Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Forever Fabulous

Aunt Shirley
1938 - Christmas Day 2010

Sadly my glamorous aunt, whose early photograph graces the header of this blog, lost her battle with cancer on Christmas day. I’d known she was very ill for some time, and it was so hard to pick out a card to send to her, something that would sum up how very much she meant to me and yet something in those last weeks that would be purposefully light and would make her smile. After a good search I found a beautiful card of a stylish Art Deco lady, which just said two words - ‘Forever Fabulous’. Perfect, I thought, and I am so glad to say she thought so too.


If this is the last card you’ll see
Will you see it and think of me?
I hope so much that it makes you smile
And you can forget the pain for a little while
I wanted to let you know I care
That if you need me I’d always be there,
And that thoughts of you will sparkle bright
In my heart, throughout my life
I won’t be sad - I’ll think with fond laughter
About you forever fabulous in the ever after

Jayne, December 2010.
I didn't put this verse in the card, as that was deliberately kept light-hearted, but it was in my heart.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What Writers Want for Christmas

Families and friends of wannabe writers! This post is for you. This is what the aspiring author in your circle would love for Christmas and the New Year.

  1. Start random conversations and drop in ‘when you’re an author’ as many times as you possibly can. Some examples: ‘Do you have to get that early train to work? Never mind, when you’re an author you can work from home.’ Or: ‘Won’t it be lovely this time next year when you’re an author?’ And even: ‘Let’s go into this book shop and see where your books will be placed on the shelves when you’re an author.’

  2. A fancy, gorgeous, beautiful notebook. And then a plain, bog-standard, scruffy notebook that they will actually use.

  3. An hour of quiet every single day for them to write with no interruptions.

  4. A ream of plain white A4 printer paper. And another. And another.

  5. Ink cartridges for their printer. Back up ink cartridges for when the printer runs out halfway through something bloody important.

  6. The promise that you will gently steer them away from whatever procrastinating activity they have desperately embarked on (colour co-ordinating sock drawer, preoccupation with ironing napkins) back to their computer / writing desk.

  7. No complaints, yawns, tapping of watches, or general Look of Gloom when they disappear into a book shop for hours. Instead greet them afterwards with the same enthusiastic welcome as a triumphant marathon runner.

  8. If they care to share with you a plot point, do not let your gaze slide past them to Top Gear. Listen to them; support them; and make them a cup of tea.

  9. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’; The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2011; a subscription to a writing magazine; and bookshop vouchers.

  10. And finally, the most important thing: Your belief that they can do it. Hooray!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Snow Cats!

Abigail and Ginger are very curious about these bold white cats who have mysteriously taken up residence on the window ledge.

Sadly I have no pictures of the real Abigail and Ginger playing in the snow to share with you as the look they gave me when I tried to coax them outside would have withered Little Miss Sunshine. So instead let me take you on a little magical journey...

Down a road, not very far away, is a tea shop. It is the most wonderful tea shop ever, but the way to it had been blurred around the edges.

The news person on the television said 'Do not make any unnecessary journeys in the snow', but walking to a tea shop to eat a cupcake was suddenly deemed a very necessary journey to make. So the girl layered up until she was one foot taller and three foot wider, and set off down the road.

In her imagination she went this way...

...and fearlessly tracked snow leopards through jungles and fields...

In reality she walked along here - careful cars breaking the soft silence.

But it wasn't long before she was snugly tucked into her favourite seat, notebook open, tea brewing, and cupcake eaten.

You'd have to be as quick as a snow leopard to photograph this girl with a intact cupcake. But imagine the most loveliest red velvet cupcake - light, fresh, and just plain mmm-delicious, and you will know why the girl was smiling as she scribbled in her note-book.

Friday, 17 December 2010

My morning

I didn’t sleep a wink,
As the heating’s on the blink,
And there’s no hot water for my morning shower.

We called the boiler man,
Who will pop round in his van,
I hope he isn’t lying when he says within the hour.

I legged it for my train,
Although my boots are such a pain,
And squeezed myself into a space on the carriage.

Squashed as a human block,
Listening to tinny hip hop and noisy rock,
Any closer I’ll wear white and call it marriage.

The tube is suffering a delay,
Because the signal has gone awry,
But I don’t care as at least I’ve got a seat.

The person next to me,
Has pulled out of his briefcase for all to see,
A giant fruit cake that he begins to eat.

We change tubes en masse at King’s Cross,
Once I have signal I text the boss,
Explaining the exciting morning that I’ve had.

