even be allowed to relax now!

Lovely Link of the Day:
I haven't registered for Critique Circle but these tools look rather good: knowing me, Hangman would be the one I'd use the most, though.

Monday, April 03, 2006

It never rains...

But it pours...and it did this weekend.

I will be back soon. A combination of workloads, bad house news (is there any other kind?) and preparing for a talk I am doing tomorrow has got on top of me, rather.

In the meantime, Miss Snark is posting the responses to her writing contest. Fun for all the family. And far better than me moaning on as per usual.

Back Wednesday, I suspect.