Tuesday, 21 May 2013

A book cover is born...

You know how much I love designing book covers, don't you? Well, I've recently joined a Group on the ole Facebook called 'Stories for Homes' - which originally intrigued me because of the 'stories' bit, but since I've been there, all I've done is design possible book covers for them.  It's a worthy, worthy cause -raising funds and more importantly awareness for the charity SHELTER in aid of the housing crisis in London and beyond.
Anyway, by the time I've got round to the finished article, I probably won't have time to write the story I thought I would - but y'know what? I'm having SOooo much fun  playing about with designing the cover that I don 't really mind!
Here're the ones I made earlier, ending with the latest one...                           

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mullings


I must’ve made a silent vow to myself as I was growing up that I would be nothing like my mother who was:
1. Silver-haired before she was 35 and refused to acknowledge colourants.
2. Snappy to her kids and chirpy in company (esp. when that company involved Gin).
3. Constantly fighting a battle with her weight (in photos she’s the same shape as me).
4.  Angry with everything
5. Blameful of everything
6.  Handy with a camera
7. Miserable with her ‘lot’ in life and a devout martyr.

I also remember growing up that I used to give my mother so many excuses for the way she was; the weather, the dog, the housework, the state of the country, the menopause, the fact she relied on others for transport and so was effectively trapped in the house unless she walked somewhere –endless excuses for the way she acted, reacted; was. But the only real reason I ever believed was the one where the finger pointed squarely at me.  It was all my fault she was the way she was. And she’d said so, so many times that it must have been true.
Of course these days I know that only a person themselves can allow the feelings they ultimately feel.  We can chose whether to feel angry, guilty or resentful – I know that now (I still can’t put it into practice but I ‘get’ the reasoning behind it) I am allowed to ‘chose’ how to react to something.  But back then, growing up? I had no idea.  None of us did.  We live in much enlightened times these days but I grew up being the reason my mum was unhappy.
SO back to the list.  How well did I get on?

1. I probably was silver-haired before I was 35 but I CHOSE colourants – and the fact that I chose a colour identical to my natural hair colour meant that nobody has ever been the wiser (apart from my dear hubby who does my roots for me).

2.  I’ve only ever snapped at The Girl twice in her life.  The first time she was about 18 months (I can even tell you what she was wearing) and she’d been taking chips off my dinner plate even though she’d already eaten.  I was trying to watch the News at 6.00pm and even though I’d said once, said twice, said harshly, tapped her hand away and then finally grabbed her by the arm and told her off, I can still feel the horrible heaviness that assaulted my insides when she toddled away out of the room and turned back to me; her eyes huge with tears and her face filled with a terrible sadness. That look to me said ‘I made mummy unhappy’ and I hated myself for making her feel the way I used to.

The other time was in  Primark when  she was 12 and wanted 4 pairs of jeans to go on a camping trip and just as I was about to let her have all 4 (because I never did) when I had a moment of clarity and realised that I actually couldn’t afford it and it was about time she knew this.  I hate remembering that scene as well.

3.  Like a lot of other women, I look back at photos from the past and realise I was never actually ‘fat’ at all; I just thought I was.  But because I always thought I was and I had skinner friends and every attractive girl in the public eye was skinnier than me, I must’ve been overweight.  Therefore I’ve tried every diet going (so did mother) and exercise fad until I’m now sick to death of it all.  Currently I’m on the Chocolate diet; I won’t lose weight but I’ll die happy.

4. Things that make me angry:

The cat.  Getting up. The paid job. The husband. The writing (rejections). The FB. The weather. The state of the country. Drivers. Dust. Telly. Books. Cooking. Housework. Ageing.

I know that anger is a negative emotion and I try very hard to see positives in things but I can’t.  For instance: when the cat doesn’t make me angry it’s because he’s sleeping.  He’s sleeping because I fed him and he’s got what he wanted.  Therefore I’m just a useful means to an end in his life and that’s pretty much how I feel about everything else in the list that makes me angry. I am a pawn.  A tool. A means to an end.

5.   Blame still lies squarely on my own shoulders.  If something or someone upsets me, I can be upset, disappointed, cross etc. but at the end of justifying any of these, Blame still falls at my feet. After all if I didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t have happened.

6.  I do love me a good picture.  Although I do remember how mortifying some of mother’s point-and-shoots became.  Even more mortifying are the memories of boy/friend’s reactions to their lives becoming a page on our album of life.

But since The Girl studied photography at school and is going on to study creative (therefore visual) practise at Uni this year, I have learnt to embrace photography.  After all, every scene I write I can visual in my head and so we must just be a very visual family. I do get very sad at a lot of the images I see on FB, though, that isn’t art or photography it’s just another way of broadcasting Mememe to the world whether the world wants it or not.  The point-and-pout-culture.

7.  Miserable with my Lot?  I suppose so, but I’m also enlightened enough to know that my Lot is My Problem and if I had the strength of character to change my Lot then I could.  Maybe I really AM just that lazy, selfish miserable bitch I was always told I was. How’s that for a bit of belief.




Friday, 12 April 2013

'Plebs', we *heart* you


This is what the wonderful Wikipedia says about PLEBS:

The plebs was the general body of free, land-owning Roman citizens (as distinguished from slaves and the capite censi) in Ancient Rome. It was the non-aristocratic class of Rome and consisted of freed people, shopkeepers, crafts people, skilled or unskilled workers, and farmers.[1] Members of the plebs were also distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian (pron.: /plɨˈbən/Latinplebeius). This term is used today to refer to one who is or appears to be of the middle or lower order; however, in Rome plebeians could become quite wealthy and influential.

Our take on this refreshingly madcap *did I just say that? Oh yes I did* new sitcom from the ITV2 boys (Mondays10.00pm) was immediately that it crossed the Inbetweeners - a cringeworthy forgettable series but brilliant movie  and one of my heroes Frankie Howerd's Up Pompeii with a hint of Blackadder thanks to the curmudgeonly Badrickian slave, Grumio.

The sets are gorgeous, the scripts are spot-on. The lads are very much 21st Century savvy whilst living in hysterical and historical ancient Rome and their office jobs reflect life today ; one is a *shredder*, one a *copier* and the guy who stands in the corner of the room with a jug of water would be the... what?  HYSTERICAL!

The episode with Danny Dyer as a Gladiator in touch with his feminine side had to be watched  more than once.

It takes a lot to properly tickle MY funny bone these days and I don't often extol the virtues of a new sitcom on the telly box but this is polished, clever, snort-tea-out-of-your-nose funny stuff and I dare you to not get hooked :)


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Poo Sticks. Warning: May contain toilet humour



I’ve been meaning to write something about this for a while but it’s never been the right time. Although is there ever a ‘right time’ to talk sh*t?  I know, I know…yes,  thank you.

It strikes me as peculiar that an action so absolutely necessary has such long-held stigma attached to it within the female population (of course it could just be me) and I don’t quite know how or why it began. And The Girl has inherited the same kind of reluctance to perform this natural action in public places as I have always had – however I now see a light at the end of my personal U-bend.

For men, the humiliation of having left a scud missile at the base of the pan in any toilet; public or personal, seems to be not only non-existent but an actual continued source of merriment.  I don’t think I’ve ever in my entire (a v-e-r-y-l-o-n-g-t-i-m-e) life uttered those immortal words “I wouldn’t go in there just yet love, I’d leave it a few minutes *snort*”.  Yes, there’s always a snort or a guffaw appended isn’t there? Like it’s some kind of Manly Feat to have left a god-awful stink in your wake.  Oh, what - is this supposed to PROVE something? A male who leaves the biggest poo in the loo will be the most fertile or something?  This could explain the territorial–like pissing round the porcelain though. 

I am digressing.  But not much.

I’ve been trying to establish the actual ‘feelings’ I have when I am faced with the knowledge that I ‘have to go’ – wherever I am.  Home is not a biggie *snort*.  Nobody minds if you poo in the comfort of your own space – in fact it’s positively encouraged at home.  We discuss poos much like we discuss what we’ve been watching on the telly or what we fancy to eat later.  There’s no recoiling in horror and pointing fingers of shame or disgust here.  So why do we imagine (okay why do I imagine) that this will happen in public? Why does it always feel like the Poo Police will be straight onto me if I so much as fart in a public cubicle?
Is it because I want to give off the impression that I don’t ‘do that sort of thing’?  Um.. hello?  What are you, some kind of Virgin Poo-Mary?  Do you seriously imagine that other people look at you like a kind of goddess of all that is Good and Nice and Clean and hence un-shat? Why on earth should I have a problem with people knowing that I *ahem* clear my bowels.  There I said it.  I empty my bowels.  You got a problem with that?

