We gave untold small children in our condo nightmares that year.
Friday, October 31, 2008
We gave untold small children in our condo nightmares that year.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I can’t go into Emporium without stopping by Kinokuniya bookshop – even when there isn’t a specific title I want. There is never a time that I don’t want to stop by any bookshop: bookshops are my church. And what luck, they were just setting up their sale table. They have periodic sales where the fiction tends to be 100 Thai Baht (£1.70ish) and the non-fiction paperbacks are 300 Baht. So I bought this bundle of goodies for just 1000 baht (look at it in Baht and it sounds much cheaper than the £17 in sterling!)
When I got home I got my second parcel of the week! How lucky am I? It was a free copy of ‘An Old Fashioned Arrangement’ by Susie Vereker. The blurb sounds great so I’m very excited about reading it. I shall report back.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I’ve had lots of help from a man I don’t know, called Peter. He has been answering my questions about a first edition book that I’ve never seen and cannot find an image of on the internet. The book ‘appears’ in my novel and I need to know what it looks like. He’s emailed back and forth enclosing answers and now images. He couldn’t have been more helpful. Thank you Peter.
My sister has asked a friend of the family if he can help with questions about local building/planning applications for a very small subplot and I’ve now emailed him.
My poor brother is still being bombarded with emails about complicated medical complaints - I think I'm maybe running down his reserves of goodwill.
But I’ve still not heard back from either of my ‘classics’ connections.
Nor have I had a reply to the antiquarian bookseller my sister put me on to. If there’s anyone out there who knows one that might be willing to answer a few questions, please can you email me?
And a biochemist? Anyone manage to put me in touch with one of them?
All contacts gratefully received.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Look at my new, gorgeous notebook. It’s a belated birthday present from the loveliest Leigh. It scores on so many levels:
- A gift
- A parcel in the real post
- A notebook
- Illustrated with classic Penguins
- Handbag sized
- With elastic to stop the pages scuffing (this is SO important. Readers, please don’t underestimate the necessity for this simple piece of stretchy design.
So today, I was a bit nervous of starting and finding I’d got nothing to say. The 150 odd words I did yesterday brings my total up to 15,000, so first I went off to add that to my sidebar so that I could glow in the words I have achieved. Then I did the rounds of the updated blogs, and well, bloody hell, she’s gone and done it again: Calistro has some fantastic news that’s given me another kick up the backside. So I’m off now to do some writing … whether I’ve got anything to say or not.
I shall report back. Please send me frightening emails if I don't.
UPDATE: 704 words
Monday, October 27, 2008
Yesterday Son, Daughter and I went to lunch at the Londoner, where we reminisced about this holiday.
In the summer of 2004 we went on a cycling holiday to Suffolk under the illusion that Suffolk was flat. I think it may be flat in a car, but it's most certainly not flat on bicycles. We had the best time.
We cycled between 20 and 30 miles a day, and Daughter (that little shrimp on the left) was only eight!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
There have been times when I haven’t been able to say here – on my space – what I really wanted to say because the people who’ve caused the anxiety read my blog. And even when they’ve made me feel crap, I actually don't want to hurt them in return: I don’t seek vengeance for myself. (Upset my husband or my children, and I’ll post dog sh*t through your door - s’okay, I’ll only talk about it, I’ve never actually done it! However, I could tell you the people who’ve made me want to do it.) Upset me and I want to explode and shout and scream; not as revenge but as a total lack of control and then, when I cool down I'm mortified. I have, I think, finally learned not to act in haste, but to wait, wait, wait, wait and then, finally, wait a bit more. It’s not growing up that’s made me learn this, it’s because I really hate having to apologise for overreacting after I’ve cooled down.
I shouldn’t blog today but this is my space. There’s something bothering me that’s been posted, in response I believe, to something I’ve said, that’s put my nose out of joint. I guess one runs that risk if one’s blog is open but it’s still disappointing.