Emerging from the station into the light,
The office building a welcome sight,
When I get to my desk I’ll actually be glad!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Book reviews: Anita Brookner and Roald Dahl

Am in midst of Christmas bustle, so, like Santa’s reindeer, I’m dashing in with the next two reviews:

Latecomers, by Anita Brookner
Switch Bitch, by Roald Dahl

Latecomers, by Anita Brookner
First published by Jonathan Cape, 1988
This edition published by Grafton Books (a division of Collins Publishing Group) 1989

Elegant prose tells the story of two men who, as young boys during the Second World War, were thrust away from their previous lives into a new country. Both now in their sixties, they have very different attitudes to life - one always looking ahead and the other afraid to stop searching the past. They, and their families, are the latecomers – all of them late to life in some way, be it security or happiness.

There is no real drama in this book. It is a quiet tale told with loving dignity, with thoughtful character studies and a heightened awareness to surroundings and mood. Although at first I was waiting for something to happen, very soon I just enjoyed the calm pace, luxuriated in the rich descriptions and wallowed in the words. The depth of understanding in this book is immense, especially as I recognise some of these traits within myself. It is very easy to identify with the characters, and to wish them well as they pass out of our lives when we close the book. From one latecomer to another, you could say.

Switch Bitch, by Roald Dahl
Stories originally published in Playboy magazine, no date although copyright date is 1965
This edition published by Penguin Books, 1976

Roald Dahl’s children’s fiction is a bit dark and twisted in places (and didn’t we just love it!) so it’s no surprise to find his stories for adults play out in much the same way, although you wouldn’t want a child searching for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to stumble across Switch Bitch. The clue is that these tales were written for the one-handed audience of Playboy, although they are not exactly sexy (or even vaguely attractive). Rather they deal with moral questions regarding sex –and in nearly all of them the joke is on the person who thinks they are in control.

There are four stories in this little collection – The Visitor, The Great Switcheroo, The Last Act, and Bitch. Although they are well-written tales, there seems to be a streak of misogyny through them as the attitudes to women seem rather callous. However, considering he was writing for a specific audience (the 1960s Playboy audience) maybe this isn’t too surprising. Not my favourite collection of his, but worth seeking out all the same.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Oh no! (Revised)

I sent a submission to a wonderful agency in September and heard nothing. The email didn’t bounce back, or report as undelivered, so I presumed it got there safe and well. I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have a ping back email letting me know it had arrived but didn’t think too much of it. Perhaps, and very likely, they were inundated with email submissions.

Not wishing to pry, annoy, pester, or do anything at all to ruin my chances, I observed the rule of thumb and sat on them for two months. (Obviously sat on fingers as well, in fact sat on both hands to be exact.) Then did the same for another month just in case. I now have just sent a polite follow up, wondering whether it is still under consideration, and received a ping back message saying thank you. I never got this thank you before! Does this mean they never received my initial submission? Was that silence not the silence of careful consideration of my novel, but in fact the silence of never heard from me in the first place?

Nooo... *falls to knees sobbing, or at least would if not at real work and pretending to look Very Involved and Clever*

All those months of hoping... what if it never sent? What if now the only communication this agency has received from me is a polite follow up, with nothing attached? Will I have to wait another two months for their reply, which understandably will be What are you talking about? Will I now just look like a dumb arse?

Nooo... *beats floor with hands, or at least would if not at real work and pretending to Purse Lips at Important Document*

I am gutted. All because of a ping back email. Never under-estimate the power of the ping. So what can I learn from this?

One: When sending email submissions, if you do not receive an indication that your submission arrived then follow up and politely ask.

Two:Perhaps, and I know this is a shocker, but perhaps if there is no indication then another option is calling them to ask if it arrived. (Check their guidelines and make sure they won't automatically hate you for calling them though.) This submission might be my whole life, so to speak, but also should be treated as business.


Revised after nine comments

The thing about being a novice is that there is always something to learn, and the thing about blogging is that there are other writers out there who are willing to share advice from their experiences along the way. The consensus is have patience, my friends, no matter if you get a ping or not! Some shared good advice from the comments is:

Maria and Anne: The little nudge note could nudge your 'maybe' submission into a rejection (eeep!)
Christine: If you didn't receive an undeliverable message then your submission was probably safely receieved
Angela: Don't call - agents are busy and don't need anything else to add to their plate

So here is the revised guide of what to do when situations like this happen, when virtually you are rolling around the office floor in agony while the real you is Poised with a Brave Little Smile (which has no place on my face whatsoever, as I am about to click open an excel spreadsheet and those things should never be approached with a brave little smile but with a stoic Look of Doom.)

