Thursday 31 May 2012

Library Louts

I first posted this blog a couple of years ago because I was so angry at the closures of public libraries. Now that this vile government has just announced a whole new raft of closures, I am still angry. My first encounter with books was via the local library in Welwyn Garden City, my home town.

Dumped in the children's library, age 4, I selected a book from the box (in those days all picture books had the same plain library covers). I opened it up and there was Orlando, the Marmalade Cat, his Dear Wife Grace and their three Kittens, Pansy, Blache and mischievous Tinkle.

Apart from starting my well known love of cats, it also started me on the path to reading, which led me, in time, to become a writer. My parents did not consider buying books for young children as a necessity, as many parents for a variety of reasons, still don't. Without the books I borrowed each week, my life would have been impoverished.

''A non sequitur, I freely confess, but I find it hard to put into words how upset I am at the disclosure that Kensal Rise library, in London, has now had all its books carted off in the middle of the night by Brent Council workers. The furtive and underhand way in which this wicked deed - sorry, I find no other words to express it - took place, resonates with all those other occasions in the past when the banning, or burning of books has marked a civilization in crisis, or steep decline.

I started off my library career in the 1970's working for Brent Libraries, and knew the branch, and the other six that have been shut, very well. Many served poor, ethnically diverse communities and were used by people who could not afford to buy books for themselves, or for their children. The staff were treated with the utmost respect by locals, who valued what we offered and what we represented. I vividly recall being beckoned to the front of a long queue in the local Caribbean greengrocer - the owner succinctly informing the rest of the line that: 'this is the Liberian lady - she got to get back to work!'

Here, our libraries have recently been 're-structured to meet the needs of the modern user'. As far as I can see, this means they shut at odd times, just when you want to borrow a pile of books, and far too much space is now given over to desks of computers, at which people sit and dicker all day. Mainly playing mindless games. Books? Nah, don't need them. Got to move with the times. Books are relegated to fewer and fewer shelves.

The playwright and novelist Michael Frayn has commented of the closure of Kensal Rise library: They took the books out and the plaque down? So the library is now an unlibrary, in the way that people became unpersons in the darkest days of the Soviet Union. I hope they took the titles of the books off as well. Removing unbooks from an unlibrary - who could possibly object?'

I do.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

A Rose by any other genre

Have just had one of those enjoyably daft experiences that only come to the aged and astigmatic. Headline in today's Guardian: Dentists accused of failing to tell patients about NHS treatments. Managed to misread as 'Feminsts accused....    Sic transit.

It has been drawn to my attention that when I finally press the upload button on my book and send it to the great 'Zon' in the internet firmament, I shall have to select two categories under which it will appear. This is going to be problematic: one of the main reasons cited by my agent for not approaching mainstream publishers with it in the first place, was that it spanned too many genres, and the poor bewildered things wouldn't know how or where to position it.

We are constantly being exhorted by publishers to move away from the formulaic and repetitious. To eschew the 'I have an MA in Creative Writing' style. Indeed, we are encouraged to plough new furrows and come up with innovative and unusual plots (although I gather that there are actually only 7 basic ones, so good luck with that!)  It is all a lie. What publishers want, what they really, really, want, is the same old same old. Something that they can stick between a lookalike cover and place on the shelf labelled 'chicklit', or 'crime'. In other words, the publishing tail wags the writing dog.

I understand completely that readers of a certain genre like to know they are getting what they like and want to be able to identify it clearly. But. Are we not in danger of narrowing the reading path to such an extent that fewer and fewer people are prepared to venture beyond their known and familiar genre? I vividly recall visiting my local library (aah libraries: remember them?) as a very small child and discovering, inside a plain brown library cover, Orlando the Marmalade Cat. The serendipity of it still delights.

So, how to chose two categories for Diamond Girl? Well, it's certainly Historical, because it is set in 1860. It's definitely Crime, because there are two detectives and a murder. But it's also Mystery because strange stuff happens that is definitely mysterious - even to me, and I wrote it. And it's Gothic, as it contains evil forces, a werewolf, and a sense of darkness. It could just possibly be Romance: one of the female characters falls in love with a very unsuitable young man.

My agent also tells me that it is  'great fun'. Sadly, there doesn't appear to be a category for this.