I am going to give the benefit of the doubt this time.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
First Cambodia was cancelled; then we tried to go to Koh Samet but we couldn’t find any accommodation with vacancies (Thursday last week was a bank holiday so lots of people were having long weekends.) As a last resort we booked a hotel that I saw advertised in the complimentary magazine of Bangkok Airways on my return from Koh Chang.
We went down on Wednesday morning and were due to come back tomorrow. However, we came back yesterday…
Husband had been having some pain for the last week or so in the elbow of his right arm, this got worse and worse and crept up to his neck until Wednesday night he barely slept. And Thursday night he didn’t sleep. So Friday morning we packed up, and asked the hotel to please drive us back to Bangkok so Husband could go to the hospital.
He had an x-ray, which didn’t show anything wrong and then an MRI scan. We went back for the results today and his vertebrae 5&6 and 6&7 have discs protruding into the nerve. I have to say I’m relieved. I’m a doctor’s daughter and sister, which is a very hazardous thing to be: “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing…”
So that’s been what’s stopping me writing these last few days – not just the report coming back. Now that I know Husband’s not got anything more sinister, I think I’ll be able to start writing again.
Friday, October 24, 2008
So what was it like?
I have a good eye for detail. This works for and against me: I have to learn when to desist from shovelling more and more on with a spade. Less is more.
Sometimes I write with ‘great verve’ and sometimes I try too hard and it sounds ‘pedestrian.’ *winces* I wonder if I can work out which passages are which.
If I cannot come up with a simile or metaphor which says, with originality, exactly what I want it to say, I shouldn’t use one. When I have come up with a corker, I should desist from shovelling more and more on with a spade. I should also abstain from repeating myself when I think I’ve said something clever!
My main character needs more work. My more minor characters are shaping up nicely.
My dialogue is on the whole strong. I have a good ear for the way people talk at cross purposes and fail to finish sentences. My long dialogue scene between Marina and Jean is excellent, and Marina’s response is totally believable.
My mentor enjoyed my story. She thought it was a good read with the promise of some really good conflict. She is interested in the characters and wants to know what will become of them.
So very useful: assuming I can identify the pedestrian from the ‘great verve.’ It would be absolutely typical of me to edit out all the great verve and leave in the dull. My other main concern is the development of the main character.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I like these quizzy things. I stole this one from Kevin. I was always going to do an art quiz. I think the fact that I've got a fine art degree (and have therefore been trained in looking at art) has skewn the personality results a bit: I really don't see myself as a visionary although I agree that I'm a bit of a non-conformist.
Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...
Non-conformist, Visionary, and Independent
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which exists independently of what may appear to others as visual realities. Western had been underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. It allowed the progressive thinking artists to show a different side to the world around them. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a 'new kind of art' which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. Abstract artists created art that was diverse and reflected the social and intellectual turmoil in all areas of Western culture.
People that chose abstract art as their preferred artform tend to be visionsaries. They see things in the world around them and in people that others may miss because they look beyond what is visual only with the eye. They rely on their inner thoughts and feelings in dealing with the world around them instead of on what they are told they should think and feel. They feel freed from the tendancy to be bound by traditional thought and experiences. They look more toward their own ideas and experiences than what they are told by their religious upbringing or from scientific evidence. They tend to like to prove theories themselves instead of relying on the insight or ideas of others. They are not bound by common and mundane, but like to travel and have new experiences. They value intelligence, but they also enjoy a challenge. They can be rather argumentative when they are being forced or feel as if they are being forced to conform.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Anyway, the lovely people at Simplicity International have sorted out our wifi problems and I'm giving them a plug because they were very good. When we changed Daughter's bedroom for the office we moved the modem to the new office and my writing place ... which is really a dressing room area, was the only one to suffer.
Husband has tried twice to get some sort of booster in to work with the existing modem but they resolutely refused to speak to each other. He was delighted that Simplicity's engineer had to make several trips because it wasn't straight forward so I have zippy internet service, and Husband has saved face.
Simplicity cover Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket. They came the same day we called. They were very reasonably priced and although the engineers English was basic, they rang their office and someone with excellent English explained the problem to me.