*sweat*

Does this sound familiar?  I won’t follow anyone into the loos if I know I need to Go.  I’ll wait.  Like some kind of bunged-up Ninja desperate for a five minute window in which to vent her spleen.  Bowel.  Whatever. You know what I mean.  And if the coast’s clear then I’ll hare in like I have the hounds of hell at my heels… because who knows how long I might have before someone else comes in? And then if they hear any ploppy noises or farty noises then what ARE they going to think of me?! (I don’t know: what ARE they going to think? That you’re NORMAL maybe – ffs, get a grip woman!). But then they’d never know these noises belonged to me because if this does happen, then I’ll remain in said cubicle until I know there’s nobody outside.  I know, I’m clever like that; I have honed these skills to within an inch. I can tell you from a click of a heel the name of the person who’s just arrived or left.  Oh yeah.  I’m THAT good.

And if it so happens that somebody comes in just after my ‘transaction’, say when I’m washing my hands or something, then I have a line all ready and waiting for them should they happen to notice any foul odours in the air and say disgustedly: “Eeeew who the hell dropped THAT!” (not that I know of any female who might even utter these words – that’s more blokey, right?)  My response goes: “Oh god, I know, it was like that when I came in… I’d avoid cubicle three if I were you” and titter girlishly.  Because that’s the way we roll, us females.

Whereas a bloke would probably (I don’t know I’ve never thankfully been into a Gents following a Fallout) (oh, or at ANY OTHER TIME I should add) grab the newly-arrived visitor by the hand… no, more like sleeve and draw his attention very sportingly to his recently departed dinner which still remains on full public display beneath the waters and challenge the newbie to produce something GREATER. G’awaaan – if you think you’re MAN enough!

This blog post was brought to you by the XXL thing I found the other week (twice in one week actually, so somebody was clearly getting their roughage ratio right) which made me marvel that the last time something that big left my body I put some bootees on it and called it Alice.

And yes I know the perp, but do I look at her when we pass in the corridor and think “I know what you did in the loos”?
Damn right.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

SCHYNOPSCHISCHH

That’s right; a Synopsis is only ever going to be remotely amusing if you get Louis Spence to say it.  Repeatedly. (You’d have to be wielding a bit of a brolly too I’m thinking – if you want to get some proper entertainment value out of this and not get covered in the word).

I’ve been schpending schome time on one lately.  And by ‘time’ I mean of course about a fortnight.  I’m sure they never used to be this time-consuming; but then I don’t think I placed so much importance on them as I tend to now.  So much more seems to ‘ride with the aged’ I find – and no, you can’t put a tenner on that each way thank you very much.  In the past, when I wasn’t even sure what a synopsis was, let alone that I’d have to write one to send in with  my three chapters and covering letter (isn’t THAT bad enough?) I kind of looked at it as a Plan like I used to have to do for essays in English at school.  I did those in reverse too – so maybe I’ve always been writing synopses.

But this one threw a mild and not altogether nasty surprise back at me.  It made my story suck.  Big time.  I’ve been really REALLY enjoying writing this new book and the one person who has read it was very enthusiastic about it, and although I’m only approaching 20,000 words I know this is going to be a biggie (in word count if nothing else I mean).  And I only need the first 30pages to send off for this competition I’m entering (in 3 days’ time if you please!) so although the rest of the plot and story is in my wee brain and I know how it will pan out, I have to write a synopsis BEYOND what I’ve thus far written.
Are you still with me?

And it sucks.  Did I already say that?
It makes the shopping list look thrilling.  It knocks Fifty Shades into a cocked hat (see what I did there?) and I’m ashamed to say had it not been on a screen it would have been ripped to shred angrily, spat on and kicked into the fire with gusto. All of them.  All ten thousand different ways of watching paint dry with a screwdriver through each eyeball ones.

What makes this one ‘worse’ I think is that the Rules say the synopsis can be ‘up to 10 pages’ so I thoroughly intended trying to fill all ten of them – nine at a push – but it’s dragged out every little dull nuance whereas what I should be doing is keeping it short, snappy and entertaining.  I mean who the hell SERIOUSLY wants to read a 10 page synopsis anyway?
No, me neither.
So, you’ll be pleased to know, dear viewer, that I have reverted to type and done a much nicer, neater, snappier one-pager and will wait and see where that gets me.
Watch this space, as they say. J




Monday, 4 March 2013

Fairytale Bubbles, Pricks and Rejections

If you're one of my 'friends' on Facebook you might have noticed that over the course of the past few weeks, culminating in a freebie giveaway this weekend, I have edited, designed a particularly beautiful cover for and e-published my latest 'baby' onto the Amazon e-book/Kindle site.

