Thursday 24 December 2009


So this is Christmas and I have a herd of elephants on their way to the manger. There's a small one who's already there and calling to the others. There's an old dame of an elephant, big and slow, bringing up the rear and a youngster keeping her company. Perhaps they're singing.

This is my mantelpiece, my Fenwick's Christmas Window, my nativity scene.
People think I'm mad. But I love elephants and I love Christmas, so why not?

I'm surrounded by twinkle lights and wrapping paper and soon I'll be singing carols. And gazing at elephants of course. A perfect Christmas Eve.

Christmas greetings to all those who've posted me (now that the problem's fixed, I hope that more of you will join in). To Sammy (and any other young writer) my advice is just to keep it up, keep enjoying, it's one of the best things.

To those of you who want to read the first three chapters then email me at my website: or . Perhaps I'll put them up there for all to see.

Happy Christmas.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

agent kidding all along

Seismic rewrite not required. Perhaps it was a test. Granddad in teen novel does not have to change to Grandma. Which is a relief. She'd be a pipe smoking, laddette at 97, drinking with the old fishermen and swapping tall stories in the back of a hardware store. Grandmas don't do that sort of thing, do they?

Meanwhile, responses are trickling in from my young readers who've been condemned to commenting on the first three chapters of novel number two. So far I've had: it's good (in a surprised sort of tone) but... ah here it is... some of the words are difficult.

OK. Not so bad. Good to know. I'll take a look and fix it.

Thank you, young readers. LOL

Tuesday 15 December 2009


It was Christmas lunch with the writing group today. Everyone threw in their last pound and stood me a turkey dinner at the Customs House. Thank you, thank you. In return as a sort of reward (double edged, perhaps like an old Gillette razor) I read them PF&L, and forgot to tell them which animals they were (this is a picture book text with no pics), so it was possibly a pointless exercise. Nonetheless they seemed to enjoy it (or they're very good actors) and besides there were a few empty minutes between ordering and receiving Christmas pud, so why not listen to my pointless ramblings? If there's anyone out there actually reading these pointless ramblings, then maybe you're in a similar void between courses. Or don't get out much.

Tomorrow I wear tinkling bell earrings, courtesy of my sisters, and lead the singing group in a rousing chorus of Rudolph rocking around the manger on a starry night in a winter wonderland while mummy's kissing Santa Claus. Or something. All for a good cause.

Soon the spindles will be painted. May be painted. There are 118. Stair carpet comes Friday. But that's another blog.


This is how it goes. So, rather prestigious agent likes teen novel ...and life is a rose garden...but suggests rewrite...ah, well...of course. Life is more a weed patch, on further investigation. It's to be expected. Agents are like that. Aren't they? Rather like the medicine for something unmentionable, it has to be swallowed.

Actually, it's not just a rewrite, more a seismic shift. Say it quickly and it doesn't sound so bad.

Here's the thing. Do I go with my instincts and aim for the the slight tremor of a rewrite and risk being ditched before I even get there, or go the whole world shaking way of the agent and risk being ditched cos it's not quite right?

Is there anyone out there who cares an iota?

I have three things floating around. Two novels and a picture book text. I must be barking.

Get your postcards out folks, and give me your answer, do.

Friday 11 December 2009

new computer

Blogging from my new, snowy keyboard, tiny white computer. There's more room than I know what to do with on my desk. I feel rich. Lee, my computer guru, is just Mr Magic. Thank you.

Thursday 10 December 2009

picture books

Rumour has it that the picture book world is in a sorry state. Publishers aren't taking new people on. They're not selling books. They're even shelving their authors. The credit crunch is biting into everything, even diddy little books for diddy little people. It's a shocker. Those poor wee folk. And yet I've posted my manuscript. Apparently it's good and ready. So off it goes. No hanging about. Price of a stamp. Hey ho.

Plain mad?
Grasping at straws?
Fantastically hopeful?
All three?
Immune to rumour
None of the above?