Now, I haven't written today. I'm feeling bad (for not writing and bad tempered - for several reasons). I really should write even if my mood makes me resistant.
Monday, October 20, 2008
It is SERIOUS SHOPPING, not for the faint of heart. The first year I went, I must have been so marked out as an amateur … I took my handbag. Now, I take a shopping bag… on wheels. Oh you can laugh at the ‘old lady’ with her shopping trolley, but I’ll be laughing at the end of the day.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the lot until this year. I think I’ve covered maybe half but I was determined this year to finish. I paced myself really well: regular pit stops, lots of water, and I finished about an hour from the end. Quite a few Christmas presents bought.
I told you it was serious shopping, so for those who’ve shopped seriously, there’s Thai massage: yes really.
I apologise for the quality of this picture, but how I wished I could’ve been wheeled out in a basket.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
At the same time as thinking her mother lived ‘in the olden days,’ Daughter routinely knocked ten years off my age. Sadly, in the last few years she’s got wise to this and remembers my correct age.
Living in Bangkok, I can believe that the world might once have been black and white. Something that’s always struck me about this place is its tendency to transform into exactly that: monochrome.
Black and white is what I woke up to this morning (8am-ish). I wanted to show you this to dispel the idea that I live in some tropical bliss.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
1. Where is your mobile? Here
2. Where is your significant other? Work
3. Your hair colour? Boring
4. Your mother? Kent
5. Your father? Kent
6. Your favorite thing? Tea
7. Your dream last night? Bizarre
8. Your dream/goal? publication
9. The room you're in? Office
10. Your hobby? Sleeping
11. Your fear? Loss
12. Where do you want to be in six years? With Husband
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. What you're not? Thin
15. One of your wish-list items? Thinness
16. Where you grew up? Kent
17. The last thing you did? Blogged
18. What are you wearing? clothes
19. Your TV? Crap
20. Your pets? UK
21. Your computer? ThinkPad
22. Your mood? Good
23. Missing someone? Lucy
24. Your car? None
25. Something you're not wearing? socks
26. Favourite shop? Books
27. Your summer? UK
28. Love someone? Lots
29. Your favorite color? Orange
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Monday
I'd like to pass on this award to: You! if you haven't done it yet.
Friday, October 17, 2008
This is my birthday cake as made by Daughter yesterday. We're holed up in the apartment for the start of the holiday, and with nothing to decorate the cake with, she used jam! I love it.
Fighting broke out on my birthday on the Thai/Cambodian border over a land dispute. We were going to Cambodia next week - I am beginning to wonder at our travel plans being jinxed - but we've decided not to go. We've changed our plans to stay safe. We'll go to the beach, my three can scuba dive and I can write.
My writing is going well. I sent my first 10,000 words to my mentor yesterday along with a 'sort of synopsis' which was the first time I had managed to cobble together on paper what the plan was. I am really excited about getting some feedback.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"On the Colin Firth affair, [Ohh. THAT word] not much more to say really. He was extremely sexy in a very rough sort of way [Ohh.] (as in an unshaven, just got out of bed sort of way!!! [Ohhhhhh]), although he looked older without makeup! [La la la *fingers in ears*] Saw him twice, the first time my friend asked him if he would have his photo taken with us as it was our friend’s birthday - and he turn us down - said in his very awkward way (just like his characters) that he was waiting for his wife and family [Oh…]. The second time when we got on his plane (well the film festival plane actually) we were trying very hard not to appear like stalkers (in fear of being chucked off). But did see his gorgeous wife [Oh…] and beautiful little girl. He also had an older son who was doing all the PA announcements. So it was very exciting for us girls, but Colin was oblivious!" [COLIN… first name terms!]
Am maintaining jealousy of lucky, lucky sister in law.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Gosh, it’s almost worth it.
Husband is a lovely man, but he’s really crap in the tea department. He says it’s because I’m impossible. I’m not; I’ve just got specific standards when it comes to tea. (Water must be boiling, tea must be brewed for 4-6 minutes and then not drowned with milk; simple eh? The mug’s got to be the right one, but that’s not difficult, is it? He could always refer back to my mug post if he’s confused.)