Sunday 27 May 2012

The Fine Art of Editing

Christmas is well and truly over, so I am about to embark upon the major process of editing the first draft of third book in the Diamonds&Dust series, before sending it to my publisher for a read through. Editing is, in its essence, the art of making things 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. 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 and accurate 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 edit, 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 ''real'' editor, it will be 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.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The 'Old Lie'

Supervising a baking hot GCSE poetry exam this afternoon, I was thinking about Afghanistan. I gather that there is a definite date for troop withdrawal and we are now in the 'draw-down' stage. This is, technically, the third Anglo-Afghan War, something I did not know until I started researching the Victorian period for the book.

The first Anglo-Afghan War was started in 1839, when the British Army invaded the country in an attempt to overthrow the emir, Dost Muhammad, and ended in total disaster three years later when the entire British garrison, including wives and children was slaughtered by Mujahideen as they attempted to withdraw from Kabul to the British fort in Jellalabad. Only the army doctor survived, arriving at the fort on an exhausted and half-dead horse, to tell the tale. In 1878, we had another go at invading and organising the country, and three years later, guess what? We lost again.

I am probably not the most unbiased person to comment on Afghanistan, as Talented Daughter was out there for three years, and they were three very long years, trust me. Also I had the dubious honour of finding myself on the American Embassy blacklist in the '60's when, as a teenager, I helped organise a very small anti-Vietnam demo in my home town - hardly worth raising an eyebrow over in the grand scheme of things, but that was how we did paranoia back in those days.

So I will leave the final thoughts on the subject to the First World War poet May Wedderburn Cannan, who summed up the utter futility of war far more movingly than ever I could. In her poem 'The Armistice', she imagines two female office workers talking. Their co-workers have all left to celebrate the ending of the Great War. The poem concludes:
                           One said, 'You know it will be quiet tonight
                           Up at the Front: first time in all these years,
                           And no one will be killed there any more.'
                           And stopped, to hide her tears.
                           She said, 'I've told you; he was killed in June'.
                           The other said, 'My dear, I know; I know ...
                           It's over for me too ... My man was killed,
                           Wounded ... and died ... at Ypres ... three years ago ...
                           And he's my man, and I want him,' she said.
                           And knew that peace could not give back her dead.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Would Shakespeare be on Facebook?

Left jaw-dropped on Sunday by a Facebook post on a fellow writer's site. 'I had my pants on backwards all day, who knew?' she shared. Too much info? By the end of the day seventy-three people had commented. Apart from wanting to tell her that when she reaches my age, she will discover that such occurances are so frequent they are hardly worth remarking upon, it did make me think... and I am still thinking.. about the way we writers now have to 'put ourselves out there'.

With the development of  Facebook/Twitter etc, it is getting far harder to preserve one's privacy - given that readers, 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 composing the second novel, or hard editing the first, prior to formatting it as an ebook. Not sure how to square this circle. You?

(And 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.)

Sunday 20 May 2012

Lost in translations

So, it's a sad farewell to The Bridge, the latest Nordic TV crime drama which reached its dramatic end last Saturday night. The Nord-crime fest has been with us for so long that I now believe I can actually speak Scandik ('takk ...alibi..') and I've almost stopped getting snagged up by the sub-titles, except where they are just plain daft. There was a bit last night where Martin, the gloomy can't-keep-it-in-his-cargoes 'tec met up with his son. Martin: Hi. Son: Hi. Subtitles: Hi....Hi.  Someone in the sub-title department was clearly having a laugh.

 I don't know how you react, but I also find heartening to realise that there are countries where people exist in a sort of 24 hour low-level gloomy twilight, speak languages in which the consonants vastly outnumber the vowels,and spend all their lives killing each other or plotting political coups behind the scenes. Though I confess a particular fondness for the Danes, because they have translated one of my books into Danish.  Rodt Flojl (the o's have little lines through them, can't work out how to do it, sorry) has been available in Danish bookshops since 2001.

Interestingly, Rodt Flojl, the translated version, is at least a third longer than its English counterpart Red Velvet. Don't know why. Complete mystery. Maybe I have more to say in Danish. Sadly, I also don't know what it is, but every now and then, I receive a royalty cheque. Takk.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Building the write platform

Panic yesterday evening, when I attempted to move things around on blog, and succeeded in moving them around so far that they disappeared. Not good, as my local paper has given this blog a plug, so new people are reading it. Hopefully. Luckily, a good techie friend talked me through things over the phone, and we sorted it. Another steep learning curve surmounted.