Only 'Reconstructing Jennifer' isn't  strictly my latest baby.  This book was the first book I ever wrote 'the end' on and was completed probably something like 10 years ago. 

It spent a further year being hidden in my document files on a very prehistoric pc (I even have the original on a floppy disc somewhere) before I summoned up the courage - aided superbly by the lovely writerly interweb friends I'd made at the same time and to whom I have dedicated the book at the start - to send it out to agents and publishers.

Which made the following year a very very fraught one indeed.

You see I hadn't planned on writing a whole book to begin with and when I started to get such positive feedback from the writing group I belonged to, I quite imagined it could be plucked from relative obscurity (a.k.a the slushpile) and jettisoned into the dizzy heights of publication.

Oh how simple were my beliefs back then.

I even did the ridiculous thing of printing off my chapters, writing my covering letters and synopsis and sending it trepidaciously off to ONE Agent at a TIME - not fully appreciating the length of time it takes an Agent to respond.  I got very little sleep that year, I can tell you.  And if it hadn't been for some sensible suggestions from my dear writerly friends then I'd have gone quite insane.  I'm not the most patient of people.  I may appear calm on the outside, but it plays havoc with my internals.

At the last count, 'Labrats' did 2 rounds over the course of 18 months and met with approximately 58 rejections.  Some of them were lovely and encouraging, some of them came back with a "NO!" scrawled in blood *could've been red ink* on my original covering letter  but none of them came back complete with pubic hair (that actually happened to somebody but I can't tell you who).

'Reconstructing Jennifer' was called 'Labrats' back then - titled such because it's how the main character feels, being trapped in a marriage where she has a cheating husband, a new baby to contend with and parents you couldn't rely to pass you a piss-pot if you happened to catch fire. Just like a Lab Rat. Only then some TV people called a new and lame sitcom the same thing, so I felt obliged to re-name mine.

And I never thought that Jennifer would see the light of day until the other week when I thought, bless her and flip it all, she deserves to get some fresh air about her pasty cheeks, let's see what the world will make of her.  As I started to read through it and re-format it and edit it here and there, I found I loved her and her story as much as I ever did. 
And so she was revealed.
I do hope you've managed to have a wee 'look inside' as the Amazonians like to tempt.  And if you like what you read, then do, please download it.  I'm crap at marketing and terrible at encouraging people to do things they really don't want to do, just because I say they should, so don't feel bad will you - if you don't like it or want to buy it I mean.Okay?

300 downloads this weekend.  I'm very cheered by that.  And I love that my Labrats is finally 'out there' - it's been a long time coming.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

JUST READ, JUST LOVE



The sign of a good book, for me, is one that I have to start rationing once I get halfway through; it’s going to all be over WAY too soon.  And this is what happened with ‘The Rosie Project’. Half of me couldn’t wait to pick it up again and the other half (Don Tillman – main character - would be impressed – a girl who can do sums) knew that in devouring another chapter I would be depriving my future self of more enjoyable entertainment.
Don Tillman is blessed with Asperger’s.  He knows he’s ‘wired differently’ yet also knows that everybody deserves somebody special in their life.  And with this in mind he wants to be no different. After exhausting conventional methods of dating, he creates the Wife Project; a 16-page questionnaire which he considers should produce one girl who satisfies at least 98% of his requested criteria.  And as a genetics professor, he knows a lot more than most about probable outcomes.

Enter Rosie who immediately fails on two Wife Project counts.  But she’s trying to find her biological father, not a husband.  And she’s heard Don Tillman is the man for the job. 

It’s not only a corker of a read, it also makes you think about what’s going on inside your own head and to see things the way others may see them.  It doesn’t just tilt your world; it upends it and puts it back in a clearer, more logical order than you remembered.

I laughed, I sighed, I “naaaaaw-ed”, I snorted cocoa out my nose the once and I’m already compiling a list of people I think should be allowed to read it next (comprehensive). 

The supporting cast is also brilliantly constructed and every scene was playing brightly, loudly and beautifully in my head.  I can’t wait to see the screen adaptation of this.  A fantastic, fulfilling read and one which I would highly, heartily, honestly recommend to lift anyone’s day – whether they needed it or not.

D'you think I might have liked this book? :)