He said ‘if that’s your idea of a lovely birthday: my making you tea all day…’ But do you suppose he thinks he’ll get away without making me tea for the other 364 days?
He’s always trying to rush the tea, but if he thinks you can just brew inadequately and then add milk to make the colour right, he’s very much mistaken. I can tell the opacity of the liquid is wrong. And the taste of course, that’s not right either. Nothing makes him huff and puff more than when I tell him I’m timing the tea he’s making me. Gosh, that does make me sound a bit of a tea fascist, doesn’t it?
But the idea of having him (good naturedly – because Oh Yes, I’d hold him to making tea with a smile on his face!) making tea at my command, really does appeal.
Perhaps I could have a little bell that I ring when I fancy tea …
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I didn’t have a very good writing day yesterday. I wrote about 300 words – which given that I had all day, isn’t so brilliant. (Alright, it’s 300 more than I had…) On Sunday I rewrote the 700 words that my editing had removed from my total of 12,000.
So I have now more than enough words to send my mentor … who has accepted me as her mentee (Hurrah. Having spoken to me, TLC select from their list suitable mentors and my words are sent to her – in this case - to see if she feels she can help me. This is because the mentor must both feel empathy for the work she is mentoring.) I’ve put aside those words – currently 2 ½ chapters and I’m categorically not going to look at them again until they come back from the mentor. NO MORE FIDDLING, I PROMISE, SCARY EMAIL WOMAN.
I’ve been in to school for a meeting (on the obscenely early 6.40am school bus which, OMG, I make my children do every single Mon-Fri) – and while there I had the brilliant idea that if I registered for the library I could get a couple of research books for my wip – except there were no books on Greek Drama. Now excuse me for being pompous for a minute, but how can you teach Drama without telling kids about Classical Drama? How? On my way back from school I stopped at the secondhand bookshop Dasa Books and picked up a couple of Greek plays … I will reread these to immerse myself in the subject and they had a great big book on Greeks and Greek homosexuality! I bought this because it’s roughly (not really at all) in the right area. Really, I thought it might be fun to read, but I’m a bit like that I’m afraid. It might make me a bit of a nerd.
Today, I am full of anxiety for … just about everything. Here’s my list. I’m hoping that writing it down will be cathartic:
- I have a headache and want a little lie down= no work
- Tomorrow is my birthday and Husband has taken the day off = no work.
- The kids break up for half term tomorrow for ten days= very little work
- Next week we got to Seam Reap in Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat = not much available energy for writing.
- The letter from TLC tells me that I will spend the next 9 months sending in my six lots of 10,000 words, and then I will finish the mss and it will go in to be read.
Anyway, there are only four things on my list of worries which isn’t so bad, is it? But my nail is now stumpy. See, I’m a reformed nail biter… which means I can never relax: relapse is just around the corner. The worse thing for me is if I have a jaggedy bit of nail and I don’t file or cut it, I just slip it in my mouth ‘to neaten it up’ and the next thing I know it’s gone!
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I’m not entirely sure why I went. I was at least 25 years too old, but one has to grasp at any booky thing here. I’m not inundated with choice. I haven't read any of her books, but in order to enter into the spirit of the thing I bought a copy of ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’ which, as it turns out, isn’t the first one. No matter.
So did I learn anything? Possibly, should I ever need to be at my own book signing. She was funny, friendly, gorgeous (I particularly loved the print of her dress) and was quite the consummate professional. If the fans didn’t already love her, I am quite sure they will now.
She left a lovely message here for fans of the store. See if you can spot me in the audience!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I am GREEN.
This is what she said:
“I just got back from a trip to Brittany. Went with group of 13 girls!!! Stayed one of the two nights at mum’s and roughed it at friend's the other night. We managed to get ourselves lost on the way back to the airport and missed our flight!! We were trying to work out how and when we could get back to the husbands and kids when we managed to hitch a ride on a private charter flight carrying no less than Mr Darcy himself!! Colin was travelling back from the Brittany film festival along with other actors and film directors and the PR Company took pity on us and let us on their plane. Miracles do happen!”