 Beloved Husband, who is into all this blog/tweet/Facebook thing in the way that bricks are into dentistry, wonders why anyone would want to write a blog in the first place. And why anyone else would want to read it. I say I am creating a platform to launch the e-book. I am the 21st century female internet version of Isombard Kingdom Brunel, a metaphor that will probably get me arrested by the analogy squad for crimes against comparisons.

Designer Dave has returned, in all senses of the word, from his rugby jaunt. I have now sent him spec for cover. In return, he has enlightened me on the drinking habits of his team mates: how much they drank; when, and where they drank, what they drank etc. The royal 'they', methinks. One of my Year 11 students informs me that I can tweet via the computer. I never knew that. She is going to show me how to do this next week, after her final GCSE lesson. No point going down the humiliation route of admitting that a 16 year old student knows more than me: I will embrace the stupidity and be grateful.

To the Summer meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association with Juliet Archer this afternoon. Elizabeth Chadwick (historical writer) speaking. RNA members are not at all what you imagine - i.e. small meek spinsters in cardies and sensible shoes. They are a feisty, fun group. And supportive. Childrens' writers, en masse, are far more wary of each other - it is a much smaller pool, and they are always checking out each other's success. I like the RNA crowd. They write everything from chick-lit, to sexual encounters with avatars. Ah yes, sexual encounters. Sex is a topic I had to deal with for the first time in my new book ..... and which I will save for another blog. Suffice it to say that hardly any female authors have ever won the Literary Bad Sex Award. Says it all, doesn't it!

Thursday 17 May 2012

Critics: what are they good for?

At last, someone (Professor Michael Luca) has come out and said what we've always known: there is absolutely no difference in the quality and accuracy of a book review by an 'ordinary' reader on Amazon, and a professional book critic. Moreover (and we all knew this, as well) critics were more likely to praise a book when the author was well-known/a prizewinner/had garnered press-coverage/ was connected to some media outlet.

I am leery of reviews, whoever writes them, ever since Dark Side of Midnight was compared unfavourably on Amazon to a certain well-known children's writer in the same field. This happened so many times, that the words 'stitch-up' came to mind. I have also read reviews of books by writers whom I know share the same publisher/agent. Or where some personal spat is being used to exact revenge.

Charlotte Bronte was equally sceptical. She wrote in 1850, over the sisters' decision to adopt the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell: 'We had the impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes used for their chastisement the weapon of 'personality' and for their reward, a flattery which is not true praise.'

Interestingly, when Wuthering Heights was first published in 1847, Ellis Bell was praised for the strength and passion of 'his' tale. As soon as it was revealed, however, that 'Ellis' was in fact 'Emily', the reviewer slated the book as being 'odious and abominably pagan'.
Nul points, that critic!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Fuelling the writing process

Surprise has been expressed in some quarters at the amount of coffee that I am drinking while writing the second book. Lest it be thought that I spend all day sitting in front of a laptop, mainlining caffeine, I probably need to point out that the coffee cup: word count ratio also includes other writing-related activities that may take place at different times of the day, and in different places but can include coffee as part of their journey.

For a start, there is thinking/planning coffee, which happens while counting the fish in the pond, re-arranging various drawers, reading the paper or moving objects upon the desk. Okay, I call it thinking/planning coffee, but let's be gut-honest, you know, and I know you know exactly what it is.

There is also research coffee. Research is something most writers do, especially those who write historical fiction, because every little detail has to be absolutely accurate. You can wing it, but sod's law dictates that if you do, your book will fall into the reviewing hands of the one and only world-expert in the winged area, and they will take great delight in exposing your ignorance to the wider reading public.

I use two sources for research: the internet,which is brilliant for very specific information:  Victorian funerary practices, the acceptible length of mourning for different family members etc.
But I also like to get out and use the local library, because there is something about the serendipity of working along the shelves and discovering something you didn't know you needed until you came across it. It's a bit like Topshop, but with books. I once found a whole page on how the Victorians decorated their Christmas trees in a book on celebrations.

Both sources involve copious amounts of coffee of course, although the best thing about extra-mural research coffee is that it is usually accompanied by research cake. Victoria sandwich, of course.

Monday 14 May 2012

A little irony is good for the soul

Went down to the Potting Shed, as the local allotment clubhouse is called, to get advice from the older and wiser than me on planting runner beans. Year 3 of the back garden allotment, and I still haven't mastered the 'do a proper plan on paper so you can stagger the crop' strategy as advised in the book I bought when I started the allotment, and have now mislaid.

