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Sunday, 31 May 2015

May contain traces of Scone and Rock..

Being as it was half term and I had started a new book, a little research trippette was called for, so I have just returned from a couple of days in what is known in our house, due to a mishearing incident at an early age, as The Late District.

You know when you sit down and look at a map, and it's all 'come hither' with its Historic Site of Interest and Prehistoric Monument stuff?  Well, I fell for it.  And packing not much more than enough sherbet lemons for the drive and wielding a map covered in beckoning red symbols, we set off.  This is not as impressive as it sounds, the Late District is only a couple of hours drive from North Yorkshire, unless you stop for an impressive number of cream teas on the way.
...which I might have. Or might not.  All I'm saying is, Acorn Bank, and a herb garden that can kill you on a windy day.  Anyway.

Our first target was Long Meg, a standing stone and stone circle, located...well, somewhere. On the map it was just sitting alongside a road, a fairly minor road to be sure but still...  Well, we drove for so long that our sherbet lemon supply was severely depleted before we found, half hidden in a hedgerow, overgrown with grasses and with a sign on the gate saying 'Beware of the Leopard', a sign pointing us in the right direction.  Whereupon we found Long Meg.
Long Meg not pictured, since this is looking the other way. Long Meg's backside, you might say..
And it was brilliant! A huge stone circle, all atmospheric and nearly deserted. Honestly, apart from a few people coming and going there was nobody else there. And free!  Well, I researched the hell out of it... although when I tried to take pictures my phone went all pink and peculiar and I had to walk about until it settled down, so either there is some kind of Psychic Activity going on, or my phone had got too hot in the car. So, in fact, had I, and the sherbet lemons had a terrible revenge...

Anyway.  Later, after a boat trip on Ullswater which resulted in my running through a forest for a mile and a half (long story, remind me later), we went to another stone circle, and what a contrast!

Castlerigg was packed! And there was an ice cream van!
99 plus flake not shown
After all the driving and sherbet lemon eating, I was not as indignant about the ice cream as you may have imagined. And, at first, when I saw children climbing on the stones and people eating their picnics, I wanted to be indignant. But then I thought, hang on. If these circles were built by people as meeting places for trading and general chit chat at certain times of year... wouldn't there always have been children climbing over them? Bronze Age parents were no less liable to being distracted than modern ones, and Bronze Age children were probably no less likely to exclaim 'I'm booorrrrrred' and wander off and form clusters with other children to play 'let's see who can break their arm falling off this stone first' and other such games.

 And while the Bronze Age communal feasting may have contained less sausage rolls and cones with flakes in, I can almost bet that people have been sitting in that stone circle while their dogs peed and their children played hide-and-seek among the stones, complaining about the chilly wind for thousands of years.

And suddenly the Bronze Age seemed a lot closer...and thus, easier to write about. Not sure I'm going to be able to look a sherbet lemon in the face for a while though.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A confusion of book...why I Don't Want to Talk About It is like a large poo..

Well, that's it on book number nine - I just turned in the final edits today! Which is weird because book number eight (clue...this one)
has only just been released into the wild.  It's odd, this publishing whirl, because the book that is uppermost in your mind is always the book you are currently working on - in my case that's the Bronze Age timeslip, Living in the Past. Next uppermost, or to put it more succinctly, bobbing around just under the surface, like that 'thing' in the garden pond that you hope is a frog but rather suspect is a large poo, is the book that you're just editing, which is I Don't Want to Talk About It - the book I've just turned in those final edits for.  Next one down in the geological layers which are my brain is the book I've just finished writing, which is the Tea Shop Book, which has had several different titles but is most commonly known as Crush.Then, and only then, do I get to the book which has just been released, ie, How I Wonder What You Are. Which leads to an awful scenario..thus..

Questioner (usually someone looking for a topic of conversation): How is your book doing?
Me (in my normal state of baffled-but-pleased-someone-is-talking-to-me): Oh, not too badly. A bit sticky in places though.
Q: Really? What, like with jam?
M: Well, with ideas, mostly. I've got a really difficult plot point 3,000 years ago.
Q: But it's already out, isn't it?
M: Er. (slowly) What does the cover look like?
Q: You don't know what the cover of your own book looks like?

And then I go for a bit of a lie down.  I have no idea how authors who have three or four books out every year get on - they probably just say "fine," whenever they're asked how the book is doing, just on general principle. Anyway. This being a Bank Holiday weekend, and half term and everything, I am off to do a bit of Bronze Age research, only not the uncomfortable, living-without-pants, sort of research, no. I rather thought I'd wander wistfully around some Bronze Age sites, pat some stones, gaze into the distance whilst saying 'of course, this would all have been covered in trees, you know' and then find a really nice tea shop for a sit down and a cake.

And worry about what that 'thing' bobbing around in the pond actually is..
Poo not shown.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Suspension of Alpha Billionaires..I mean, disbelief.

I've never been much of a one for alpha-billionaires. No, let me put that another way, alpha-billionaires have never much been one for me.

I've always been told off for my inability to suspend my disbelief, and I'm even worse when it comes to books, and when I read (or write) romance, I have to half-believe that the hero could, given the opportunity, actually fall for me.  Of course, this does presuppose a degree of blindness and/or mental incapacity on the part of the hero, but not nearly as much as would be required to make a billionaire fall for me.

