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Sunday, 30 January 2011

The marzipan/old lady slippers correlation effect, and why licking plasterboard and liking David Suchet are inextricably intertwined

Marzipan.  Delicious yellow cake covering or food of the Devil?  Discuss.

 Seriously.  If you can look at this picture without flinching, you're over eighteen.

There is a point to this, just hold on, I'll get there in a minute.

I always hated marzipan.  Many a fruitcake has been picked to shreds by yours truly in her formative years, carefully dissecting the icing layer to remove any stray molecules of almondy stuff.  In fact it's a wonder I didn't go into forensic medicine, such was my attention to detail.  And then, suddenly one day, (probably in the middle of an unsuspected Battenburg, slipped onto my plate by a 'friend' whilst I was busy holding forth on some subject dear to my heart), I realised that it wasn't so bad after all.  All right, a bit unnaturally yellow, but so is Dale Winton.  Although I suppose he's more orangey, but in a bad light he's a dead ringer for a sponge finger.  Anyway.  I was a marzipanular convert.

This means that I now eat Christmas cake with all the fervour of a cult-junkie instead of nibbling round the icing like an explosives expert entering a mine field.  All right, this has repercussions for the size of my bottom, but it also made me start thinking (well, I had to, can't leave the house any more.  It's only a matter of days before I have to start cleaning myself with a rag on a stick - damn you, marzipan!).  Remember all those things you hated when you were a child?  And I'm talking about food items here, not other things like whiskery aunts, next-door's dog, Mrs Adams from Class One and those faceless zombie things your friend showed you a picture of and now teases you because you refuse to go to upstairs alone unless all the lights are on and the downstairs door is kept open.

Things like dark chocolate.  Marmite.  Old-man's leg cheese (that's the cheese with those blue veins in, not cheese that smells like an old man's leg, because that would suppose knowledge that you would never admit to having).  How many of these things have you come around to liking, now that you have a full set of adult teeth and your own Council Tax bill?  Seriously, what happens to the taste buds as we get older?  Am I going to find that, in say ten years time, I enjoy the taste of wet plasterboard?  And how many of my other tastes have changed beyond recognition?  Sadly, I no longer find Adam Ant the pinacle of male desirability and I find myself dreading the inevitable slide towards lusting after such well-known objects of desire as David Suchet and nice upright chairs.

Likewise, I am teetering on the borderline between quietly dribbling over these:

and thinking that maybe I'd be better off in these:

So.  Next time you find yourself hesitating between a packet of Haribo and a tube of Werthers Originals, just remember, it's only a short hop from Old Man Sweets to listening to Charles Aznevour and wondering whatever happened to horse-drawn omnibuses.

And keep your hands off the marzipan.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Novel Pregnancy - or why being a tart ought to win you prizes.

Launching a new book is a bit like giving birth to a fully-grown man.

All right, you can stop wincing now, and crossing your legs and making all those faces, obviously it's not exactly like giving birth to a full grown man, otherwise we'd only ever produce the one and then have to go for a long lie down and wonder where we went wrong and why he never phones.  But.  It is a bit like it.

I realise that now I have to explain myself, otherwise you are all going to spend the day shaking your heads slowly and muttering about 'poor Jane' and how it all went to her head and how she's obviously only moments away from running down the road with a pencil up her nose, shouting 'wibble!'  So, here I go.

When you write a book you spend many months gestating.  Not only during the actual writing process (which is more like being pregnant than I care to remember - you spend a lot of time sitting down and getting fat and everyone keeps asking you when it's coming out), but thinking up names for your book and being persuaded by people that 'Ethelred' probably won't stand it in good stead.  You worry about how it's going to get on on those big-bad shelves, where it will get bullied by Nora Roberts and Marian Keyes.  And you worry about its appearance - will it be glossy and poised and classy?  Or will it have odd eyes and be the novel equivalent of ginger?  (Apologies there to my auburn friends, who all know that I have nothing personally against those of the red-haired persuasion, and all remember that embarrassing time with the man who came to fix the fume cupboard..ahem).

 Meet Ethelred.  Twenty four months gestation, three months of hard labour, and not even a Mothers' Day card.  Bastard.

