Thursday, 29 November 2007


J.A. Konrath is approaching a blogiversary. And in his 299th entry he invites his readers to contribute to his upcoming 300th post.

Wow. That’s a heap of brilliant blogging!

So, writers, if you haven’t already done so, why not accept the invitation by telling him:
1. Your goals for 2008.
2. How you will reach these goals.

I sent mine in last night, after spending quite some time pondering ‘How I will reach these goals'. A very useful exercise, indeed.

All goals will be included, along with J.A.’s, in what promises to be a fabulous, milestone post!!!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Dark Days and Glasses

I was looking forward to winter, but these dark afternoons are killing me! I start yawning at about 3 p.m. and don’t stop until midnight, when I suddenly feel wide-awake just in time to go to bed. My Mum advises me to get some early nights, which is her default advice for most things. Instead, I'm drinking more coffee, which must only contribute to the late-night wakefulness.

I’m also working in the evenings, and probably need to stop a little earlier and give my mind some time to wind down. Hmm... not as easy as it sounds. I remember Lemony Snicket -- or perhaps it was Daniel Handler who said, "Bedtime always comes around just when things are getting interesting." Exactly! That hits the nail on the proverbial head. In fact, that’s probably what I need. I should ask a dear friend to hit me on the head with a mallet, knocking me out as the clock strikes twelve.

But first I must take off my glasses. My gorgeous glasses! To which I seem to be allergic.

Four or five weeks ago, I went for an eye test. I’ve always wanted glasses, so was quite happy to discover I need them for reading. I chose a lovely Miu Miu pair.

About ten minutes after putting on my beautiful glasses, my nose starts to itch. After half an hour I absolutely have to take them off, and am left with two bright-red marks where the nosepiece has been. They’re not tight, so the marks (which remain for hours) aren’t caused by pressure. But I have very sensitive skin, so sensitive that I can’t use any skin-care products or cosmetics, at all. The only make-up I can tolerate is lipstick and mascara.

I’m half-expecting bad news, but will still be very disappointed if there's nothing the optician can do. 
“Crazy but true; you are allergic to glasses!”

Saturday, 24 November 2007


It’s great that blogs are quick to set-up and easy to customise. And it’s wickedly simple to embellish one’s posts with pictures and the like. Fun things can be accomplished in an instant. But. What seemed a good idea at the time can quickly be regretted.

Which is how I feel about the ‘Process’ post of 6 November. Whenever I scroll down this page, the worst photo of me, EVER, stares back, grinning. What was I THINKING??? I look baggy-eyed and white as a sheet, which I thought funny at the time, because it was around Halloween and ghosts and vampires were in the ether. And my front teeth! I must tell you: yes, I have gaps, but I’m not as goofy as THAT!!!

The post was about process, so what can I do? I can’t remove the photo. No, that would be wrong. And after two more posts, it will move from this page and into the archives -- phew!

To counter-balance my impetuous mistake; to restore karmic order and realign the chakras of the blog, I am adorning this post with a BEAUTIFUL picture, something I could never, ever regret or want to change: a sublime painting by Mark Rothko.

And another, just for good measure...


Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The Next Step

My hideous cold has gone -- yippee!

And my agent submission package is done! The pitch is probably the most difficult thing I have ever written. It’s taken countless versions and umpteen drafts to achieve something with which I’m happy; to reach a point where I know I’ve done my best.

Each agent I’m interested in submitting to has a different set of guidelines. In the first instance, Agent A requires a query letter via email. Agent B asks for a query letter and a specified number of pages via email. Agent C prefers a query letter, a synopsis and pages via email. While Agent D likes to receive a large manila envelope containing a letter, a synopsis, the first three chapters, and an SAE.

No problem. It’s nice to follow the guidelines and know you’ve done the right thing.

But I’m still biting my toes, my desk, and the rim of the bath, over the length of the dreaded synopsis. Particularly when asked for a ‘short’ or ‘brief’ synopsis -- because how long is a piece of string? On the longer end, some agents will accept two or three pages, and on the shorter end, a half page synopsis is specifically requested. Now that’s what I would class as brief, but I’m just guessing.

I’ve honed mine down to one page (double spaced), but I also have a two-page version that's smoother to read.

I’m submitting a short YA novel (22,000 words / 101 pages), and am aware that, for many agents, it will be an automatic rejection because of the length. But I’m a fan of short fiction -- Beligian author Amélie Nothomb being one of my favourites -- and the length feels right for the story. It's humorous, suspenseful, fast-paced -- with lots of action, limited locations, and a time frame of 24 hours.

We’ll see…!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Cold and Sold

I have a horrid, stinking cold. So bad that all I could do last night was curl up on the sofa and watch TV. Despite my blurred vision, I was GLUED to I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

Then it was time for Sold, the new “money-grabbing, dodgy-dealing estate agent drama”. In this property-mad country, it’s hard to believe an estate agent drama has not been done before. But with Kris Marshall (the modern Dad from the soft-focus BT commercials) in a leading role, I did not expect such an entertaining show!!! Kris was brilliant. I’m hooked. And to think I would have missed this, if not for my hideous cold.


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Time to Stop

Cold, crisp mornings, brown bracken, fallen leaves, glass-like lakes, and shopping!

My three-and-a-half days away were wonderful. I had the opportunity to work in a relaxed environment, which really refreshed my perspective. And the good news is – I LOVE my novel. The bad news is – I didn’t spend as much time as planned on the pitch and the dreaded synopsis. They do need work, and that will be done, this week.

But when is it time to stop? When is the manuscript actually finished? I’ve finished it several times before, then I read it again, just to double-check, and end up with more and more revisions. One could carry on indefinitely!

But I must STOP. I must start submitting to agents, next week. Even though last week I said it would be this week. Oh, well... it's next week, and that's a promise.

In Keswick, I discovered a delightful shop called Temporary Measure. I like the knitted rabbits, which unfortunately don’t feature on their website. But one thing that does is their bespoke story service. They will write a story to order, then print it on canvas. Not something for anyone on my Christmas list (can’t believe I mentioned Christmas, it’s far too early!) but a brilliant idea, non-the-less.

Friday, 9 November 2007

The Lovely Lakes

This week has been messy, full of changed plans, cancelled appointments, and lots of re-scheduling along the way. Time spent arranging and rearranging, but not getting anything done.

Weeks like this throw me, and I’m charged with a desire to claw back lost and wasted time. I want to concentrate on my novel. I want tweak the synopsis and re-write the pitch paragraph of my letter to potential agents. I want to be ready to start submitting, next week.

So, I’ve cleared the decks (not that we have many decks here at Thistletonthwaite Castle!) and leave tomorrow for three days without any distractions.

I love the Lake District, and am lucky to have it literally on my doorstep. I only need to drive twenty miles to reach a different world.

This is Rydal Water: my favourite lake.

And this is Rydal Cave: my favourite cave!

I’ll be staying in Keswick, in a tiny attic flat with big skylights and stunning views. It’s going to be lovely.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Okay, I know, this blog is now plastered with pictures of ME. With hand on heart, I swear I am not vain. This mass wallpapering has simply arisen during the development of the blog. On day/night one I was unable to upload a profile picture, so I snapped myself with Photo Booth and popped one, well… two on the first post.

Then it was Halloween. And that story needed pictures. And Photo Booth is right here on my laptop! I blame Steve Jobs of Apple for making it all too easy.

But STILL, my profile page was without a picture, meaning full blog set-up was not complete. Thankfully, I took some test-shots before the scary, Halloween photo session. Please note: black, high-collared blouses, although recently fashionable, are not my usual attire.

You now have more photos of me than you ever wanted to see! My excuse is: I love process, and the surprises it throws up along the way. And that’s the spirit I want to hold on to for the life of this blog. Overnight at Thistletonthwaite Castle exists for fun.

Does that mean I won’t ever post anything about my writing?

Don’t worry; I will soon start to post a little about my writing. Although it involves a lot of hard work, it most definitely counts as fun!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Vivienne Vyle

Apart from Ugly Betty, and the occasional fix of Newsnight, I don’t watch very much TV. When I moved back here from New York, and to the horror of my X Factor-addicted sisters, I didn’t even OWN a TV set for almost three years.

That said, I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Saunders, and thought Absolutely Fabulous was, well, absolutely fabulous in its time. So I anticipated with great excitement, The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. Co-written by, and starring Jennifer Saunders, it is set in the world of daytime TV.

But I’ve been really disappointed. In fact, I found episode one to be borderline depressing. Still, I persevered, because new comedy shows sometimes take a few episodes to settle in. I’ve now watched four or five, and I’m not the first to say -- this just isn’t funny.

The problem is not that Jennifer Saunders isn’t fantastic as the ambitious host of a daytime talk show. It’s the subject itself that brings it down. This type of format is difficult to parody. And really -- how much humour is there to be found in vulnerable people having their lives torn apart on national TV?

After five episodes, for me it's over and done. Bye-bye, Vivienne Vyle.

But I still love Jennifer Saunders!