One: Read guidelines. Send email submission. Mark in diary correct date of when they say it is appropriate to contact them again (two - three months is usual). Sit on hands. Do not worry about getting a ping back email. Do not worry if it seems email has been sent into a void, fate unknown. Concentrate on next story and if you have heard nothing by the time the correct date comes around, send polite little follow up email. Sit on hands again. Continue submitting and querying elsewhere. If you really and truly hear nothing months later then it's probably safe to assume that the agency just wasn't the right fit for you and your story. Chin up!

Two: Just like there is no spoon in the Matrix, there is no Two.

Friday, 3 December 2010

My UnFavourite Things

Raindrops on windows; not-working pens
Spreadsheets I have to read over and over again
Boring brown jumpers and voices that grate
These are a few of the things that I hate

Organic oatcakes and dry plain ryvita
Trying so hard to avoid something sweeter
Work diaries that groan and trains that don’t wait
These are a few of the things that I hate

When the sun shines
And I feel fine
When I’m feeling great
I always forget my unfavorite things,
Until the next grumpy day when I hate...

Realising your tights have a long-running ladder
Being stuck in a meeting with a really full bladder
Silver white hair that appears on my head
These are the things that I really dread

Cream-coloured ponies should stay in their stables
Doorbells and sleigh bells should be quiet, not enabled
Grumpy cold Jaynes should be flown home on goose wings
So they can feel happy again focusing on favourite things!

With thanks to Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The Sound of Music

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Being dynamic vs. being...well...not

Every day at work I hope that something amazing will happen to change my life. I obsessively check my email (work, personal, random web-mails that no one knows anyway), check my phone in case I have missed The Call (ever hopeful there will be a call), and check my blog. What am I waiting for? Well – like many of us here – I am waiting to hear that someone likes my novel, my ideas, and my fiction competition entry (go on, I'm nice; the stories are nice - please!) But am I creating enough opportunities for any of this to happen or am I just being passive?

I fear the latter. I always think there is more I can be doing, more I should be doing, to promote myself and my writing. I should be snuffling around every opportunity like a pig with a truffle (or like a girl with a Twirl chocolate bar). I should be hell for leather going for it, instead of sitting here waiting. So let’s see what I am actually doing and if anything can be improved.

1. Novel. Friends are reading it and giving advice on some small changes. I am working on these edits (mainly with dialogue contractions) and am doing more on my synopsis. I am also plotting another book with some of these characters and am reading back through the original to see what I can play with next time around. (So much fun!) This redraft (have lost count how many) should be finished in a few days. It will be then be shiny and ready for a fabulous agent to enjoy.

2. Ideas. I have sent two follow-up emails about something I hoped to work on, and sadly both seem to have fallen into a black hole. I am gutted as it was something I really wanted to happen but there is only so much I can pester without turning into, well, a pest. But it is a busy time of year so I must be patient, continue thinking positive, and come up with some more ideas just in case it goes ahead after all.

3. Competition Entry. People are due to be notified in December and I’m only two days in. Winners are not announced until March anyway so I should not be thinking about this at all. Oh but I wanna! I want it so bad. I want everything so bad!

So now I have listed things I can see that I am doing quite a few things already. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like anything is happening as there are no physical results but, under the surface, everything is ticking on nicely!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Book review: The Hating Game

This book gets a review post all of its own as it is Talli Roland’s debut novel, and today is her web splash – hoorah! Come on – get wet!

The Hating Game, by Talli Roland
Published by Prospera Publishing (e-book Dec 1, 2010)

The Hating Game zings along at a cracking pace, with humour to match. Mattie Johns, her recruitment business teetering on the brink of despair, is seduced into appearing on a dating show for a dizzying amount of prize money. Unbeknownst to her, the conniving folk behind the reality show, SiniStar Productions, have lined up four of her ex-boyfriends to star as the contestants. The contestants could be looking for love or revenge, but SiniStar Productions are only looking for ratings – and will stop at nothing to get them.

Author Talli weaves great humour with her playful take on names – SiniStar Productions just one of them – and each chapter accelerates the action, highlighting the dark side of reality television. Some of my favourite lines:

A faded sign with greying letters spelled out ‘Cliff Top Holiday Park’. Scrawled underneath was a demented-looking happy face beside the words ‘is shit’.


She expected him to be in servitude somewhere along the M25, asking: ‘Do you want fries with that?’


Her mocking eyes and dismissive tone reminded Nate of his Granny Edith, who was forever grabbing handfuls of his puppy fat and cackling.


The Hating Game is a fun, escapist read, and you find yourself rooting for Mattie, hoping that once the reality show is over, her real life can begin.

And now over to you, folks!
Subtitle: How You Can Help A Fellow Blogger!

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

The Hating Game is coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at and at her blog.

Good luck, Talli!