Is There Something in the Grass?

The Cotswolds

I live in 'The Cotswolds' in England and I'm feeling rather inadequate about it to be honest. It's the writing capital of the world, you see, so it's tricky to feel good about my own scribblings unless I tune that information out - but it's a fiendishly tough one to tune out.

The Writers' Triangle

The Cotswolds area is a kind of wonky triangle with the corner points being marked out by Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath and Oxford. There are loads of places in between sufficiently steeped in writing history to give me The Fear but, even looking just at these three points I nearly faint with 'I'm not worthy'ness.

Shakespeare was from the first place, Jane Austen from the second and Oxford University with all its many genius writers - from John Donne to Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Graham Greene, Iris Murdoch, William Golding, T.S. Eliot, Richard Curtis, Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones's Diary)... and so on and so on - is in the third. J K Rowling was born here and it's teeming with best-selling writers to this day and, just in case I think 'never mind, I can just blog my way to greatness' I am reminded that Oxford Uni also churned out Tim Berners-Lee (a.k.a. 'that English chap who invented the World Wide Web'.)

All this gives me a bit of 'calm down, you're not that great' perspective when I'm congratulating myself on my latest draft and makes the editing process even more painful. My inferiority complex can't even be fixed by moving away. I grew up here. I am tainted by everyone else's greatness.

Right, I'm off out into the freezing night to roll around in a field. All those literary giants breathed here and whilst they were breathing, they will have facilitated the growth of plants and these plants begat other plants and so on and so on. In short - there may be something in the grass. If there is and I roll in it... what the heck am I on about now? Note to self. Seek professional help.

Guest Blog!

Fortunately, my mood and sense of utter inadequacy has been lifted by an invitation to write a guest blog. I am jolly excited by this and hope to pull together some kind of 'blog tour' in the near future which will give me a sense of real authory-ness and prepare me for the greatness which, temporarily, eludes me. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, make sure you come back here on Thursday and I'll post the link to my guest blog.

Loving all the comments by the way. Keep them coming. :)




Happy Birthday Me!

Prepare for Exclamation Marks
It's my birthday tomorrow so I'm breaking all the rules. I'm not even spelling out numbers so prepare yourselves! Tomorrow, I will be 36. 36 is my magical age. When I was a nipper, I conducted a little research. Every time I met a happy grown up, I asked how old they were. Nearly every one of them was 36. This little bit of research has enabled me to sidestep all the nonsense about your best years being behind you when you hit 25. I have been looking forward to this birthday since I was 3. Hurrah for 36! I'm getting published this year! Snaps for me!

Of course, there's no cash for pressies but fortunately Hubby bought my birthday present in the summer, when his redundancy was no more than a glint in an administrator's eye, so I'll have something to unwrap on the day and the gift of redundancy means I'll be spending my big day with the man of my dreams. Can't wait!




From Drafted to Crafted

Operation 'Land Ahoy!' Limps into Action
Right, enough of this nonsense. Operation 'Sh*tstorm' (see earlier post) has been optomistically promoted to Operation 'Land Ahoy!' as the government has offered temporary port-in-a-storm assistance with various fundamendal expenses, which is nice. Glorious subsistence-level bread-line abundance stretches out before us but, perpetual chin-up-edness aside, the third week of my husband's redundancy has been a fun-sapping exercise of the worst kind.

Leaping Salmon or Fetid Fish?
It's not something they've made up to sell papers: there really are no jobs out there. Numerous big (some huge) companies nearby have recently breathed their last and the employment market is flooded with the overqualified and supermotivated. I am reminded of salmon: desperately aiming for one small dot of river; crammed together and unable to move; using up all the oxygen in the water as bears and eagles pick them off like wasp-ridden fruit from a plum tree. Wow. Note to self. Stop watching wildlife programmes.

Close to the Edit
Analogies aside, it's tough out there. Hubby's doing his best on phone and Internet; and pounding the pavements with his head held high and his Curriculum Vitae held higher but no luck so far. My plan to launch straight into my editing has gone awry in the face of such gloom and I have been gripped by the need to do my best housewife impression and focus all my energy on keeping hubby's grin firmly in place. For the most part, I have done a passable job but I have now lost the plot and need to return to my writing. He's a grown up. He'll cope.

Today begins the big edit. The process of looking my work square in the face and chiding it for its very existence is upon me. I must mock it mercilessly and hack it to bits until it cries
'No more! For the love of all that's good and green! Why me? Why??'
Should be fun. Wish me luck.


Happy Depression!