Answers on a post-card please.

Saturday 5 December 2009

testing the water

Well I've produced the first three chapters of the new novel in a small book. I'm hoping to convince a bunch of young people to read it and give me a critique. Glutton for punishment? Yes, but they're my target audience (especially boys) and if it doesn't work for them, then there'll have to be a rethink. Wish me luck.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

disaster averted

All is not lost. The wonderful Lee has sorted my ailing computer. Let's hear it for him!

OK so I need a new computer, but my hard disk is safe, so the work is safe. One big thank you to Lee, who, incidently, used to play in the same band as me.

Meanwhile, I have it on good authority that some people want to add comments etc to my blog but are having problems doing so. Keep trying you people. Keep trying.

It's lonely out here

Friday 27 November 2009


so today my computer crashed. That's all.

Thursday 26 November 2009

picture books

Well, my P&F picture book text appears to have met with approval and I've tweaked the areas that needed more attention, so I'm sending it back out. No messing. The thing is, if I sit around waiting for great things to happen, they just won't.

Well, actually, I've sat around quite a bit recently, and I'm now minus a wall, so that's pretty big. When I say a wall, obviously I don't mean that I'm now living in a doll's house (full of floors and an attic with secret doors and spaces) but what I've lost is some very damp, bubbling plaster, some very old lats, and I can see where the rain's been coming in for the last couple of decades. Our truly wonderful builder sawed up some of the wooden frame that supported the lats and smelled new wood in wood which is over 160 years old. Isn't that amazing! Well I think it is. And this is my blog. So let me be amazed at the lasting quality of wood aroma.

I'm also the proud owner of a fireplace, by the way, which was hidden behind all that bubbly plaster, so that's another pretty big thing which happened while I was sitting. It's lovely. I'd like to give it a sweep and use it, but I'm sure some health and safety person (or perhaps Colin) will tell me I'm daft, especially as most of the bricks around it are slightly saggy, the chimney breast is just a badly put together jigsaw, and the thing probably leaks.

So back to the safer (hah) ground of picture books and once again I wish I could draw properly and that P&F could just magically appear on paper and be so delicious that no self respecting agent or publisher could possibly resist them, and demand more stories about them and of course being the true professionally that I am, I'd be able to say, there is more. And there is, as it happens. Oh, I can't wait for that conversation.

Just noticed the date. Must get round to Christmas soon.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

I have a cough and the sniffs and everything in my house is dusty. Yes, we're having work done. I can't think or write. And soon we're to have visitors to stay from the other side of the pond. Help. They're coming tonight instead of Friday. Ah well, they'll have to live with what they find. They're musicians, so they'll be used to slumming it.

Monday 16 November 2009


Well I now have three followers, which is great. From small beginnings, erm, like little acorns, grow big sturdy oaks, with lots of branches and leaves and twigs and everything. So I'm waiting patiently for it all to get going. Thank you, acorns. Without you there is no oak. Sturdy or otherwise.

About waiting. Now then. Out there, is an agent who loves me. I'm sure of it. It's like knowing that behind the bright bit there's the dark side of the moon. We can't see it but it's there. So is my agent. Agent, show yourself. I can love you.

And another thing. My picture book text went out a whole month ago and I was promised (or did I just dream that?) it would be back with me within three or four weeks. It's like being at school, getting back the work you've spent so long on it just has to be right.

There used to be this joke played on young student nurses. They'd be set down to the operating theatre for a Long Stand. They'd be directed to a corner, out of the way, and told to wait. And so they did. And did. And did. And so did I.

So hey,'s nothing.

Sunday 8 November 2009


Just back from mid west Spain, having tried, and failed, to find wolves. Standing for two hours till sun up and two hours till sun down, for four days, in biting cold, which layer upon layer just couldn't keep out. Full moon. Winter trees. Howling winds. Trails of mist over the hills. Brooding mountains in the distance. Perfect, you would have thought, for a pack to be out hunting for deer. Unless they're well fed, of course, contented with their lot, with not an ache of hunger to nudge them out from under cover. Meanwhile the deer came out to inspect us, morning
and evening, gamboling about in the dew, a more carefree, worry less group you ever did see. Which just about summed it up. I can feel a trip to Transylvania coming on.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

towers and turrets

Today I dismantled the towers and turrets, determined to have, at least for a short while, some order about my desk, even though it unsettles me. Things tend to go missing when I tidy up. Important things. How can that be? On the other hand, things that were once lost are found. A young friend, looking for extra pocket money, came to help. She sifted through years of magazines, pulling out my stories, stapling and filing them, with a steadfastness belying the mind-numbing quality of the task. Later she rearranged books onto shelves in such order they look positively unread, positively decorative. This girl is one organised cookie. Together we completely filled a wheely bin with paper for recycling. Now this wasn't easy. I had to be brutal but could only manage to be almost brutal. A little brutal. Actually, a few things were pulled back out of the wheely bin. Sorry, but it's too much like colonic irrigation to cleanse the place so thoroughly. Unnatural. For me at least. I was probably born untidy. I retrieved Thank You letters from school children, letters from readers, scraps of poems, snatches of prose, all written years ago. They might just come in useful. I piled them to the right of me and to the left. It feels good to have them around me. Like towers and turrets to the besieged.

Friday 23 October 2009

writing hamsters

Sock drawers! In answer to Sophie's post, which I've only just discovered, (whoops) everything turns up in sock drawers except matching socks it seems to me. But I'm glad that some bedrooms are as messy as my desk. Never tried to sleep on my desk though. The next thing I write will feature a mess and someone trying to sleep in it. I had a hamster once which did just that. The sleeping bit. Not the writing. I've never met a hamster that can write.

Apparently I have two followers, Julie and Lucy, so what does this make Sophie?
I'm a blog newcomer and it's great to have anyone dropping by, only I can't find anything written by them. Help required.

Friday 16 October 2009


Just bought a kneeling mat and gloves for the garden, and some yellow dusters, not for the garden. Those who know me will laugh, perhaps even wonder at this, but you see, there was a Hawker at my door. He interrupted the last blog-posting with a polished, if rather nervous, doorstep routine, featuring feather dusters, podietal cheese graters and a truck load of other things nobody can pretend they want. I felt the need to need at least one of these things, and do, whenever a Hawker arrives at my door. I'm not impressed by my actions, don't feel holier than thou, but did feel a kind of empathy with him, being a hawker myself, of far more useless items i.e my stories. Only my hands aren't blue with cold, I haven't lost the gloves someone kindly bestowed upon me just last night, and I haven't perhaps fifty more routines to perform on fifty more doorsteps. I hope fifty more people need something, and buy from him, and that his day isn't depressing. Because the weather is turning and there are selection boxes and tinsel ribbons in the shops. And soon I'll feel the need to need them.

bull, horns and books

Taking the bull by the horns, as no-one else will, I'm actively seeking shelf space, other than my own, for 'Headlines and Other Growing Pains'. Why? Because the only mainstream bookshop in England happy to take local talent (which makes us sound like an unwelcome treatment for a terrible ailment) has sold out, or so it appears. The last time I tried to find a copy, to shift to a more prominent place instead of behind a book of Local Recipes, there wasn't one. Perhaps they really have sold out, and not just dusted the shelves recently, binning any unsold barnacles. And if that is the case, why haven't they come hot foot to the door of my publisher (how very grand that sounds) demanding at least twice as many copies as before, to display in front of the doorway as a Must Read, or even Title of the Month? Either would do. I'm not proud.

Haven't quite worked out my strategy on the Shelf Space Issue, but helpful hints and comments gratefully received. A chance for folk out there to add a sparkle to a deserving cause.
For now I have a librarian fighting my corner, in schools. Watch this space.

