Monday, 30 June 2008

Upcoming - Music Month!

I've decided that July needs some positive vibes, so it is going to be music month here on my blog, although if anything good happens with the novel, life, job and flat situation (sigh) then I will be sure to tell you. So let's cross fingers for that, and in the meanwhile...

This music month will have a theme; I will be trying to do a post each day (or every other day) on songs that really touch me, and what is it about them that I enjoy. So expect a whirlpool of genres, a crazy mish-mash of 'choons', and we'll see where it takes us!

Ah, who to start with tomorrow though, now there's a question... I shall ponder it while I continue watching the Top Fifty Blockbuster Films or whatever it is currently on Five. I do get sucked into these things...

Saturday, 28 June 2008


Due to various reasons out of my control, I am still waiting for an invoice to be paid and while the invoice itself is now taking on mythical proportions, the very real problems it is causing by its non-appearance are starting to manifest in a series of bank charges. It is another race against time, and I am powerless to speed things up this time, which is a frankly worrying state of affairs.

I emailed the company and was told that it will be paid next week, however, the way it is being paid is akin to a banking equivalent of the game Mouse Trap – it seemingly has to go through a lot of hurdles (eg an umbrella company for VAT purposes) before it reaches its home with me, where it belongs. And I have no clue as to when next week it will be paid to the umbrella company – will it be Monday? If it is, and if everything moves well in a BACS / CHAPS arrangement, this may mean I (DING!) only get fined a £35 bank charge for non-payment of my mobile bill on Wednesday. However, I reckon that nothing will be showing in my bank account until the week after which means I (DING!) get stung another £35 for Friday’s non-payment of broadband / phone / television. I don’t even want to think about the rent that is due on the following week. Or the charges that can possibly be built up on the original charges – I am just praying this invoice gets through to me, as that then takes care of the rent, and most of the bills, and if I am very lucky it will pay for my travel costs to interviews. I haven’t got as far as thinking about food yet, and as for next month? Ha.

I may sound flippant, but this is a very real problem, and I have been very lucky in my life to have never faced it before, and now I am there, I never want to go through this ever again. Never again will I take for granted the ability to buy food in a supermarket, to buy new shoes when the old ones wear out, to buy new clothes when the jeans give at the knee. I cannot imagine what this feeling must be like when you have people/children that depend on you. Bloody hell is all I can say… I went for a few interviews last week, and am through to a second interview next week. It’s a slow process though, and I am starting to wonder if by the time and grace of God I get through, whether I’ll be able to afford the travel. And if a new job pays in lieu for the first month, then that is game over really. This is, of course, if I get any of these jobs – I have been trying to dredge up charm from the bottom of the barrel, but it is a hard thing, especially as the situation is more crucial than the interviewers no doubt realise.

I have put off the benefit route, as I just didn’t think it was fair for me to claim while others really need it… and the depression I get through applying for it negates any positives. I tried it years ago, and the act of going in, taking a number, sitting on a screwed down plastic chair, waiting to shout your troubles through a plastic screen – I came out more depressed than ever, and with the feeling I was technically useless. I didn’t continue with it, luckily for me I got a job without needing it, but the association with depression stayed with me and now I know if I go down that route I will think this novel idea has been a total waste of time, I’m not skilled with anything tangible, and I’ve basically f*cked up. So I’ve been hanging on, hopeful of not needing to go there, and hopeful that something will turn up, and now I just wonder have I been really stupid again?!

Ah well… Saturday night blues. Me and J looked at each other today and said we’d probably look back on this tough time in two months from now and smile. That as maybe, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget this feeling, and that’s not such a bad thing I guess.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

First comments

Z with her super fast editing powers sent my three chapters back to me yesterday, and although I opened the Word doc half shielding my eyes, everything was well. She’s suggested a few word changes, a few crops – but really nothing too drastic. Oh, apart from I spelt Meerkat – ‘meer cat’. And there was me in tears about Flower on Meerkat Manor as well – tch tch!

So now all I have to do is wait for J’s red pen to get going, and see if she says the same. She’s so going to pounce on ‘meer cat’ – and now I bet you are thinking what on earth has she written that has a Meerkat in it? I know that is what I’d be thinking – but have no fear, my Meerkat is a simile, I do a very similar impression when sitting on the sofa peering into the kitchen to see if I have switched off the hob.