Technically, I'm not blogging or writing for a few days - it's supposed to be a break but it's torture. All the books say you should take a couple of weeks off after writing a novel to think different thoughts before going back and reading the thing with your critical editor's eye in focus. I'm not loving it. It occured to me that I could legitimately publish an off-topic post and that would enable me to stay within the non-writing rule a bit.

How to Enjoy the Recession/Depression
A recession is upon us. What fun. A jolly challenge presents itself and we all get the chance to perfect a bit of old fashioned stiff-upper-lipped Britishness (whether British or not.) Dust off the brown tea pot, polish up your knitting needles, get out your baking trays, it's show time! Some of the following will only apply if you're English but the general gist of it should be of assistance regardless.

  • Don't be a wimp. If you need to cry about the economy taking a downturn, losing your job etc do it now and get it over with... finished? Good. Get counselling for it once the economy picks up again but for now, get over it; there's more important stuff to do. Remember something that is easy to forget in a capitalist society - you are more than the sum of your belongings - Get some lipstick and, on your bathroom mirror, write the following in 'large friendly letters': DON'T PANIC!
  • Edit your friend wardrobe. If you have any friends who only judge people on the basis of what they earn or possess, they need to go. You can pick them up again when the economy picks up - if you want to - but for the time being they will make you spend too much and cause you all manner of hell once they lose their own money and realise their lives are empty. Get out while you can. Friends cost money and in a recession you can only afford the good ones. Work out their 'cost per grin' value and if it fits into your happiness budget they can stay.
  • Poverty doesn't kill you. Starvation kills you. Enjoy your food. Rejig your attitude to your jiggly bits. Stop asking 'does my bum look big in this?' Start asking 'does my bum look small in this?' If it does, eat some biscuits. If this recession turns into a depression, some people will starve. Make sure you are not one of them. Carbs are your friends. Throw out the sugar substitutes. Shake that healthy butt. Camels have humps for a reason and so do you. Celebrate your body's ability to store calories for later use. Exercise them off again when the economy picks up. Until then, remember that rice and pasta keep for ages so if there is a supply problem later in the year or the price goes up due to requirements elsewhere on the planet, it won't hurt to have some in a cupboard.

If you are in financial difficulty, contact the following people:

The Council: you may be entitled to housing benefit - most people are. If you have less than £16,000 in savings you could be getting help with rent while times are hard. You've paid your taxes so the money's yours if you need it. Stop being proud and call them. They're nice people. Really. Be kind to them - they have lots of angry people going in and shouting at them. It's not nice. Smile at them and they'll help you. You may also be entitled to help with Council Tax etc. This particularly applies if you've just been made redundant.
-Citizens' Advice Bureau: They'll help you take the right steps for your particular situation, put together budgets etc.
- Payplan: These people are amazing if you have any problems with debt. They are the ones the Citizens' Advice people or National Debtline will put you in contact with if you need help sorting out your finances so go straight to them if this is your particular problem. They can put together an IVA for you or a debt management plan or advise on things like bankruptcy and relevant financial legislation and they are FREE!
- You can download forms if you've been mis-sold insurance or need to claim back bank charges etc. There's advice on what to do if you've been made redundant, been messed about by your bank etc. There's an answer for just about everything on this site.

If you're not in financial trouble, have oodles of cash and don't know what all the fuss is about take the following steps:

  • Look at why this is. If you have inherited money or made a killing out of business, the ultimate source of your profits will be the difference between what you or your ancestors paid for people's time and effort and what it was actually worth. If it weren't for the work of the masses you wouldn't have the cash and if these same masses don't get back to work, you won't have anything to spend your cash on. Don't feel bad about being loaded, it doesn't make you a bad person, but don't feel too smug about it as it doesn't make you a good person either. You've been helped out along the way whether you know it or not, so now's the time to do something about it.
  • Spend some of it. Look around; think which businesses will affect the local community most if they disappear and spend more cash there.
  • Pay taxes. Stop it with the tax-haven malarkey. It's just wrong in the current climate. Pay some tax in your home country. Go on, you know you want to really.
  • Give some away. None of this 'ooh, look at me, I'm giving away money' stuff - unless you really need the approval in which case do it. Try giving money away to people who really need it. Who in your county or country needs some money and would do something great with it? Just give it to them. Do this with at least 10% of your worth every month. Wipe out your affluenza at a stroke.
  • Buy organic. Lots of people are having to adjust their organic and green principles in favour of annoying things like avoiding starvation and hypothermia. You don't have to do that so splurge on organic, environmentally and ethically sound produce and keep these people in business. Keep partying for the greater good.




