Tuesday, 29 April 2008


I nearly posted about this last week. But stopped myself, when it appeared my enthusiasm was premature. But today, as sunshine floods through the windows of Thistletonthwaite Castle, my suspicion is confirmed: 


We can now stop worrying about newborn animals freezing in the fields.

A friend saw some tiny lambs wearing little coats, a sight I’d love to see.

It’s been such a long winter, and you struggle on, imagining bundling-up in a coat until June. Then, suddenly there is sun -- WARM sun. Too warm for a coat and scarf -- yippee!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

My brother suffered a disease for almost fifteen years.

Last year he visited a healer in Brazil who identified his unusual condition without asking any questions, and without my brother saying a single word. She cured him, on the spot, and then told him his illness was the result of a curse, which she had now removed.

My brother is a businessman, and not at all the type to believe in curses. But, after visiting this healer, his horrid condition, which returned after surgery and resisted all medicines, vanished, and hasn’t recurred.

So, maybe the healer was right -- he had been cursed, perhaps at the behest of an old girlfriend or business rival. If an explanation was needed, this was all he had. But still, he was sceptical.

My brother lives in northern Italy where, until yesterday, the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, was being shot. Production has now halted amid fears of a curse.

And my brother’s name is James…


Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain

I love how one thing leads to another … and then you discover a brilliant book!

Today, I visited Folio Literary Management’s new blog and read the inaugural post, “On Query Letters”, by agent Jeff Kleinman.

The post includes an example of a successful query from Garth Stein, now one of Jeff Kleinman’s clients.

The query letter is excellent, and the novel seemed both unique and compelling.

Later, I popped over to Janet Reid’s blog and read a fascinating post about (you guessed it) Garth Stein, and the very book for which Jeff Kleinman had posted the query. I was now becoming extremely excited -- and almost squealed after clicking the link to the THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN !

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Tag Me Twice

The amazing Cate, proprietor of The Poisoned Apple, has tagged me -- TWICE!!

Oh, crumbs…

The rules state that I must tag six others. But I’m not good at chain letters, so I hope Cate will forgive me. :)

My rules:

1. Anyone who wants to be tagged can become so by leaving a comment. I will then add a link to your blog at the bottom of this post, confirming the tag.

2. You can choose to follow the real rules, posted on Cate’s blog, follow my rules, or make up your own!!!

Tag one: Six random things about me

I started talking at eight months old, but didn’t walk until two years later.

I’ve modelled for L’Uomo Vogue (Italian men's Vogue). They cast me as an art dealer.

I can often predict the future, for others; I’ve no idea what will happen to me!

I like travelling alone.

I love black olives.

My worst summer job was as a machine operator in a tin can factory.

Tag two:

1. Pick up the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people (if you’re following the original rules) and post a comment back to Cate's blog (she's the one who tagged me -- you will in turn nominate the person who tagged you -- ie me) once you've posted your three sentences.

The nearest book is THE LOVE CURSE OF THE RUMBAUGHS by Jack Gantos. And… on page 123, the fifth sentence brings us to a paragraph of three sentences (cool), the last in the chapter titled SQUIRRELS ARE MY FAVOURITE:

“But lurking behind this ticking clock of fear and joy was the unspoken dread that some day she was not going to come home and I would have to do what the Twins did. I couldn’t predict the future. All I could predict was that the future would arrive and I would have to be prepared.”

Friday, 18 April 2008

High Mountains

Whenever you are standing on a high mountain you feel free and
happy. You see around you bigger and smaller mountains, you
feel the music they play together, nothing irritates you, nothing
seems to trouble your sight. You feel happy.

An extract from ‘Whenever you are standing on a high mountain’ by German Dada artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). He fled Nazi Europe and settled in the English Lake District in 1945.

Schwitters is one of my favourite artists, and that poem often comes to mind.

Standing on a high mountain and absorbing the view is wonderful for one’s perspective. And because I’ve been something of a stress-bunny these last two weeks, I’m going to stand on a high mountain this weekend.

I'm not much of a mountaineer -- but I can scamper up a fell. More fell jogging than fell running, and a pack of lean and wiry runners usually overtake me. But who cares? It’s all about reaching the top!  

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

One of those weeks!

Today I sit here with a foggy head.

For the last 7 days, life has seemed crazy, beyond my control.

Nothing drastic, dreadful, or overly dramatic has happened. It’s the little things. And when lots of little things go wrong, you feel stupid. Maybe I try to squeeze too much into a day. But don’t we all do that? We want to achieve as much as possible, succeed against the odds, and beat the clock.

Sometimes we go the extra mile to please others or to prove our supersonic abilities -- then kick ourselves for the silly mistakes that ensue.