This is why I currently have purple sprouting broccoli three months after I should have. No plan: crops arrive at the wrong time. Or fail to materialise at all, like the carrots and leeks. Last month I dug so many trenches, the whole back garden resembled a re-enactment of the Somme with seed potatoes. Chatted with Rose, one of the pensioners who live next to the green space we are all fighting to save from developers. In the course of conversation, she asked how the writing was going - I also pen sarky letters to the local paper; they like reading them.

Shared the decision to publish my new novel online. 'Tell me when it's out and I'll buy a copy for my great-niece,' she said. As Rose is in her 70's and does not have a computer, as Husband of Rose believes they are evil, and won't allow one in their flat, I assumed she had not grasped the concept, so explained slowly and carefully, that it was not a paper book so she wouldn't be able to go into WH Smith and purchase one. Was informed crisply that she quite understood about e-books, thank you very much, and that her niece had a Kindle. Never misunderestimate the elderly, as George Bush didn't quite say.

So although this is not the way one is meant to go about it, I have just sold my first e-book. As in allotments, so in life.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Nothing was created in 7 days

To London yesterday evening to celebrate Talented Daughter's recent engagement at a wine bar in Great Smithfield Street. Passing under the Smithfield arches, I recalled how in Victorian times, they ran live sheep and cattle through the city to be slaughtered in the market. The poor terrified beasts used to be pelted with stones and hit with sticks by passers-by. It was an incredibly cruel way to deal with animals; fortunately the authorities banned it in the late 1850's

 It is now a week since I posted my first blog, which is meant to be, amongst other things, a record of How I published my e-book. So what has been achieved over the past seven days. As Paul Daniels might say: 'not a lot'. Designer Dave currently on club rugby tour of France. Suspect will be in no fit state to discuss cover on return.  Still not sorted new phone, so unable to build up thousands of potential readers through tweets. Blog needs, I am told, far more work on links to other sites etc. Haven't got a clue how to do this, as am basically the non-techie's non-techie. Beloved Husband unable to assist. Similar skill level.

However on the plus side, I have downloaded and printed out 4 pages of how to turn one's manuscript into an e-book format, which I have gone through with highlighters, so that it now looks very bright and colourful, although I can't make head nor tail of what I'm supposed to be doing, as most of it is written in expert-speak. Strange, as my writing magazine is currently crammed with articles from 'ordinary' writers proclaiming how little expertise they had, but how easily they uploaded their books on to Amazon. But I am, and will remain a devout believer in the gospel of Wilkins Micawber. Something will turn up. Eventually.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Blackberries in Winter

It has been indicated by several wiser, tho' not necessarily older friends that if I intend to maintain my successful presence on social media, I need to get myself up to date, gadget wise. Apart from the laptop, I also need the sort of mobile that does 'sent from my phone' stuff. As most of you know, I have a cheap Nokia rubbish phone, recently updated from the previous cheap Nokia rubbish phone when the back had to be held on by elastic bands.

So, ever eager to please, not to say gullible, I went yesterday to the XXX shop (not sure whether I can advertise, so pretend you don't understand that last bit), and asked the 14 year old behind the counter whether I could Tweet and access my emails on my current mobile. Showed him mobile, and when he had stopped laughing, he pointed me to the sort of sleek, scary looking devices I should be using and proceeded to explain how they worked. I stared at them for a while, making 'Uh-huh, mmm' noises indicating (erroneously) that I understood every word of his explanations. Then left. Do they not do subtitles for the bewildered in these places?

Interestingly, this also coincided with the school exam season - I work as an invigilator at a local secondary school. It's better paid than stacking shelves at Asda, and you get a nice green lanyard with your name on it and a card to activate the carpark barrier, though sadly, my boss has not yet bought into the concept of a high-viz jacket with Invigilator on the back in raised studs. One of those, and I could do door work in the evenings. ('If I say you're not coming in, sir. Then you're not coming in. Do not mess with me. I'm an Invigilator...')

Anyway, halfway through a recent exam, someone's mobile went off. Crime of huge magnitude. I took the box of collected mobiles outside, located the offender ( a Blackberry; it was locked) and took it apart to make it stop. Watched doing this by one of the ground staff. 'Look here,' I remarked, waving the offending item. 'A Year 11 with a Blackberry.'  He replied : 'You want to check out Lost Property; they've got a whole draw full of them. Got those new Iphone too  Kids just lose them, and their parents buy them another one.'

I am trying not to go down the logical pathway on this, because I am, at core, an honest person, but oh my, it is very tempting......

Wednesday 9 May 2012

The write name matters

Juliet Archer is right. (See comment on first blog - and do check out her books: re-workings of Jane Austen plots. Excellent reading.). Deciding what to call yourself, as a writer, requires some thinking about. There are two options.

Option 1: Be yourself.
Plus points are that it's easy to remember who you are (until dementia takes over, when you have to rely on friends and family!). And it stops that look of vague bewilderment crossing your face when being introduced as a guest speaker. Or seeing a poster with your face and stranger's name.  It also makes the banking of one's meagre royalties easier, and stops HMRC from going into meltdown every time you fill in a self-assessment form.

Option 2: Be someone else.
 Initially, that's what I was going to do. I wanted a different name for the author of Diamond Girl. As it is going to be my first 'adult' novel, I thought I'd like to create a new identity to go with it. And I wanted something that would place my books at eye-level on the bookshop shelf. And suggest that the book was a historical novel. Thus Victoria Collins was born: Victoria after the Queen; Collins after Wilkie Collins, writer of the first detective novel. Great name! Or so I thought.

Alas, just as I was beginning to develop a split personality and quite enjoying it, the negative response from the agent pinged into my in-box. Change of plan. To launch as an unknown e-book writer seemed a bit risky. How would anyone who already knew me, find me? A quick trawl on the internet also threw up a couple of other Victoria Collins. Both established writers, both with blogs. My alter-ego had competition.

However, Carol Hedges existed as a known entity, and had a presence on Amazon, and other sites. It seemed daft to turn my back on what was already set up and running. So, sadly, last week Victoria and I parted company. Purely for commercial reasons. But I like to think that she hasn't completely gone away; that she is still out there, somwehere. A spiky, scatty version of me ... in a bonnet and crinoline.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Victorian values are alive and well

Stopped in my tracks yesterday by a clip on the radio: apparently there is a new phenomen in London - beds in sheds. This is where a property owner throws up a primitive breezeblock structure at the back of his/her house and lets it out to poor or immigrant families. No sanitary provision, no proper building regs. And local councils unwilling or unable to stop it happening.

Presumably these houseowners must've been listening to Kevin McLeod (Grand Design bloke) who says if we want to meet the growing need for cheap 'affordable housing', we should model ourselves on the Victorian builders, who leased land and threw up street after street of houses at lightening speed. News for you, Kevin: we're already there.

My book, and its sequel, is set just after the great Victorian housebuilding boom, when speculative London developers maximised profits by using cheap cement, known as Billysweet, which never dried out, so these houses had their own internal weather system. And no foundations, and floorboards laid on bare earth. As a result by 1860, London had some of the poorest people living in some of the worst slums in the kingdom. (In those days, the immigrants were Huguenot silk weavers escaping from France, Irish escaping from famine and Jews escaping from Christians.)

At the same time, Parliament passed the Poor Law Act, an attempt to stop anyone who could work from receiving parish relief - it was thought that poverty was caused by 'moral failure', and paying such people only encouraged them to be idle and overpopulate.

Is this resonating?

Dickens described these MP's and their property-owning chums as 'Experimental Philosophers..whose blood is ice,whose heart is iron.'   I guess now we'd call them: 'Rich arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of a pint of milk.'

Plus ca change....

Sunday 6 May 2012

How to Annoy an Oyster

It has been pointed out that I have actually published 11 teenage novels, not 6. And the current 4 are published by Usborne (with an e). In my defence, all I can say is that I failed O-level Maths, twice, and Shakespeare couldn't spell either, but it didn't stop him writing his plays. Right. We move on.

Last week I went up to London, to see Talented Daughter. As I live outside the Great Wen, I usually action this by getting a train to St Pancras, then use my Pensioner Bus Pass to move round the city: it's free. Here where I live, it is customary to greet the bus driver on boarding and tell him/her where you are heading, then thank him/her on leaving. Sometimes, if it's a regular driver, they will even set you down pretty much wherever you want.

Bear this info in mind for what follows. I leave St P and board a No.30 bus. I greet the driver, telling him politely but with a smile that I want to go to Marble Arch. Absolute silence. Hard stare. Unh. Forgot unwritten rule no 1: Don't speak to bus drivers in London. Slightly freaked, I then place my bus pass chip-side down on the Oyster thingy. Box lights up; red light starts flashing; loud beeping noise. Eye-rolling from driver.  Unwriten rule 2: Bus passes are not Oyster cards.