With 3 hours and 17 minutes to go until my annual book deadline, my second novel is finished!! (I am permitted the extra exclamation mark as this is a huge deal). For newcomers: a year ago today I set myself the task of finishing the first draft of my second novel by midnight tonight and I've finished it with three hours to spare and only 2000 words off my estimated word count for the first draft. I'm chuffed. I might do a bit of a dance... That was fun. Now I'm going to have a celebratory slurp of tea.... Yum!

Right. I'm exhausted so I'm probably going to take a couple of days off. I'd planned to take a couple of weeks off but the economy being what it is, I need to start sending off manuscripts as soon as I can.

From Brain to Bookshelf - Review of The Plan

First task: write two novels to prove I'm not a 'one novel wonder'

I can tick that one off.

Second task: get agent.

Task for next week. I should set myself a deadline for that too. Hmm. The heating oil runs out in a month so maybe I'll give myself three weeks to find an agent and then review things. That's the new plan.

Right - I'm off to eat chocolate. Snaps for me! :)



A Tale of Two Days

Two Taxing Days
I am surfing a giant stress wave. There are only two more days until my first-draft deadline which would be stressful enough were it not for the nightmare pair of days I am currently contending with.

Loyal followers will know the story to this point. Newcomers should travel through some of the 'journey so far' and come back so you are aware of the gravity of the situation before reading this post. Go on. We'll wait for you....

Hobbits on a Hill
Ready now? Good. Through the magic of squirreling things away and being creative with chickens, we had enough cash to pay for rent and heating for another month. Looking through our paperwork in an effort to be super-organised, I noticed something scary. My car needs an M.O.T. and Road Tax by the end of the month. Just as I realised this, the temperature plummeted and one of the reassuring lines on the oil meter (which heats the house and water) disappeared.

'Never mind,' I thought, 'I can take some of the heating budget and throw it at the M.O.T. then I can make it SORN (put it off the road.)'

It was a matter of seconds before I realised that I know of nowhere actually off the road where I can store the thing so I can't avoid the full whack of tax even if I want to. It was a matter of hours before another reason not to follow the plan arose. My husband's car broke.

Long story short, the battery was dead and had to be jump started but, as we stood knee deep in snow and surveyed our isolated Hobbitonesque village, we knew that we couldn't avoid the stark truth: modern-day Hobbits need cars and modern-day cars need tax.

My car, being still with tax and M.O.T. for a few days, carried us to the Council Offices for the second taxing event of the week.

"Money for Stamps Guv'nor?"
'We are Povs,' we said, 'be we worthy of benefits?' We didn't actually say that, but that was the gist of it. Many bits of paper were shuffled through and a few reassuring noises were made. We'd heard a few of these the day before at the Citizens' Advice Bureau where our organisational skills and ways with chicken carcasses were applauded and we were told that we'd done all that could be done and they could do no more for us.

'When I am homeless,' I thought, 'I will carry my library card and beg for cash with which to print out manuscripts and buy stamps. I will be the mad, novel-writing bag-lady. "Money for stamps; money for stamps!" I will shout.' I went into a bit of a Dickensesque dream until the man asked us to leave his office.

Anyway, back to the Council Office. Well, the good news is that we may be entitled to a few scraps of government assistance, which is nice, and since the library is close to the Council Offices, Hubby and I went in and loaded up on free literature.

The Deadline
The book is nearly finished. So close now. I feel almost optimistic about hitting my deadline. This afternoon, I'm off to get the car M.O.T.ed. Pray for me that it passes. When I get back I will be typing my fingers off. The novel must be finished. The world may be falling down around me but I have a deadline and as the Internet is my witness, I will finish my novel on time!



Which Came First - the Chicken or the Seed Potatoes?

An odd quandary this. Our pitiful budget having just become more pitiful (see previous post) we are forced to ask the question that no married couple wants to ask: what shall we do about the potatoes?

Chicken or Potatoes?

To summarise: medium and short term plans have run headlong into each other like two angry squirrels and only one can prevail and scamper off with the spoils (I'm envisaging a squirrel harem or a hoard of stolen bird food here.) The week-to-week strategy of chicken divided by 16 has been thrown into turmoil by the seasonal arrival of seed potatoes.

Even though I cannot see your face, I can imagine its furrows.

'What in the name of all that is good is she prattling on about now?' you ask. I shall explain.

Chicken Divided by 16
I can, and frequently do, squeeze 16 meals out of a chicken. The chicken first provides a roast meal for two. The leftover meat and the stock I coax out of what remains of the chicken goes on to provide various other chicken related meals to the tune of around 12-14 portions of what my husband refers to as 'good, honest fare.' Our plan, to see us through the summer after we'd made our way through our UN donation-style sacks of rice, was to bring forth potatoes. We would live off the land for pennies and grow increasingly smug and lardy in the process. That was the plan. Hubby having lost his job, a battle has broken out. My argument is that we can buy seed potatoes and a suitable bag of earth in which to grow said potatoes for not much more than the cost of a chicken.