Thinking of the kitchen leads me to think of food, which brings me on to the subject of the Scales of Doom. Our bathroom scales have lurked by the base of the sink ever since we moved into this flat; I think they were left behind by the landlord in a bid to rid himself of their evil. They are supposedly automatic, and automatically insult me nearly every single day. Their read out for me ranges between 8st12 to 9st10 apparently on whim, but every time I see the higher number thrown up by its little addled brain I panic. Today was a 9st10 day, it was enough to make me remember with a cold shiver the days of University, when all I ate was pasta and Nutragrain bars in the misguided belief I was being healthy. Pah, is all I can say to that, I looked like a little balloon, not being the tallest of lasses.

So I am thinking that maybe I should ditch the chocolate habit, just in case the Scales of Doom have coughed out a real reading for once. Notice I say this at the end of the day, when all is well. I won’t be saying it so easily come tomorrow at 4pm!

Monday, 23 June 2008


I have just finished editing chapter three. At least I think so… well, it’s the first time I’ve reached the end of it without scouring out the middle, so to speak. Whoop! Crack open the lemon squash!

Does this mean the next thing I have to do is ‘the letter’? No, it’s even worse, it’s ‘the synopsis’. I have a few versions of this already, so am hopeful it will not take me too long… I think I just have to remember how I described it to people, and what would make me want to read it, after all, I am a right fussy bugger when it comes to books. Although it’s hard to be objective with your own work, I have worked as an editor before, so that sort of discipline does help (she hopes). I’ll read it through tomorrow and see if I still like it (and am crossing fingers, no time to waste now!)

And… like the same flash of fun that appeared with this idea, I had another book idea pop into my mind the other week. I didn’t mention it as it was just a glimmer, but there it was, for a second, and then it was gone. And then the other day I had a long train ride, and there it was again in my mind, just a bit more padding perhaps, and then – poof, the idea was gone again. Holding on to them at this stage is like trying to hold onto a wisp of smoke. But then this weekend I went for a lovely long walk with good friend A, and told her the idea, and the act of telling someone sort of cements it further in my mind, even though I haven’t written a single part of this idea on paper yet. But you know what? I like it…

Friday, 20 June 2008

Good week

This week has been infinitely better than last week, and all thanks to the tentative little plan I decided on last Friday, watching the sun rise after a night of worrying. I did get an invoice paid early (glory be and Halleluiah), which gives me breathing room. I did apply for a couple of jobs, and both contacted me back asking me to come in for an interview. And funnily enough, although the answer most people truly want to give is ‘money’ when asked ‘why did you want to apply for this position?’ I actually am excited about both roles, in a shock not-actually-just-about-the-cashola sort of way. Both are writing roles, one probably more so than the other, and I think I know which one I am leaning more towards. But we shall see!

I also am almost there with the editing… *ducks keyboards thrown at her from various directions.* I know, I know! Every time I say ‘right – nearly there’ in a jolly hockey sticks sort of way it turns out I am lying – but lying to myself too, if it makes you feel any better. I honestly think I have nearly cracked it, and then I re-read and think oh pants. I am halfway through chapter 3, and it is already infinitely better than it was before. I truly think that I’ll have cracked it by Tuesday. *she declares, in a sheepish ‘haven’t we been here sometime before’ tone of voice.*

The reason I am a little behind with my chapter is that I had another commission to write a feature, this time on horse-racing, in a roundabout way. Historical horse-racing… yes, I bet that has you shaking your head. I can assure you I’m not actually a sporty person, but the timing of this feature was brilliant, as tomorrow I am actually going to Ascot! We got the tickets as part of a Christmas present – I remember at the time thinking that it was a little way off, and yet here we are – skint, but off to the races! I am hoping it will be like the dogs and I can bet in shiny twenty pence pieces. Hoorah!

Monday, 16 June 2008

Daytime television

This is Barney. Look at his sorrowful brown eyes and his hopeful wagging tail. Barney has spent all of his life living in the dark under a few wooden boards. Just £2 a month can give Barney the hope of seeing the sun and running through the grass. Give Barney a better life. Now, you mean cold-hearted b*stards.

Daytime television is populated by adverts that are either trying to convince you to buy a new form of bathroom cleaner or trying to make you feel guilty as hell on behalf of various charities. There are no beautiful people adverts during the day with sexy men and women smelling of expensive perfume, driving swish cars or drinking in super clubs. Oh no – these people are out, with busy lives doing busy things. People inside watching daytime television obviously are in need of a clean, and should give their benefit money to charity – and oh, was that a diet advert? Yeah, thanks for that, I get the message.

Television is a weird world nowadays. Back in the day, when it was just four channels, everything followed a loose sort of pattern. Films were either gentle golden-oldies in the afternoon for the elderly, or more explosive action films in the evening. Children’s programmes were shown at lunchtime, or after school. If you wanted the news you would tune in at specific times – especially at 10pm, and you knew when it was time to go to bed, as everything would go all dark…

Yet today, thanks to all the channels, everything is on all the time all over the place, and repeats shore up all the listings. With one click I am in 1975, the next click 1984, the next 1997, and so on. Rarely, it seems, am I in 2008. Days and nights can blend together in TV land, and you’ll emerge, blinking, at some point next week. It’s a mind control device I reckon, a way to keep you quiet and unremarkable. See – Why Don’t You was so ahead of its time…

Sunday, 15 June 2008

All the small things

It is amazing what mistakes you can catch in a piece of writing even after reading it umpteen times. Mainly more continuity points than actual writing errors – such as I had the sentence:

She had been hiding in the largely empty church for about twenty minutes now.

Only now does it dawn on me how on earth would my character know it has been 20 minutes? She had no watch, there is no religious clock counting down the time in her eyesight. So unless she is blessed with super time powers (which she isn’t), 20 minutes is too exact a time to predict. So that has now been changed to:

She had been hiding in the largely empty church ever since the funeral had started.

I also tend to write things backwards at times – like I had just typed:

…or in the kitchen making Florence endless strong cups of tea.

To my eyes that reads right – but it isn’t – the tea can be strong, but the cups – what, are they made of lead? So that had to be changed around. It is so funny what you pick up on – it really is like sieving your words through a fine mesh, and all the wrong ‘uns are the lumps that stay on top. Ew, that sounds like my cooking...

I wonder if real authors are ever truly satisfied with their books, or if they always think they could have improved something? I guess that is the same with artists, they have to know when to finish. I always found with my art work that I’d keep going until the composition clicked into place, and then as soon as my eyes were satisfied it was the right time to stop. Writing articles is a bit like that – you follow your own set plan and then you stop when it feels right, and reads right. Maybe it depends on knowing your audience – I have been writing for one magazine for over two years now, and have a very clear idea in my mind of who reads it, which helps when writing for them. I think I know my audience for this book, but it is a tricky one to guage.

Editing wise - well, I have just finished chapters one and two, and am happy with them. So two down, one to go. It is a slow business, what with everything else going on, but I like to think I am being slow but sure, like that tortoise racing with the hare. Incidentally, my neighbours when I was a child had a tortoise - 'Josey'. It was forever trying to get through the fence - I think Josey used to glimpse our untamed garden and reckon it was a tortoise's Utopia. It was the fastest tortoise in the west when it wanted to be - so Josey, this one's for you.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Let’s face the music and dance

Why do worries seem to loom that much larger at night? I awoke at 4am and promptly spent the next two hours stressing over everything I could think of, and then made up a few non-existent troubles to ice the worry-cake. There are no solutions in the darkness; every route your troubled mind follows slams a door closed with an unfriendly ‘No Exit!’ sign glaring at you. So I decided to get up instead.