Saturday 10 October 2009


Sold another story this week, and they like a second if I could tweak the ending, which must mean they've finally got to the pile I sent - way back when. Obviously there's a lot landing on their doormat. This is my commercial arm: though I write for just one magazine and have done for around ten years, so it's an anniversary, right about now. And it's thirteen years since I started the writing group south of the river.
All these anniversaries.
I can feel a cake coming on.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Writing's hard enough but...

So there we were, twenty of us, at Northumbria University, the other night, reading from our various pamphlets, novels and collections, which were produced either by Biscuit or Red Squirrel (two independent publishers based in the North East). I have to commend them both for putting on a show, keeping our names alive, so that we don't turn into cobwebs, but of course it's up to us to make it a show. And it's a mine-field.

Take microphones. You love 'em or you hate 'em, and it's to do with technique. There's an art to using a mic, sometimes it's best not to bother, especially if your piece is peppered with Ps and you think that sucking the thing is the best way to be heard. Well you will be heard, if that's your inclination, but it's like listening to popping corn in a hot pan. Not a good sound.

Take the words we've all slaved over. Sadly, there's an art to reading out our work, which most of us (including me) probably haven't quite mastered yet, and perhaps should. If you can perform, rather than just read a piece, then it's got to be better. Apropos that, ten out of ten to Tom Kelly. No popping, great presence. If clapometers were still in use, he'd have won, in this competitive world of ours. Thank God we writers are above that sort of thing...

Anyway, I'm pleased to say that I bought a book (not one of my own...though it was tempting...) and sold a book (which was one of my own) so I came out no poorer, no richer. But you know you're onto a loser when the audience is mainly writers. We're a mean lot. Or maybe just poor. Perhaps we should just swap books at these events and promise not to drop them in the bath or let the dog pee on them, or mark the place with a bit of bacon. It's been done, incidentally, though not by me. What a waste of bacon.

Saturday 3 October 2009

tidy desks

My desk is growing towers and turrets. Soon it'll be a fortress. I could hide behind it all, dodge the slings and arrows. But I have shopping to do.

Thursday 1 October 2009

About the books

OK. The books. For those of you out there who are still my friends, after so long. One finished (re-drafted a zillion times and a zillion typos erased) and now in that other world, which dangles like some mobile just out of reach...And I thought writing the thing was hard. No way. That was just trekking the foothills, ambling over a few grassy slopes. Now it's the mountain and all its sharp edges and rock falls. Beyond that, another. Higher still and colder. Agents. Publishers. I'm waiting with the flag tightly furled, the spike sharpened, just ready to drive it home. It's non-biodegradable, it'll survive the wait.

So, the other one, finished but for the next and probably the next draft, lies waiting patiently, and I can't touch it. My head just won't let me. So instead I immerse myself in more research, so that when the time comes and the flag is unfurled, flapping noisily in the breeze, I'll be ready to take up where I left off and add ten thousand words.

And the picture book. Oh how I wish I was an artist. The words are there. On paper. The pictures are in my head.

Everything's just juggling around. All three projects.

Which is where the earrings come in. So simple. Just choose a pair. Like breathing in and breathing out. Easy. Today they are full of sparkles. Just what I need to remind me that there is somewhere, something other than sitting behind a computer.

Sunday 27 September 2009


I have decided on earrrings; to wear them every day without fail. I have so many. They hang from a wooden mushroom, just begging to be worn, and I have ignored them for long enough, (rather like my friends) in the writing of my first novel, in the writing of my second, and a picture book. It's been years. Yes years. Or so it seems. Apologies to friends and earrings, but those of you who can do so, please understand, please forgive and please read this. Those of you who can't or won't, well, there you go. Thank you Isabel Allende who suggested the earrings in the first place, though I can't claim that she meant the advice to come to me only. In fact, it's more than likely she doesn't know who I am. Thanks anyway.