Creep upstairs and huddle in seat. At Marble Arch, automatically shout 'thanks' down the bus as I get off. Bemused stares from rest of passengers. Unwritten rule 3: Do not annoy bus users by indulging in bizarre behaviour. And half of Oxford Street has been dug up, probably something to do with the Olympics, as everything in London is nowadays. Relieved to get back to rural homeland and stick straws back in hair. I really don't get London at all.

This week, I am going to discuss the cover for my e-book with Dave the Designer. Discussion will probably involve me telling what I want, and him indicating that as he doesn't tell me how to write, I don't tell him how to design. Which is fair enough. The cover is the first thing people will see online, so it is important. I'd like readers to realise, even before they read the blurb that this book is: Victorian, dark,mysterious,and with a diamond. (Feisty heroine/London setting/detectives/werewolf are added extras). I will attempt to scan and put cover on blog so that you can comment. Beloved Husband has just kindly delivered pint mug of coffee before going down to pub to watch Newcastle game. De-blogging.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Happy Birthday Blog: ''In the Beginning was the Deed''


A week of joy and jubilation at Hedges Towers. The blog is one year old!!! Unbelievable, but true. I have learned many things since I started out, a lot of them to do with not pressing the 'apply' key until I am absolutely sure I know what I'm really doing. Still can't believe that I have been blogging for a year - nor how much I continue to enjoy it. So, while The PINK SOFA dons its celebratory party upholstery and locates the candles and a box of matches, here are four important things that I have learned over the past 12 months:

Content: This is the most important. Despite what it may appear, I spend a very long time writing, re-writing and re-re-writing posts, in an effort to make each one the best that I can achieve.

Consistency: Regular followers know that my blogs are always posted on Saturday morning at around 8 am. That is probably why they are regular followers

Commitment: Goes with the other two 'C's'.

Courtesy: A lot of people now read the blog posts - I know because I see the visitor numbers. Some are kind enough to leave a comment. I enjoy and very much appreciate all the comments, and I believe it is part of my role as blog host to respond.

More cake!
And so here it is: the very first blog post from 5th May 2012. It had 12 views, and received one comment; I was thrilled!

'' This is my first post on my new blog. For anybody who does not know me: Let me introduce myself to you. I am a fiction writer - I have written eleven teenage books, four of which are still in print (published by Usborne). I have written for the Times Ed and two short stories for the BBC. Right now, I have completed my first adult novel, which took me three years to research and write, and have just been told by my agent that it will be 'very difficult' to sell it to a publisher.

By 'very difficult' I think she means that I am not famous, drop dead gorgeous or a celeb. i.e. so what publisher gives a stuff how good it is. I hope she does not mean that it is a load of rubbish. Because it isn't. Anyway, after a few days feeling so damn angry I contemplated deleting the whole thing, I have decided to publish it as an e-book and bid a final farewell to the mainstream publishing industry and all its devious little ways.
Even more cake!

The book is set in 1860 London, a period I really find interesting. It is called Diamond Girl, and is a murder mystery. So, this blog is the start of its journey. I shall keep you informed of my progress.

On other fronts: my campaign to stop the local council from building ''affordable'' houses on a disused allotment site near my house is ongoing. I am the chair of a community action group; we have submitted a Town Green application to the County Council to block access to any future developer.

The final decision will be made on May 23rd.  Fingers are crossed and deities are being supplicated! Beloved Husband has just asked whether I'd like to go into town - a sop before he settles down in front of the TV to watch the Cup Final. Oho, I am not fooled for one moment! However, I am not in position to refuse, as I need to visit the local library for more books. I write therefore I read. ''

So Happy Birthday Blog, and hopefully, we will all be celebrating next year as well!! Ah - The PINK SOFA has now lit the candles, poured the prosecco, and is tuning up its springs ready for a good sing-song. So, if you have nowhere better to be, and nothing better to do, have a seat and join in the birthday celebrations! We will be cutting the cakes shortly.

(The wonderful birthday cakes have been supplied by fellow writer, friend and cake-crafter Tina K Burton. She makes them to order, so if you want a special cake for a special occasion - and let's face it, who doesn't - contact her on Twitter @TinaKBurton)

Okay friends: deep breath and all together:......