And Then the Sun Came Out

suncameout    A funeral is never a good way to start the week but on Monday I had the pleasure of hearing my son’s beautifully written eulogy to his father. It was, by turns, poignant and hilarious and I’m slightly relieved that he’s too busy doing an important, proper job to compete with me for writing gigs. Take a bow, Alastair Graham. You had the old feller absolutely nailed.

And then…. the Man from Delmonte Publishing House, he say ‘Yes.’

Going Dark

DFG   A short post to pay tribute to David Graham who died yesterday. David was my husband for twenty years and the father of my four children. We did the whole thing, soup to nuts: young love, lean years, good times, bad times, divorce and, eventually, truce and friendship.  We found many ways to infuriate one another and by dying at the preposterously early age of 66 he has truly topped them all.

Through the Crystal Ball

realistic       Yes, I’m still unemployed.  I have never sweated so much over a book proposal. On bad days I feel my confidence dripping away and if there’s one thing a novelist needs in buckets it is self-belief. How else could you work completely solo for a year?  Other days I remind myself that vastly better writers than I have struggled to make a living.  Meanwhile I’m trying to keep myself occupied even if not gainfully. My kitchen floor has never been so clean.


Playing God

creationI know you’re waiting with bated breath to know my next career move but prolonged breath-bating isn’t good for you (unless you have hiccups) so I thought I’d better give you an update. The story so far…. a few weeks ago my publisher thought the WWI story I’d pitched to them was a good plan. Then they decided it wasn’t. But they did think Caroline of Brunswick was a ripping idea and so even though there was no money on the table I started thinking about Caroline. She’s had a bad press. I rather liked the idea of rehabilitating her.

Vowel Problems

typewriter    There’s an interesting piece on The Writer’s Almanac today, the anniversary of the patenting of the first typewriter. Remember typewriters? My first one was given to me by my mother-in-law and was already so ancient that it required great physical strength to pound the keys and great resourcefulness to find replacement ribbons.

I never learned to touch type. Instead I developed a regrettable but very fast two finger technique. That typewriter was a thing of beauty, as was my old Singer sewing machine. Both gone. I wonder where?

Happy as Larry

larryLarry McMurtry, one of my most esteemed writers, is 79 today. There are  writers who are very full of themselves and indeed these days are encouraged to be  –  put yourself about, blow that trumpet  –  and then there are writers like Larry who never take themselves too seriously. My favourite McMurtry anecdote is the one about him wearing a sweatshirt printed with the legend MINOR REGIONAL NOVELIST. Happy Birthday, Larry.

What Would Agatha Say?

gravedigger   So how do we feel about Sophie Hannah performing CPR on another writer’s character? I think Agatha Christie’s wishes were pretty clear when she killed off Hercule Poirot. He’s been in his grave for forty years as has Agatha and it seems to me an act of gross impertinence to dig him up. I realise Sophie Hannah is a hugely successful crime writer and I know the Agatha Christie Estate agreed to the Harper Collins project, but still. Not so much a case of flogging dead horses   –  Christie’s novels are still very popular  –  more a case of flogging stolen horses.

What Mother Knows

motherknowsIt’s that time in my writing year when the manuscript comes back to me with bloopers and queries marked up by the copy editor. Copy editors are essential people in the publishing business. They catch howlers and misspellings, they patiently insert missing commas.  But sometimes they go a bit further and make stylistic suggestions and when they do that they cross my personal version of the yellow incident tape the police use to cordon off no-go areas. You can’t write a novel by committee. No-one tells me how my characters speak.

A Hopey-Changey Post

bookheap     Thanks first to all those who sent messages of support/death threats to my publisher/offers of a long-term let of their garden shed. My book proposal, revamped because I refused to accept that it was totally crap, is being reconsidered and may yet live. But what with one thing and another I’m not likely to hear the news, good or bad, till mid-May.  So two more weeks of unpaid leave. What to do?

‘You could dust the top of that wardrobe,’ whispers the ghost of my dear departed Mum. Well yes. But I thought I’d begin by tackling the twenty seven books on the floor beside the bed.  My husband put his head round the door and asked what I was doing. I said, ‘There are going to be some long overdue changes in this room.’ He fled.

The Shoe Drops

nomessagesNo news is good news, so they say. Why do they say that? No news is, well… no news.

So as of 9am this morning I was still unemployed but hopeful. My proposal for a new novel was on my publisher’s desk and with every day that passed I had fallen more and more in love with the story. I wanted to start writing it but caution held me back. ‘Don’t set yourself up for disappointment,’ whispered the voice of Good Sense. ‘Keep busy. Dust the top of the wardrobe. Arrange your spice jars in alphabetical order.’