Monday, 26 March 2018
Little G and Small LOVE their nursery and frequently bring home stuff they've made (in Small's case, with help) or paintings they've done. Sometimes, they also bring home things that are slightly less welcome. Like nits.
We have had several bouts of nits ~ refuting the myth that it's only 'poor kids whose parents don't wash their hair' who have them. You must be mad attacks the little blighters with a 'nitty gritty' comb. I don't have such an article in the house, so they tend to get gone over with the cat's flea comb, which works just as well, though the cat isn't too chuffed about it.
Small, however, is proving harder to rid of nits. His hair, now the colour of golden syrup, is thick and curling over his ears. There is a reason for this: the one and only time You must be mad took him for a haircut ~ to one of those places where you pay a small fortune for your kids to sit in cute little cars with their own personal videos, he refused to co-operate. The resultant haircut looked as if the hairdresser had been snipping at a moving target. Which is pretty much what happened.
Things have now reached a tipping point, however. Not only is there the nits sitch, but whenever Small indulges his love of dressing up as as a Pink Fairy**, complete with wings and a wand, I can get his hair into two tiny ponytails. You must be mad freely acknowledges there is a problem, but really doesn't want to go through the same rigmarole as before.
Step forward our lovely local hairdresser, who is going to give it a go on the basis that her own son was a total nightmare at a similar age, but she managed to cut his hair. Little G and I are going to do some pre-haircut indoctrination, on the lines of combing Small's hair and pretending to snip it, while chanting 'Snip...snip...snip ' in jolly voices which we will get him to repeat. L-Plate Grandad (Small's favourite person) will sit him on his lap. I will provide a selection of toys, and we will apologise to the rest of the customers in advance.
What could possibly go wrong?
** The 'Trans Activists' would tell me that Small is self- selecting his own gender. To which I say: if there are TWO dress-up fairy dresses and your big sister is wearing the WHITE one, and you like to copy her, it only leaves you the PINK one, so don't be so silly.
Monday, 12 March 2018
With the development of Facebook/Twitter etc, it is getting far harder to preserve one's privacy - given that readers, both actual or prospective, now want to share not only our work, but our lives. And yet, here is the paradox: writers, by their very nature, possess the sort of introvert, secretive personalities that make them go and lock themselves away in a room for hours at a time, so that they can invent stuff in their heads.
No longer is this enough, though. It is now almost obligatory upon any writer wanting to sell his/her work to feed the insatiable reading public's hunger for details of their lives, or their writing regime. I wonder whether we are beginning to reach the counter-productive stage, where maintaining a high-level media profile is actually hindering the 'real' writing process from taking place. Even writing this blog means that I am not editing the 6th Victorian Detective book novel, prior to handing it over to the professionals. Not sure how to square this circle. You?
But in answer to my question about Shakespeare, yes, I am absolutely sure he would have loved it. I can just imagine the sort of stuff he'd have posted, too: "To Deptford, where I quaffed much ale. Upon return to my lodgings, discovered I had been wearing mine hose inside out. A merry jape."
Not sure we'd have had as many plays, though
Saturday, 10 March 2018
Christmas is heading for the far distant horizon, so I am now embarking upon the major process of editing the first draft of Fear & Phantoms, book six in the Victorian Detectives series, before sending it to my first reader/editor for a read-through.
Editing is, in its essence, the art of making things sound better. I have had various editors in my time and they all work in different ways. My OUP editor maintained a firm hands-off stance, more or less allowing the book to emerge from manuscript to finished product unscathed with just a few marginal queries en route. On the other hand, I have had editors who carefully scrutinise every paragraph, and red-pencil everything they want changing.
It is a fine balance for the writer to maintain. On the one hand an editor does (or should) know what makes good, readable prose and so it is in one's interest to take on board suggestions offered. However it is a moot point how far an editor allows their own 'reading' of the manuscript, and involvement in the creative process to predominate over the original voice of the author. I have been told, on one memorable occasion, that a character ''wouldn't have said that''. As if I knew nothing about them. Sometimes, you have to fight for your integrity. It is never an easy balance.
On this occasion though, I shall be doing my own edits, which means I shall be fighting for my integrity against myself, which will be interesting, and the internal Civil War will probably throw up all sorts of queries. Which I shall have to refer to myself to solve. Hopefully any conflict and animosity will abate enough so that the two of us can get on with it.
By the time the book reaches my final editor, it will be almost summer. I am not good in hot weather, but the heat in the Victorian era must have been almost insupportable for women. Forced to go about in tight whalebone corsets, stockings, and numerous undergarments, forbidden to show their arms and legs for fear of exciting male sensibilities, one can barely imagine the torture they must have undergone.
And then there was the smell to contend with. In the days before Bazalgette revolutionised the sewerage system, everything made its malodorous journey through London to the River Thames, into which raw sewage and the by-products from factories, and slaughterhouses were poured, so that in the heat of summer, the stink was unbearable.
There is a story that Queen Victoria, visiting the Houses of Parliament one day, noticed small pieces of screwed-up toilet paper floating on the Thames. Upon inquiring of an official what they were, she was told that they contained messages of goodwill from her subjects.
Now that's what I call good editing.
Sunday, 4 March 2018
|Speaking to Harpenden Writers|
At some point in your literary career, you may well be asked to give a talk about your books. If you are a children's writer, it is expected that you will tour schools doing just that. Even if you are 'just' an Ebook author/blogger you could still find yourself clobbered for a local festival/writing panel. It can be fun; it can be nerve-wracking. Most of how it will be depends upon your pre-prep. In this series of blogs, I'm going to share my tips from 10 years of public speaking (Including gigs at the Edinburgh and Cheltenham Literary Festivals). Look upon any invitation to speak as a selling opportunity. You may shift as many as 80 books in one session. You are unlikely to do that via Amazon/bookshops. And you could get spin-off invites.
Tips on Pre-Preparation
1. Check how long you are 'on'. It is usually an hour. Break that down into: 25 mins speaking, 15 mins questions, 20 mins book signing and informal chat.
2. Check whether you are going to be paid. The rule of thumb is if people pay to come in, you should receive at least 1/3rd of the 'door'.
|Cheltenham Literary Festival|
4. Check who is responsible for the publicity. If it is a Festival, it is up to them to publicize you. Make sure you supply organisers with your bio, title of session, mention of signed books being available to purchase (you want to sell, right?) and an up to date picture. Please. I've been to talks where the writer used a MUCH younger pic for their publicity. C'mon people!
5. Offer to contact local press with an interesting press release. This is often a winner if the organisers are too busy or have far more famous writers than you to focus on.
6. Stock up with business cards and copies of your books. Make sure you have at least 2 pens that work and you can remember your name (if using a nom-de-plume.)
Book talks are really enjoyable occasions, and once you've done a few, you will really start to feel the 'buzz'. I assure you!
|My 'Victorian' table|