And when it comes to appearance, you can't even do the pregnancy equivalent of finding the best looking man you can in order to ensure a reasonable looking progeny.  You have to trust in a cover-art person whom you never meet! Who might have three thumbs and a squint!

And then it's all too late to worry, and it's coming out and there's nothing you can do about it but brace yourself and try to find something firm to bite on. Because labour is nothing to actually getting a book out there.  To launch a novel involves more pushing than launching a boat.  You shove and you force yourself onto people who also push on your behalf and before you know it there's a whole team of people all heaving in an unseemly way and hopefully getting sweaty and grubby.  And then, with one huge POP (in my case that huge pop will take place on 01 February), the book is there, blinking in the bright lights and taking its first liberties with the readers' affections.  But, unlike a child, which you get to nurture and encourage and drop on its head a bit, this Ethelred is standing on its own already!  Wandering around and shoving its hand up the skirts of the ill-prepared!

It no longer needs you.  And, after all that effort, all that is left is to make sure it pulls up its socks and takes the world by storm.  And, while it still retains that place in your heart that is peculiar to your firstborn, you must let it go, and work on the literary coy looks and low-cut blouses that are necessary in order to fertilise the next idea and grow yourself a new novel.

 And you'll never get yourself a Booker like that.  Although I'm off to give it a shot...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Radio hairdos, sunflower impersonations and why my postman carries Vaseline.

I'm on the radio soon.  28th, to be precise. Radio York, 3.15, for anyone who wants to tune in.  Now, I know about radios - they're those little boxes that sit in the corner and chatter, and have NO PICTURE.  I know this.

So why was my first reaction, on hearing that said radio event was going to take place TO BOOK A HAIRDRESSER'S APPOINTMENT?  I mean, bearing in mind the actual radio studio in question is, at the moment, above a Domino's Pizza Parlour in York, I could stagger in wearing my dressing gown and with my usual 'Coco The Clown' hairstyle and no-one would know or care.  But no.  Still, I suppose I stopped short of booking a manicure or a personal shopper.

But then, I am sitting here writing this in full make up and wearing a cocktail frock.

 This is how I will look.  Although I might need more than my hair done.  And do you think Ann Summers still sell those things in the front?

Now.  In other news.  My guest post on LoveRomancePassion has appeared, giving anyone who, in a momentary oversight, does not yet possess a copy of Please Don't Stop the Music yet another chance to win one, this time by talking about a shopping experience.  In that post I briefly mention the time I got stuck in a dress in New Look (yes, I know, but it was a long time ago, all right?  In those days I had every right to be trying on dresses made four sizes smaller than it says on the label).  I attempted to pull said dress off over my head and became...jammed.  The dress had frilled around my (slightly chubby) face and gave me, allegedly, an acute resemblance to a sunflower in some distress.

I danced around that changing room like a Van Gogh cartoon for ages, until my friend managed to pull it off, whereupon we had to hang it back up and run like crazy, hoping no-one had heard the rending of stitchery.  That experience completed my aversion therapy to shopping, and now, through the wonders of Internet shopping, I am free to become jammed in the clothing of my choice in the comfort of my own home.  Where both the postman and the milkman have become used to being summoned into my front room by myself, stuck in all manner of clothing, and indeed, now carry a vat of Vaseline, rubber gloves and a shoehorn in order to be of more assistance.  We will pass over the incident with the corset swiftly and with no further comment.

 They did well to get me out of this one.  Look, it said Size 12 on the label...  But I've grown my hair since then...

Oh, and in one last note, each page of this blog is now a mere three entries long, not, as it used to be, me rambling on for months at a time.  And I heard that sigh of relief, you at the back!  This is to facilitate those who load it in a mobile format.  Apparently.  Yes, I don't know what it means either, perhaps it's got wheels or something.  I don't know.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Problems of Blumberjacking (and another competition)

It may not have escaped your notice (in fact it had better not, otherwise I am coming round to your house and shouting through your letterbox), that I am presently a Blumberjack.