OH MY GOD.
Did I mention I was green?
Friday, October 10, 2008
Take a look at how scary it is:
“The only other thing I'd say, and I know I've said this before, is that while I do understand why you're polishing this to get it where you want it to be for your mentor, and that makes sense, you do need to get the rest written. You can't truly finish this bit until you've written the whole thing. You've been back in Bangkok for over a week now and I haven't noticed your word counter going up. Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag... but I think that's part of what I'm for! I know you did loads in Koh Chang, and that was great, but let me quote back to you your own words from 30th September: 'Hopefully I’ve learned that if I can write flat out here, I can get on and do that in Bangkok too.' Well???”
I have just got a little bit of sorting out to do so that it’s ready to send to the mentor when she’s finalised. But I’m making a promise, that from Monday I am on fresh words…
Please feel free to send me frightening emails demanding explanations for why my word counter hasn’t risen.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I had a conversation with the coordinator yesterday. This was to give her an idea of what I was like … so she can match me to the right mentor. She said ‘when we talk of a mentor, do you think male or female or doesn’t the thought occur to you?’ and I said ‘female.’
When I was at Art College a lot of my work was labelled ‘women’s art’ in a snotty, derisive way. Our lecturers (mostly male) were lovely, and tried to explain if I made work that was gender specific, I was wiping out half the potential viewers. I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t take my femaleness out of my experience of making art. I don’t accept that that makes my work less important, less good or less anything and I won’t apologise for it.
I am fairly sure my writing will be the same.
Let’s look at the evidence: the main character is a woman; of the next five characters four are women. There are two other main male characters and they are both dead! Hmmmm, interesting. The mentoring coordinator has read my first chapter and agreed with me.
Anyway this won’t do – I don’t know where that soapbox moment came from - I must pull myself together and do some work.
I should really turn off the soundtrack to Mamma Mia. I can’t write with music on … and particularly not when I’m warbling enthusiastically but tunelessly along with it. It’s most off putting.
But I’m rather enjoying it. In my dreams I sing so well ♪ ‘Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight…’ ♪ although the snorting, mocking laughter that Husband’s just emitted might pour scorn on that idea.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My friend S has moved to Delhi since then. Last month she visited Bangkok and she told me she comes to visit with an empty suitcase because she can get more things here in Thailand than she can in India. We chuckle about how all things are relative… I ask if she has space for a bedspread that I really want to get from Delhi – a replacement for one that’s falling apart after 20 years. She tells me she’s happy to get it and will bring it in November. We swap emails about details until she’s in possession of my bedspread.
Her trip to Bangkok has been cancelled, but she’s going to Singapore. With Husband’s help we arrange for his nice colleague A who is based in Singapore office to take in the bedspread at the office. (The bedspread is shown around colleagues to mixed reception! Cheek of it!)
One of Husband’s Thai colleagues, B, is going to Singapore. Would she be kind enough to bring back the bedspread for JJ? “Sure,” she says, “but I won’t release it into your care until you get me a copy of Delia Smith’s roast potatoes recipe.”
(Kind Thai colleague B collected the bedspread today, but was rather shocked as it turned out not to be what she thought she had heard Husband ask her to collect. She said to Colleague A, where is the "pest spray" you need me to take back?)
Bilingual Chinese whispers aside, I like to see it’s not just money that makes the world go round.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Classics, it’s perfect. I studied it at, in the words of Edmund Blackadder, “one of the three great universities… Oxford; Cambridge; Hull…” One tiny problem is that all my textbooks are currently residing 6,000 miles away in the attic of our house in the UK. But, there is another wee problem. I’m sure I’ve told you this before, Husband says I know so little about the subject that I did my first degree in, that really, I’m obliged to give my certificate back to the university.
