Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Memes (Mesmes?)

I've been tagged for the Six-Word Bio. by Tam, and for the Three Things You Can't Explain to Your Mother meme by Karen (only I'm going to do it for my Dad), and the Nearest Book meme by Jumbly Girl. So here goes!

Six-Word Bio.
Weary, Tired, Drained, Pooped, Shattered, Exhausted.

I tag: anyone with the energy left to do it.

Three Things I Can't Explain to my Father
Other drivers are not able to tell that he's about to turn off, from his position in the road.
People don't understand, when he says 'portable' and 'tape', that he's talking about a laptop and a CD.
He is not now, and never will be, a burden.

Three Things my Father Can't Explain to Me
Why dogs are nicer than cats.
Why it's necessary to turn the volume right down, rather than just press mute.
What exactly it was that he did before his computer stopped working.

I tag: anyone who hasn't done it yet.

Nearest Book Meme
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, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Er, does it really have to be the nearest book? Oh well, here goes...
Drapery Wholesalers, see: Soft furnishings Manufacturers and Wholesalers, Textile Manufacturers, Textile Warehousemen Wholesale. Draught Proofing, see: Energy Efficient Consultants and Systems, Insulation Installers. Dredging, Clearwater Dredging Ltd, 7 Greengate, Lurgashall, Petworth, (01428) 707058.


Tagged by Jumbly Girl.
Am tagging: Helenmh, TF, Liz, Womagwriter, and Sally.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sexy Trains and Committee Meetings

Saturday morning found me standing on the platform of Rugby station watching sexy Virgin trains (sleek, silver bullets with smoky windows). It was surreal. I could not equate the hoovering and toy-picking-up, which is my usual Saturday-morning pastime, with that railway smell, the feel of the wind, the hiss/whine/rumble of the trains. It was very exciting.

I love trains. I lived near a railway line as a child and the romance of travelling by rail has never left me. I'd always rather go by train than fly. That being said, south of London we have these horrid little electric jobs with double sliding doors and hard, hard seats. They stop everywhere, and are only marginally better than sitting on a rather boring fairground ride, only you don't have to keep hold of your candy floss.

But inter-city trains? Ooooh. North of Stafford we really picked up speed, thundering under the bridges and leaning into the corners. It was the closest I've been to riding a motorbike since I couldn't get into my leathers any more. We were going so fast that I half expected the guard to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we will shortly be beginning our descent into Crewe..."

The Novel-Racers' meet began a bit like a committee meeting, with fifteen of us sitting around a large square (black) table. It was only when someone suggested that, as no one had brought an agenda, perhaps we should get the drinks in. And so, we drank (varying amounts), we ate, but mostly we talked about writing. It was fab.

Six minutes hours later it was time to go home (although JJ and I managed to fit in a spot of shopping first). The ride home was equally enjoyable, although I had the added pleasure of my new (red) iPod Shuffle to gaze at, and the virtuous feeling of having bought a present for my babysitting sister too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And Then There Was Light!

I'm good at procrastinating in all areas of my life, and Sorting Stuff Out is no exception. But recently, I have been rather overwhelmed by work, and everything else has slipped, including my writing time. This has focussed my otherwise befuddled mind (in a way that cheerios on the carpet never do), and I have been trying to work out why I haven't cleared out all the junk as was my ambition six months ago.

These are the excuses so far:
1. Can't clear stuff out - need to organise stuff first.
2. Can't organise stuff - too much of it in the way - need to put some in loft first.
3. Can't fit any more stuff in loft - must tidy loft first.
4. Can't tidy up loft in winter - too cold.
5. Can't tidy up loft in summer - too hot.
6. Can't tidy up loft in spring or autumn - too dark up there anyway.

Thus, it was with a glowing heart that I selected £16.82 worth of bulkhead bayonets and two-ply cable from our local DIY store (sounds technical, doesn't it? Made me feel Very Knowledgeable).

"Are you fitting this yourself?" The girl on the checkout asked with a frown.
Fearing a health and safety lecture, (or worse, being told that it was illegal for me to fit lights in my own loft) I lied. "Oh," I said airily. "Just buying the bits. Electricians always rip you off, don't they?"

She seemed satisfied by this reply, and I consoled myself with the fact that I hadn't actually told an untruth; I was just being a tinsy bit deceptive. (I don't want you to think, Dear Reader, that I am a Dishonest Person. I'm not. I'm just not very good at receiving lectures from HSE-wannabes without SHOUTING before they've finished.)

I spent a couple of hours fitting the lights. And I think they look splendid. Sadly, having eliminated the 'too dark' excuse, the others have fallen like dominoes, and I shall now have to do Clearing Out.

Watch this space - for space there will be!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

First Lines - How D'you Like 'Em?

I am fascinated by the lure of the first line, and how it grabs the reader. So, I was delighted to find, on Karen's blog, a link to The 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Okay, I thought, let's see the genii in action!

Now, this might be supreme ignorance, or supreme arrogance (and I'm happy for you to tell me which), but having read the whole list, I thought just a few of them priceless, and the rest utter crap.

My favourites (in no particular order) were:
• "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
• "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." - Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
• "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
• "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." - Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
• "Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law." - William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)
• "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled." - Robert Graves, I, Claudius

My don't-get-'ems were (amongst many others too boring to include here):
• "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." - James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
• Where now? Who now? When now?" - Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953)
• Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . [blah blah blah]" - Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa (1974)

Now, call me shallow and poorly-read, but I think Dick Francis always writes a great first line:
"I could think of three good reasons for not going to Moscow, one of which was twenty-six, blonde, and upstairs unpacking her suitcase." Trial Run

And can anyone tell me why Herman Melville's opening to Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael" (which I have seen on several 'best first-line' lists this evening) should be considered a good opening? I'm still scratching my head over that one.

What are your favourite/least favourite first lines?
Any of you prepared to reveal your own first line(s)?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Playing Catch Up

I can heartily reccommend Helen M. Hunt as a perfect house guest. Not only did she bring a bottle of wine for her hostess, but a book too! How civilised is that? Daphne, by Justine Picardie, has now found itself on the very top of my reading pile!

Helen and I collected Cal from the station in the morning (although it was still the middle of the night as far as Cal was concerned), and we travelled on to Bournemouth together. Now, I always thought having kids in the car was distracting, but kids are nothing compared with writers, and writerly conversation...
You know those Police!-Stop!-Action!-type documentaries? Where you're sitting in the police car, bombing down the fast lane, blue lights on? And some muppet is sitting in the way, completely oblivious? And the policeman starts mutttering, 'come on, get out of the way'? And then the car brakes, and lurches into the middle lane? Well, I was that muppet. In my defence, Cal is really tall, and she was sitting in the middle seat, so I couldn't see a thing out of the rear window, except perhaps, just a corner of a blue flashing light, when the cop car got really close and angry... Fortunately, I was only going a little bit over the limit, so it wasn't me they were after...

As with last time, I thoroughly enjoyed Della's course, and would encourage anyone, with any interest in writing commercial short stories, to attend if at all possible. The woman knows her stuff. She knows the markets too, inside out, and she makes suggestions that leave you thinking anything from 'now why didn't I think of that?' to 'I'd have never worked that out in a zillion years'. Unbeatable!

The let-out-of-class drinks meet was great too. Womagwriter (who is local) came to join us, and I wondered that the West-Brom-watching locals thought of us, discussing the finer merits of first-person versus third-person points of view. We did sound a bit nerdy! But who cares. Great day, girls. Thanks!

Okay, so will whoever nicked the last week, please bring it back now?

The lovely Karen Clarke has given me an award. It is supposed to be because I have cheered her up, but really it works the other way around. Thank you Karen!