I made a cup of tea and sat staring out of the window, watching the dawn rise and sun lick across the sky. And, amazingly, a few answers did spring to mind – little things I can do that may help. I can try and get an invoice paid early, no harm to ask. I can try and contact a few places I have worked at before, and see if there are any copywriting jobs on offer. I can cancel a payment and put it on hold for a month. There are definitely things I can do, rather than lying in bed and going through the mental equivalent of ‘eek’. Or perhaps ‘squeak’…

That decided, it seemed so much easier to start editing – yes, slightly over the Wednesday self-imposed deadline, but the three chapters are nearly done. I hope I have improved them rather than over-complicating them, but I have tried to approach this as if I was subbing for someone else, and that does help to see things more clearly.  I also need to crack on with the synopsis – which I will share with you when it’s completed. Then I need to think about the perfect introductory letter – luckily The Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook is very good for tips about that. Oh blimey! Lots to do…

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Rain or shine

My week can easily be described as one of rain and shine, regardless of the weather. The sunny up-side is I do have such lovely friends – ‘I’ took me out for a coffee and cake on Thursday, ‘R’ bought me a top yesterday, and ‘J’ is coming to pick me up today and we are going to spend time poking around a Cold War Bunker (perfect for a sunny day!). They are all so sweet to me, especially as I am going through the ‘rain’ type crisis of no money whatsoever.

It’s all getting a bit… close.  I have to finish the editing, at least of those first 3 chapters, as otherwise this whole venture will have been for nothing – and it has always felt right that I do that, finish it, and then get a full-time job, as opposed to the odd bits I do here and there. That is like the natural order of things, and if I don’t do it that way I shall jinx myself. I know that is rubbish, but it’s become a sort of mantra in my head.

I am hopeful of getting the editing done by Wednesday, and then can go into every agency under the sun – but even then… I’m not sure we’ll be able to keep our flat. And selling stuff off on eBay? I was semi-joking about that before, but now I really do think a car-boot may be in order – not sure I can afford the packing / postage for eBay – that is how serious things have got. This wouldn’t have necessarily happened – as it was I did have money saved for a rainy day, but there have been so many unexpected costs over the last two months that I should have saved for a torrential downpour the likes of which were last seen when Noah went for a sailing trip.

I am still bizarrely optimistic, I have no idea why – not quite sure what I expect is around the corner, so far it has been more rain. The flat is nice, but the flat is cold – perhaps a smaller place would be better. My lovely books are fantastic, but they are bloody heavy to move about – perhaps if I sold off some of them I wouldn’t have to carry them. It’s a strange ‘glass half full’ life at the moment – which is remarkably unlike me, but I am welcoming it. Wish I could keep this optimism going - as soon as the sun goes down it is a different story - worries come back at full force to circle around in the darkness, and my little beacon fire flickers and fails every time.

But today? The sun is shining, and I am going to forget about it for a while. Must finish editing! Must send it away! That is my mission between now and Wednesday.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A Limited Company forms in the drizzle

My hair loves drizzle, and it never can quite decide how to celebrate this grey and damp form of British weather. Should it display its happiness by developing a frizzy halo? Should it choose instead to show joy by lying completely flat? Or perhaps maybe the best way to revel in the gloriousness of the day is to do both at once – ah yes, that is what it decides. So while my hair is having a party, what is the rest of me doing this fine day?

Well, I have decided to become a Limited Company, as I have been doing some contracted work recently and I need to be VAT registered to invoice. I was originally invoicing through an umbrella company, but out of the blue that company folded (luckily after paying me!), and I still have an outstanding invoice to claim. So no more umbrella's (although they are somewhat apt for drizzle), and a new Limited Company has been formed. I did think of calling it ‘Don’t Be’, but sadly that name has gone already!

The only problem is that a lot of what I have to do this week smacks worryingly of Business Studies. Cash flow analysis, small business plans, directors, profit and loss… it all takes me back to ‘A’ levels, where for some strange reason I decided to add Business Studies to my chosen subjects of Art and English.

What do I remember of Business Studies? Well, I remember doodling fantastic swirls around Beatles song lyrics, and gazing out of the window. Every time I tried to concentrate, it was like some annoying child stuck its fingers in my ears and ‘la-la-la’d’ as loud as it could. Even my teacher asked me why I was there… I passed the ‘A’ level with a combination of luck and panic-filled study. I guess I am not really a business person.

But I have to be! You simply cannot be a freelancer without having some sort of business plan. I can imagine how difficult it is for artists to come down from their paint splattered easel and start totting up their balance sheet, and I guess it is like writing – pulling your head back out of the world you’ve created and squinting at profit and loss margins. But I really am trying to be business-minded, especially because being a limited company brings in a whole new set of rules. So today is half creative, and half business. Where’s that shoulder pad suit?