Like it?  I'm rather proud of it as a word myself.  My reasoning went this way... if someone who does a lot of stuff with logs is a lumberjack, then someone who does a lot with see where I'm going with this?  So.  I find myself in the midst of a rather nice blog tour, inserting myself into other people's writings with aplomb (which isn't, as I recently found out, a fruit bomb.  I was disappointed, since I sort of specialise in detonating apples and bananas at people) and otherwise rambling about my book (Please Don't Stop the Music, available for pre-order, and published by Choc Lit Publishing on 01 February)

So far I have been hosted at The Nut Press, where the squirrels were most welcoming, and a lucky person won a copy of the book (see above for details), and presently I am sitting purring amid the blog at Strictly Writing, where I am informing those kind enough to drop by about my lack of television watching habits.

There's also another chance to win a copy of THE BOOK over there, running at THIS VERY MOMENT, by telling us there about your favourite Rock Star.  Now, as I pointed out, this is an anomaly, since stars most self evidently are balls of gas undergoing nuclear fusion in order to throw out heat and light.  A star made of rock would be...well, not really much of a star, more of a..well, a rock.

A star.  Self evidently, not rock.

Anyway, you'll have to pop over there yourselves to see if I made any sensible contribution to the conversation.  And, as of next Saturday I shall be at LoveRomancePassion.  What I shall say there is, as yet, undecided.  Which is where my blumberjacking problem comes in.  When visiting someone else's blog, and let us just assume here that said blog is a tidy, organised place with clean carpets and a nice sofa - and no squirrels - then is it allowed for visiting blumberjack to come in and take over the place?  Dropping crisps and bits of cake all over the floor, trampling the literary version of mud through the entire wordage and leaving the seat up on the metaphorical toilet?

I like to think I am well behaved under these circumstances.  But then I also like to think that I am tall, thin and have the sex appeal of Karen Gillan (without, of course, the unfortunate accent).  So, my question of the moment is - how much do I try to fit in with these Other Blogs?  Here, naturally, I am free to run around without my trousers on and a paper clip up my nose shouting 'What Ho, here come the badgers!' and nobody minds, because this is MY blog.  Mine, do you hear me!  MINE!!!!

I'm sorry.  Apparently I have to go for a little lie down.

But think of me....

Sunday, 2 January 2011

I Resolve to be promiscuous. Read on, there's a competition...

I don't make New Year's Resolutions.

Now, partly this is because, by the time I've sobered up and raised my head from the pillow, unglued my eyes and managed to get at least mostly vertical, it is already February and people are asking me what I'm doing for Valentine's Day so it's far too late.  And partly it's because I wouldn't know where to start.

Most people have just one core imperfection - you know, they need to do something with their hair, or to give more to charity or to clean the bath more than once a year.  This makes Resoluting easy.  Unfortunately, short of a major rebuild or a team of SWAT cleaners, there's not much to be done about my housekeeping.  Ditto my cooking.  One year I made a resolution to cook one home-made meal a day, to eschew the frozen section of Tesco's (do I mean eschew?  Isn't that a sneeze?  Oh well, carry on and hope they don't notice) and lovingly hand-craft pies, stews and fricassees for my family's gustatory delight.

Yeah.  Won't be doing that again.  People came by just to LAUGH and POINT.  Can you imagine?  Never mind, I got my own back.  One flapjack and most of them will never dance the tarantella again..
And the rest of them daren't get down...

So anyway.  The nearest I have come this year to Resolution, is to promise that I shall be promiscuous.  Now, for all those of you currently clutching your sides and phoning me up to tell me that a resolution is supposed to make you change your life, and not to enable you to have even more fun than you currently do, please let me finish my sentence.

I resolve to be promiscuous with my book marketing.  To leave no blog unvisited, no 'comments' section un..err..commented - and all in the interests of getting Please Don't Stop the Music in those reader charts.

Just to refresh your memories.

And, to whet your considerable appetites (I saw you at the Boxing Day table, good grief, it was like some kind of automated device), I am blogging at where, for the next few days, by the simple expedient of telling us your Darkest Secret, you may be in with a chance of winning a copy of the book!

So what are you waiting for?  Get on over there and tell us all about that time you were sick over a minor member of Parliament!  Oh, no, sorry, that was me.

Go!  Fly, you fools!

And I shall sit here and think about how I may improve my life.  Yeah, right, you all know I'm going to be finishing up the Bailey's Truffles, don't you?