I would like to pass this on to Sally, who always appears (at least) to have a smile on her face!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life-Movie-Soundtrack Meme

So, here’s how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that’s playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool…because you’re not!
7. Stick the soundtrack on your mp3 player and listen away during the day.

Opening Credits – Umbrella, Manic Street Preachers
Waking Up – Waiting for an Alibi, Thin Lizzy
First Day at School – Bethena Waltz, Scott Joplin
Falling in Love – Toccata Fugue in D minor, J. S. Bach
Fight Song – I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin
Breaking Up – Seven Wonders, Fleetwood Mac
Prom/Dance/Ball – I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
Life's OK – Single, Everything but the Girl
Mental Breakdown – World Where you Live, Crowded House
Flashback – Some Days You Gotta Dance, Dixie Chicks
Getting Back Together – Piano Concerto No.2 Larghetto, Chopin
Birth of Child – Devil Woman, Cliff Richard (ahem)
Wedding – Catwoman, Shakespeare's Sister
Final Battle – Piano Concerto #21 In C, "Elvira Madigan", Mozart
Funeral Song – What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong (actually, I'd like that played at my funeral)
End Credits – Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd (ha ha ha!)

Thank God SClub 7 and Tom Jones didn't come up. I'd be really embarrassed for you to know I had those, and I wouldn't like to listen to them all day either.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


For regular readers of this blog, I have to tell you that Rudy was killed this evening. Hit by a car outside Jane's house. It was she who came to tell me. The occupants of the car came too, which I thought was very brave of them. They were probably going too fast (they all do along this stretch, which is a nice straight bit with a 30mph limit), but at least they stopped.

Friday, April 04, 2008

How do you Remember?

You know when that fantastic plot-line jumps into your brain? And you're not sitting in front of your computer/writing pad... How do you remember?

1. In the middle of the night:
a) get up, go to desk, and write/type the whole thing down, dialogue and all?
b) turn on the light, and make detailed notes in a moleskine*-by-the-bed?
c) fumble around in the dark for a pencil/pen/lippy and something to write on?
d) spend the next hour constructing complex associations until convinced that nothing will be forgotten, and then it all is.
*insert favourite brand of notebook here.

2. During the day:
a) keep a notepad and pen handy at all times.
b) have a dictaphone/mobile-with-voice-record.
c) carry a BlackBerry®/palm top into which everything can be typed on the spot (and wifi-ed to the computer at home)
d) Do nothing, it'll all be remembered/forgotten anyway.

a) Every detail is remembered/recorded.
b) Every detail is forgotten, other than it was a Really Fab Idea.

I'm a middle-of-the-night girl, with a notebook by the bed. What are you?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Lovely Weekend Away (at last)!

Well, my feet have finally touched the ground again after a fantastic weekend away. Yes, I know I said I would never go away again, but I did and no one was sick (at least, not until this morning), and the cat didn't wee in the car until the next day - so that didn't count either.

We spent last weekend at a family reunion in Chesterfield and very nice it was too. Forty rellies from my mother's father's side gathered in a small (and very friendly) hotel to remark on how much older/greyer everyone was since Aunt Margaret/Uncle Guy/Uncle Norman's funeral... and, oooh, haven't the children grown.

And there was rather a lot of drinking involved... which is why I've been
a bit quiet since.

The bonus was that Chesterfield is the home of the lovely SallyQ, whom I met up with on Saturday afternoon for a coffee. Of course, Sally didn't know what I looked like, whereas her appearance is totally familiar to me. Thus is was very strange to find her looking straight through me, like a stranger. Very odd!

Once introduced, we had a lovely hour in Costa Coffee, with her daughter and granddaughter too. The kids (mine) were shattered, and it showed, but Sally has subsequently remarked on their perfect behaviour. I guess she missed the bit when they started throwing things.

Now this morning, things are back to normal except that the car smells of cat wee instead of vomit, and I think I probably prefer the vomit.