'Let the chicken live,' say I, 'we will go without stock for a week.'

'Are you mad?' says Hubby, 'the potatoes could go bad. There will be no crop. We will have wasted the chicken money. We will starve,' and so it continues ad nauseam.

Let Them Eat Pastry!
I feel I will lose this battle, so I'm rationing the rice again. Tonight we had homemade bread and marmalade. Hubby wanted to eat pastry. You can't just eat pastry. You need something to put in the pastry. Chicken for example. The idea about the potatoes came first but the chicken looks likely to win the battle.

The Novel - Four Days to Go!
It's true. In four days I hope to blog something triumphant. In four days, I should have created the first draft of my brand new novel. It's not the easiest thing to be creative whilst helping one's husband to keep his chin up and trying to win The Battle of Potato or Poultry but I'm doing my best and I'm fairly confident that I'll hit the scary deadline square on the nose.

If I get an agent before the spring, the first thing I will buy is a packet of seed potatoes. He may have won the battle, but the war is still up for grabs.



I think This Counts as an Extreme Weather Event!

A Very Specific Kind of Storm
Operation Sh*tstorm is go! Well, the weather was predicted so the foot or so of snow outside is no shocker but my husband being made redundant yesterday is. Fortunately, my 'hope for the best; prepare for the worst' philosophy has caused me to collect rice the way a Dyson collects dust. Great big sacks of it. (Dysons don't have sacks so that may not be the best analogy but the rice comes in sacks so stick with it.) In the event of twice the current snow and half the current income, the rice will see us through.

Hubby and I formulated Operation Sh*tstorm when the economic climate dipped. We anticipated panic if he ever lost his job so we put together a folder of relevant documents (benefit forms, to-do lists etc), labelled it 'Operation Sh*tstorm' and put it on a shelf. When hubby came home without a job yesterday, it was the work of seconds to locate 'Plan B.'

Our food budget for this week is a little over a pound each a day - if they can do it on Big Brother I don't see why we can't. I toyed with the idea of panic. I considered rocking backwards and forwards on the floor for a couple of days but it seems daft so, instead, we set the alarm for 7.00 this morning, hubby rewrote his CV, applied for every benefit we might be entitled to and searched the internet for jobs, while I wrote another chapter. Only another couple to go now!

In the unlikely event that everything takes an even greater turn for the worst and we end up on the streets, I'm keeping very close hold of my library card. They have computers and I have books to write.



Word Blizzard

We're in for some weather. Apparently an 'extreme weather event' is coming our way. To be more precise, an extreme weather event is coming London's way but the exact same weather hitting the Cotswolds is only defined as a 'severe' weather event. I am serious. I looked up my postcode and London on the Met Office website and the same wind speeds, snow depths etc appeared for each and yet when London is subjected to it the weather is 'extreme.' Humph. It would be easy to launch into a diatribe about how all magazines based in London assume that everyone lives in London but I am aware this would be off-topic and silly so I won't. Maybe the weather people think the folk of the Cotswolds are made of sterner, more rustic stuff than London types and they are reporting accordingly.

'There will be an amount of weather falling on both London and the Cotswolds. The amount will be the same. Cotswolders will feel the amount to be severe, whereas Londoners will feel the amount to be extreme,' is what they may be saying. Who knows?

Before I continue, I feel I should declare that I have nothing against Londoners: some of my best friends are Londoners. :) Actually, I used to live there and I love the place. Don't let any of my Cotswold friends hear that though or I will be shunned. I am writing myself into a corner. Many of the agents I hope to impress with my writing skills are based in London.

I am contemplating deleting the blog so far.....
...I am contemplating the notion that many agents have a sense of humour...
...The comments will remain.

Nearly There Now...
Back on topic now. As you can imagine, I am now in a frantic rush to hit my deadline. The characters are being charming again. A few more twists and turns have happened, thousands of words have made their way onto paper and I'm loving it. As it's only a self-imposed deadline, I know I can allow myself an extension but I don't think I will. I will be strict.

'No extension for you,' I will say. 'Call yourself a writer? Drop and give me 2,000.'

So, this is the scary bit. A year's work will end in a couple of weeks and I have to earn that unbelievable high when I tap in the last full stop. Time for a word blizzard. Can't believe I'm about to finish my second novel. I'll keep you posted.

Stay warm!




Cannot express how helpful these social media tools are

I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

My debut novel

My debut novel
Palaces and Calluses

My Website

My Website
All my blogs link from here

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP