Friday 28 September 2012

Keeping It Green

One day, I shall probably stop caring about things. I shan't mind that Indie writers can no longer sign books in Waterstones. I won't fret that future teenagers will have to sit gender discriminatory EBaccs, (had letter in Guardian; missed it? never mind). I'll even stand back and let the Town Council build all over our local urban green space. 

As some of you know, it is almost exactly five years since I started my campaign stop a green field near where I live from being covered in Tesco School of Architecture houses. Two years ago, I put in a Town Green application, as the field used to be part of an old Common. Both Town and District councils objected. Wonder why? Just heard recently that in December, there will be a Public Inquiry to settle the matter, hopefully once and for all.

Applying for Town Green Status has been a tremendous undertaking. I have learned a great deal about Housing Acts, Land Acts, Open Spaces Acts, and things people got up to on the field in the old days. I have also learned about what goes on behind the scenes in local government, thanks to the Freedom of Information requests, which are submitted regularly in a variety of names.

Because this is an area of social housing, the community cannot afford a lawyer to represent them at the Inquiry, so guess who will be acting as lay advocate? A rather steep learning curve for a pensioner with only a 'lower second' in English and Archaeology. 

However, we are extremely lucky in having the support of the Open Spaces Society, and the editor of the local paper, who publishes informative articles telling other residents what we're up to, plus my sarky letters about local councillors and their so-called ''green'' agenda.

 Researching the history of the land has unearthed some fascinating stuff. The best discovery so far is a deed of conveyance signed by Apsley Cherry Garrard, whose family lived locally. Apsley Cherry Garrard was on Scott's ill-fated Polar Exploration. Aged 24, he found Scott and his companions frozen to death in their hut. The discovery subsequently triggered a complete nervous breakdown. 

So, that's the current state of play on the local campaign, which now slogs on towards December. Why do I bother to pile into things all the time? I really don't know, sorry. Maybe because somebody has to. One day I shall probably stop caring. 

But not, I think, quite yet.

Next week: Another fine guest will be ensconced on the Pink Sofa, primed and ready to share their writing experience. Don't miss it.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Unwelcome At Waterstones

To my usually warm and welcoming Waterstones this week, diary in hand, to arrange a pre- Christmas signing session for my Spy Girl books. Should have noticed something was wrong from the way the temperature started dropping the moment I approached the desk. 

It dropped further as the Events Manager, talking embarassedly to a spot over my left shoulder, said that under new policy, they were not doing book signings as they used to. An ice sheet began to form as she explained that now I'd have to apply via email. A woolly mammoth wondered past as she said I might be allowed, as I am stocked by the chain, and a 'known' local writer. But it would be time limited and 'managed'.

It appears that the relationship has generally soured because writers have been seen approaching customers, and talking about their books, like literary chuggers. Can't have that! Worse, a few writers have purportedly been rude to people, and there have been complaints. Really? I find this hard to believe. Most writers I know are self-effacing, low profile individuals. I suspect the complainees were probably friends of rival writers, sent in to cause trouble: a clear example of sock-customers

In the olden days when it used to be Waterstone's (with apostrophe) local writers were encouraged to come in, sell and sign. I began my writing career with a very small, non-mainstream stocked publisher, signing in big chains, and the numerous small independent bookshops that existed back then. Indeed, in Waterstone's, there was a special shelf for local writers. I was on that shelf, and proud to be so. It is not there any more. 

When Daunt took over, he promised an end to publishers paying for premium positioning, central buying, and the ubiquitous bogof tables. He promised stores would be given more autonomy. It appears that a U-turn has happened. I've been told of writers with new books out,who've had some signing events cancelled. The quirkiness and integrity of a truly local bookshop has been kicked over a cliff. And this time, there are no small local bookshops to provide an alternative.

Look, I am too old and creaky to chain myself to Waterstones' railings and stage a one woman writer protest, and I do not ask others to do what I am not prepared to do myself.

So this is what I'm suggesting: If you are a writer, or a reader, or a customer of some sort, go into your local Waterstones. Politely point out the unfairness of the change in events policy which discriminates in favour of already stocked, and established writers.

Point out the demoralizing effect of closing the doors on some for whom writing is a passion they are no longer allowed to share publicly. If you mention, politely, your disquiet, I'm hoping it will give the staff some leverage; I got the distinct impression they were not happy over this top-down imposition either.

I believe that bookshops should be vibrant, exciting places, where all writers ought to be welcome to share their work. I believe that books do not come out of a cardboard box labelled stock, or in a package with an Amazon label stuck to the front; books come from the minds and emotions and hearts of their authors. 

If you also believe this, please go into Waterstones, and tell them.

*I have started a small 'Tell Waterstones' Twitter campaign. I am Tweeting ''Your events policy is unfair. Please re-consider'' + blog link to @Waterstones. Every time a store tweets a promo, I tweet them the link too, because the promo includes the Twitter link to the (well-known) and welcomed author. I'd love them to share some of your experiences. No writer is an Island! *

Saturday 15 September 2012

The PINK SOFA welcomes: Cara Cooper

Cara Cooper

The PINK SOFA has been brushed clean of cake crumbs, bits of novel, and the odd cat. Now it is ready to host its first guest: the lovely Cara Cooper. Cara is a member of the RNA and the Crime Writers Association; she writes heart-warming novels, the sort that make you smile and go 'Aaahh' on the last page.

 I really enjoyed The Sanctuary, and recommend it highly - not only for the story, but for the luscious descriptions of food. I guarantee you will end the book with a tear in your eye and a craving for crab sandwiches!

 I first met Cara online when I started blogging, and trying to inch my way slowly into the writing community. Cara welcomed me, befriended me, and supported me in those early days, which she is still doing. She loves dancing, and those of us who follow her blog are frequently entertained by stories of her dances, and her life in London.

 But recently, Cara's writing has taken a different turn. Here, she shares it with us. Over to you, Cara:

''Lately, I have turned to crime! Writing that is, not committing it. I wrote a cosy crime/romance novel some while ago which My Weekly published as a pocket novel called Take a Chance. It will hopefully be shortly published as an e-book by Astraea Press.
It was my take on a classic country house mystery with Lady Margrave as the enigmatic lady of the manor. Marie is the heroine, a newcomer plunged into an exciting but potentially dangerous world.

The gardener and a detective who comes to solve the thefts of precious antiques at the house are the men vying for her affection. I am at present working on another. This one is a little more gritty and as inspiration I have been watching the 'Murder She Wrote' series on TV. It was one of the most successful and long-running TV shows in history, with close to 23 million viewers in its prime, and was a staple Sunday night lineup for a decade.
Cara's latest novel

Some of the story lines were ingenious and the characterisation always good with the wise novel-writing television detective played by Angela Lansbury. That got me thinking about well loved TV detectives and what makes them interesting, compelling, memorable characters. I shall definitely think of these when I am writing my new cosy crime, with an amateur sleuth I hope I may develop to have her own series of books.

Sherlock Holmes: very intelligent, almost a genius, fearless, brave, pipe deerstalker.
Colombo: Observant, worldly wise, fools people into thinking he is harmless when he is in fact on the ball. Cigar, raincoat.
Miss Marple: Nosy (or if we are going to be nice,inquisitive), appeared to be nothing more than an innocent little old lady, observant, handbag, twinset and pearls.
Wallander: Family man, tenacious and sees things though to the end, wise, very good to his subordinates.
Jack Frost: Wry humour, slight deathwish so doesn't care about his own safety, probably because his wife is dead. Doesn't look after himself, modest (embarrassed by his medal for bravery), disillusioned with life, so presumes the worst of people, but compassionate, trilby hat, raincoat.
Morse: Highly intelligent, pushes the boundaries, suspicious of authority, Jaguar car, classical music, Oxford connection, unlucky in love.

What do you think? Do you have any favourite sleuths, amateur or otherwise who I have missed, and what makes them memorable?''

Cara is published by Xcite (Healing Love and Safe Harbour). her novel The Sanctuary is published by Astraea. Her novels are also available as e-books and all can be bought via Amazon. 
Cara's blog is at:

Saturday 8 September 2012

Dude, where's my narrative gone?