This isn't false modesty. It isn't even real modesty. I mean, I'm still upright, I have most of my own teeth although I am quite positive that the two front ones were stolen from a Derby winner one debauched night, my hair is... shiny and my nose is cold. I am, in fact, a perfectly attractive and healthy dog. And, when it comes to heroes, I am confident of my ability to gain the attention of one.  However.  I prefer my men not to 'instantly know what I need/like', if I need/like something I shall tell them, thank you very much, not have them tell me.  Where I come from, that's not Alpha, that's bossy.  And while I am sure a man who knows what he wants is all very well in the short term, I'm not sure I could put up with it for thirty years plus.

"You want a new sink."
"Er, no, actually, I quite like this one, it's the right height and.."
"No. You want a new one. I've ordered it, it arrives tomorrow."
"But I like this one!"
"No. You don't..." etc

'By the Power of Greyskull - you're getting a new sink whether you want one or not!'

And, billionaires?  Have you seen the women they end up with?  For a start, very few of them look as though their teeth belonged once belonged to a horse.

All this is why I write heroes who are...dare I say it...realistic. Even if, by some terrible fluke they happen to find themselves reasonably well off, they tend to have problem that means the world of women is not universally open to them.  So, basically, I write the type of man I find attractive... and who might, conceivably, fall in love with me. So, no billionaires.  By the way, has anyone ever encountered a billionaire who isn't an Alpha?  Because, although I'm not particularly bothered reading about people with enough money to solve most problems, I'd quite like to be introduced to one in real life...
Sadly, none of my heroes are based on Lovely Tony...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Verticality - to authors what table tennis is to cats...and the terror of the Author Picture

In honour of the paperback appearance of How I Wonder What You Are...(go ahead, check it out, I'll wait...) and because the sun was shining, I decided that now was the time to get a new author photo.  Now, I am an author for several reasons, and only one of those reasons is that I don't have to get my face out in public, but sometimes people need to know what you look like, even if it's only so that they can avoid you at gatherings.  So, in the interests of alerting people to my presence, I thought it was only fair that a truly representative picture should be achieved.

So I went over onto our immaculate village green, my own garden being in a state of dandelion and puppy, and posed, whilst DD1, who has some experience in these matters, pointed a camera at my face.  The grass was wet. I got damp pants in the interests of trying to look 'authorly'. Plus, I was wearing a new top (to look writerly), clean trousers (so as not to look too writerly, because we all know most writers wear their trousers until it's only the dirt holding them up), and, for some unholy reason, heels.  I wore the heels because I actually, and misguidedly, thought that some of the pictures might be of, you know, me vertical. Even though verticality is to authors what table-tennis is to cats (we might experiment with it from time to time, but it's not really for us, we don't have the right equipment and things bend in the middle and occasionally snap shut at inopportune moments). Anyway.  Here, in glorious technicolour, is a picture that I feel is representative of me and my writing..
And also my surprise at being in front of the camera. Damp pants not shown.

Also taken was a photograph of how authors really come by their books - it's a little known fact that we don't, in fact, write them, we just wait until the conditions are right and then harvest them from fields. Like aubergines.
Or it might be anchovies. I forget.

But, eventually, and after some faffing during which my pants got wet, dried out, and then got wet again, DD1 (whose name is Vienna, incidentally) managed to capture me, nail me to the ground, and forced me to have an expression that wouldn't make people want to run away.  So, here it is, in all its glory - my new author picture..
Ta, as they say, dah!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Legs like gateposts; why I never did ballet, but was horsey instead...

I was a horse-mad child.  Well, actually I was a mad child, but horses were definitely in the mix.  It's probably just as well, because when I was young, for girls it was either horses or ballet, and, let's face it, ballet and I were never meant to be.  I can't do the tights, for a start.  Ballet is all neat hair and tutus, legs and shoes, and I am not noted for any of these things.
I mean, I have legs, of course I do, otherwise my bottom would be even lower than it is, but my legs would never look like this. In fact, in a pair of pale tights, my legs have been mistaken for gateposts more than once, which was fine right up until someone tried to park their Audi Q7 in my driveway, if you pardon the expression.

So, since ballet was out of the equation, given my legs and total lack of poise, grace and tutus, I took to horses.  I've occasionally been asked, by people who've read How I Wonder What You Are (out in paperback from next Thursday) about my riding history, since How I Wonder features the inestimable Stan, a horse for whom the word 'recalcitrant' may have been invented.  Horses in fiction are, I have found, almost inevitably spirited and elegant, all wind-tossed manes and powerfully muscled bodies.
Stan is to these horses as I am to ballet dancing. And my experience with horses is as far removed from stylish, elegant riding as - well, as it is from ballet dancing.  I am what is best described as an 'efficient' rider.  I can ride across country, I can do dressage, I can, and have, ridden racehorses (although not in races, see above re my low-lying bottom). But in none of these activities am I anything other than flailing arms and legs, cries of 'wwwwoooooooooooooaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!; and a triumph of a very low centre of gravity.

Which explains why our family pony, Jack, on whom Stan is not so much modelled as grafted, was a Fell pony with the temperament and build of a large sideboard.
This is Jack, with my sons. Demonstrating his usual level of activity and his wonderful temperament. And, unlike Stan, he very rarely attempted to eat people....