So I got to thinking some more. One of our cohort went on with his study and is still an academic of the subject. Oh so, straightforward: a little bit of googling and I found an email address for him at a British university. I’m
Not a nanosecond went by and I got a bounce-back from Mailer-Daemon. Who the hell is Mailer Daemon anyway? And how did he know so quickly that clever friend from many years ago is no longer at said university?
Well, I checked, but Facebook, Friends Reunited etc isn’t his thing, but he was listed on the university alumni site – they will forward my message to him. But they may think he’s at the useless email address too. And how long will it take? Oh well, it’s gone now, so let’s see. There’s always his publisher too. I suppose I should try that next.
Next on the list of people to contact, is clever brother who’s a doctor. I’ve only just discovered the god complex of writing. I don’t feel it with all writing because crap stuff happens in books to nice people. However, when I’m killing someone off – even before the story starts, I take great delight in how I kill the not so nice characters off.
Finally, I’ve got a contact from my sister for someone who deals in secondhand books… but that’s written on the back of an envelope currently residing somewhere in my paper mountain: hmmm that could take some time to find too.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I am feeling all relaxed and light of problems. This is my last day on Koh Chang and the rainy season has gone away for the day … but still I’m at my laptop. (I ♥ my laptop.)
Calistro left a comment yesterday that made me laugh; she said: ‘…that’s utterly astonishing… Have I missed something? How did you go from writing 100 words a day on Helen’s blog to well over a 1000? I want some of that fairy dust please!’ and then after chuckling again at her tone of total incredulity, it made me think. These are my tips:
- Sign up for a mentoring scheme in which you will submit 10,000 words for critiquing when in reality you have only 4,000 words of your ‘masterpiece’ written.
- Have a lovely Husband, who despite writing course being cancelled, lets you ago anyway to gorgeous jungley island all on your lonesome while he holds the fort at home.
- Have people on your sidelines, shouting for you: encouraging, having faith and then shouting some more. (I know it’s not the most exciting blogging; me telling you how many words I wrote today, and what DVD I’m watching… so thank you for still appearing here!)
In truth, it’s not just those points, and it’s funny that it was Calistro that made me think about it, because it sort of started with her.
It’s hard work, this writing lark. I know that – if you came here telling me it was just sitting on my lardy arse and typing, well, I’d say ‘it’s not, it’s hard work.’ I knew that. I’d read it in multiple ‘how to’ books, I’d heard it from writers, I’d read it on the internet. I knew.
It started a few weeks ago when Calistro got her agent. I was so pleased for her – she really has worked hard for it … and she works full time. I felt utter delight; I knew I wasn’t near that situation so my reaction didn’t involve an iota of envy. I was 4,000 words in and I could see that I had a long way to go before justifiably feeling ‘why not me?’
It spurred me on. It made me think ‘I want that to be me…’ So I began to think about it: about how to do it, about how to get to that situation so that even if there are no guarantees, at least to get to a place where your manuscript goes out.
My TLC writing holiday got cancelled and I felt sad but I recognised my need for feedback. I’d got no real idea if what I was doing was right. So fast forward to the idea of mentoring with TLC: my excerpt came back with some good things on it. It was better than I hoped for and it had suggested to my reader that, albeit assessed only from one chapter, I might possibly be in possession of the skills required to do this.
‘I did that chapter,’ I thought. ‘It was hard but I shaped it and put the things into that she thought demonstrated that potentially I might possess the ability to do this. So right … (can you hear those cogs turning?) if I can do it with one chapter, I can do it with the next.’
Slowly – because clearly I’m not very bright – it began to dawn on me. The writing is really tough. It’s HARD. Am I the only one who hadn’t comprehended this? Am I the only total twit who hadn’t grasped the fact that, not only is it not easy, it’s actually, really bloody difficult?
So, if you’ve read this far, you’re going to say ‘Yes? And your point, JJ, is what?’
And, well, I suppose my point is – I suppose I have a couple of points: that ability or talent is irrelevant if you don’t do the hard graft … there really isn’t any ‘fairy dust’? And while I knew all along that it was tough, I guess I didn’t really quite believe it; until now.