Last week I submitted this blog to Authors Blogs, a fabulous site listing lots of great blogs, including The Book Lady and Barrie Summy. I typed in the info, hit submit, then realised I’d made a mistake. So I re-submitted, with “UPDATED!” preceding the revised description.

And this is how that description now appears on the site:
UPDATED!: An aspiring YA author blogs about what captivates her three-track mind: writing, entertainment, and life.

The week continued, with a catalogue of minor disasters.

On Monday, I rushed to mail three letters before the last collection. I lay in bed that night re-living the stuffing of the envelopes. Had I…? Was it possible…? Surely I couldn’t be that stupid?

Unfortunately, yes. I discovered on Tuesday that I’d mixed up two letters and put them in the wrong envelopes!! The recipients were amused: accidents happen. But I felt completely incompetent.

I hope this phase is passing, and once I publish this post this, I’ll become a calm and organised person. :) 

Some very good news: Patricia Wood's wonderful debut novel, Lottery, has reached the shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction!

Friday, 11 April 2008

A Master Class

I finished the edit, and now feel much better about the comma content of my manuscript. Phew!

It’s time to move forward, and concentrate completely on my WIP. I’ve promised myself, I will no longer keep going back and forth between the new work and -- I don’t even like to say it -- the old.

I wonder how experienced and prolific authors such as Amélie Nothomb, who wrote the best book I read in 2007, handle such transitions? (She writes three novels a year, publishing only one.)

Perhaps she tells us in this interview for Spanish TV. But I didn’t quite catch it. Perhaps when she draws in marker pen on a plastic globe, she is explaining by using a diagram. Perhaps the word Bangladesh is code for “move forward".  

Let’s see:

Monday, 7 April 2008

Purging the Comma

I’m busy with yet another edit of the novel I’m submitting to agents.

I found writing the pitch and synopsis so difficult, such a test of endurance; I was astonished to receive two requests for sample chapters. My letter and synopsis had worked! I couldn’t believe it; I was high as a kite! 

But several weeks later, I had been kindly rejected by both.
Uh, oh…

So I went back to the manuscript. Some agents might not like the style, the voice, or the story. But if they do, it must be as perfect as humanly possible, which meant… I needed to address, what seemed to me, a sometimes-funky use of the comma.

The comma is the punctuation mark with which I struggle. Whenever I’m unsure about whether or not a comma is necessary, I remember an episode from childhood. I panic, becoming incapable of making a confident decision, because I have post-traumatic comma disorder (PTCD).

For a whole terrifying year, a very stern and scary teacher shrieked at me because of my use of the comma: “NEVER, EVER! USE A COMMA BEFORE THE WORD, AND.”
(I sneaked one into that quote as an act of defiance.)

Clearly he was wrong.

But still, I lack confidence in using the comma.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Kevin Spacey agrees with me!

I have a sister who loves reality TV. I don’t. I find it depressing and downright boring. I really would prefer to watch paint dry.

Reality TV is a subject on which my sister and I will always clash. Therefore, since our last bust-up over How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? it’s a subject we’ve agreed to avoid.

She’s an aficionado (and I sort-of respect her for that). Reality TV is her preferred viewing. She watches X Factor, Pop Idol, Wife Swap, Celebrity Love Island, I’d Do Anything, and countless shows I’ve never heard of.

She involves herself with a passion; agreeing or not with Simon Cowell, hating Sharon Osborne, defending this or that contestant, shocked at what a certain family feeds their children, appalled at whom Sir Alan Sugar did or did not hire as his new Apprentice.

And she believes it is real.

Our fall-out over ‘Maria’ occurred after I read an article when the show first aired, which happened to mention the writers. My sister would not accept it was even partly scripted. Nor would she accept that the TV portrayal of the process is not how auditions take place in the real world, and that her enthusiasm to see the winner perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of The Sound of Music, was really the whole point of the show; the reality, in this case, of reality TV.

So I was pleased when Kevin Spacey, actor and artistic director of the Old Vic, said this: "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was a 13-week promotion for a musical, on a public-service broadcaster. I thought that was crossing the line."

Here, here!!

But then I read something on Meg Cabot’s blog:

… one third of people aged 100 or older watch reality television. One quarter of them watch MTV or music videos, and some even surf the web and use an iPod.

Curl up on the couch. Watching reality TV is the key to long life!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

How many emails will an inbox hold before it finally explodes?

Answer: 473,922.1


But seriously, my desktop email client, Mac Mail, has 1,052 unread emails in the inbox and 2,221 in the junk folder.

Including those in the inbox I’ve opened and read, but not deleted, I guess the grand total would be (gulp…) 8,000!

Time to start spring-cleaning…

(Apologies for the nostalgic image; my very first Mac was an iMac, shaped just like that.)