So ... why does everybody nowadays start their sentences with 'So'?  I haven't a clue. I'm afraid I have taken to jumping in with: 'a needle pulling thread' every time they do, though. I find it irritates them a lot, and as I head slowly and inexorably towards the tunnel at the end of the light, irritating people is becoming a bit of a lifestyle choice.

But back to the Victorian novel. You remember the Victorian novel? The one my agent said had waayy too many plots and characters to make it worth sending out. (Did Dickens' agent ever admonish him for having a plot'n'character surfeit? I think not.)

Anyway while you, gentle blog reader had forgotten all about the Victorian novel, it has been quietly festering away on a back burner, to mix metaphors. Two minor plots were summarily removed, even though it meant shedding some amusing sub-characters that I thought were rather well-written, but hey, what do I know, I'm just the author.

And there has been some serious editorial BDSM. Paragraphs have been whipped into shape. Ruthless control and domination has been exerted. Cutting and slashing has been the order of the day, all culminating in eleven thousand words lying gasping and panting on the Red Pen Floor of Pain, or wherever words go when you press the delete key. 

At one point, I did begin to wonder whether I was on the cusp of invent a brand new literary genre: The Postit novel -  for readers with absolutely no interest in reading. 

And then, just when I was congratulating myself on some fine, if drastic reduction, it happened: a whole new sub-plot suddenly emerged. Honestly guv, never saw it coming; would I lie to you? 

It was like that record of Sparky's Magic Piano, if anyone remembers it. (For those who don't: there was this boy called Sparky who had a magic piano that played itself, but everyone thought it was him. Eventually, the piano took over completely, and it all went horribly pear-shaped.)

So (used correctly) this is where we are at: I'm trying to cut things out, but at every turn new plots are springing up all over the place and fresh characters are creeping out of the undergrowth and for whatever reason, I seem utterly powerless to stop it happening. The more I edit, the more the text sprouts new bits, like some literary Hydra.

Please could someone out there call the Plot Police - my novel is committing crimes against narrative!

Next blog: Another fine guest will be joining me to talk about their life and writing. Stay reading.

Saturday 1 September 2012

My Lovely Blog Award

A Lovely Award for My Blog

Thank you to Juliet Greenwood author of 'Eden's Garden' for nominating me for this lovely blog award.

The Rules for this Award  are as follows: 

1.Thank the person nominating you for the award:

Once again, many thanks to Juliet for not only nominating this very 'young' blog, but also for being a warm, supportive, helpful and encouraging writer-friend on my journey. Check out Juliet's books, and her exquisitely beautiful author site at: http://Juliet It is like walking into the cool green countryside.

2. List TEN things about yourself:


3. Nominate SIX blogs that you think deserve the Kreativ Blogger Award

The Grand Canal

1. My favourite place in the world is Venice

Magnus, my Roman Snail

2. I belong to the Conchological Society of Great Britain: my area of expertise is Helix Pomatia (Roman Snails). I have 2 in my garden.

Don't do this at home!

3. In February, at the age of 61, I had my first tattoo: I have the words: Be not afeard  on the inside of my right arm. These words are spoken by Caliban in 'The Tempest'. I had the tattoo done 'live' on air on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme as part of their 'Leap for Leap Year' listener project.

4. All my father's family, except for one brother, perished in the Holocaust.

5. My pink 1988 customized Citroen car is called Annie-Rose. I am a member of 2CVGB. I show Annie-Rose at car meets.

6. In 1966, age 16, I helped organise an anti Vietnam War demonstration in my home town. As a result, I was on the American Embassy blacklist for many years.

A sunbathing flute

7. I play the flute, rather badly. I failed my Grade 8 flute exam by 1 mark!

8. I have an allotment in my back garden. I grow lots of Charlotte potatoes.

Yummy Charlottes

9. When I was 47, I went back to university and re-trained as a secondary school English teacher. I was the oldest student in my cohort.

10. In my spare time (!) I  make patchwork
A Sampler quilt


My 6 nominees for their amazing, creative, inspirational blogs are:

Nikki Goodman:

Cara Cooper:

Chris Hill:

Sheryl Browne:

Mandy K James:

Kate Hardy: