Diary of a frightened writer, 16 September 2014

Today has been a day of tidying up and taking stock, checking notebooks and drafts, starting to shift some editing to make way in the working day, and some short writing to keep that writing muscle exercised. I’ve made some decisions, I’ve tidied up my workspace and writing bag, and I’ve started work.

twee tales 2

Twee Tales One
Twee Tales One is my first anthology of short stories. For those not already in possession of a copy, here’s a link. ;-)

Twee Tales Too
I’ve collated 10 stories so far and have designed the cover. At the moment it’s sitting at 12,977 words. I need just 2 more stories, preferably longer ones, and then this one will be going into production.

Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book One
I’ve decided that I’m going to start to electronic-ify (!) this paperback and make the ebook free. The paperback will still be paid for as there are production costs still involved with a proper, tangible book.

Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book Two
I’ve decided I’m going to start collating the posts from 2006 onwards into the second book. I’ve already got the cover designed (it’s a blue version of Book One) (that’s blue the colour, rather than blue the content … ahem …), and again the paperback will be paid for, probably the same price as Book One, but the ebook will be free.

The Beast Within is the sequel to Night Crawler and currently stands at 5,098 words.

Catch the Rainbow is the prequel to Night Crawler and currently stands at 9,743 words.

I’ll probably alternate between these 2 books for my long projects. When I run out of steam on one, I’ll leave it to percolate while I work on the other. Then, hopefully, by the time I run out of steam on that one and go back, I’ll have lots of ideas formulating in my head.

We Also Served
I need to sit down and look at what interview material I already have and try and knock it into shape so I can make a sample first chapter. The publisher interested in it only wants to see one sample chapter, whereas they usually ask to see the first 3 chapters.

They are waiting for this outline and sample chapter; there’s apparently a 3-book contract waiting on it too. I need to build this work into my working week.

my weeklyShort writing work
Today I’ve written a short review for the blog of 425 words and the first draft of a reader’s letter of 43 words.

Next jobs on the short writing work list are the first draft of a new short story, The Complete Angler, and the second draft of a filler for the Guardian newspaper.

This short story and the next one I want to complete, Breaking the Ice, are the 2 I’m hoping to add to Twee Tales Too. If it comes up too short, I have a very short-short (of 60 words) that can come out, and the next story on the list, Don’t Break a Leg, can go in.

This week I have a short story in My Weekly called Alexandra’s Ragtag Band. This was a story I wrote for a competition 2 years ago. It started out as 1,750 words, and when My Weekly accepted it for publication, they asked me to pare it down to 1,400 words. And, of course, I obliged. My original version of this story is already in Twee Tales Too.

Each week or so, usually at least every fortnight, I also write a very short walks report, apx 300 words, which I then send to 6 local newspapers. This is the only free work I do. It’s for a charity group I used to be a member of and it keeps me in the sights of the various newspaper editors. Unfortunately, I’m no longer a member of the charity and shouldn’t really be doing the publicity for them, so I’m handing over the reins of this one to someone else in the group in October. I’m hoping this will free up some time to concentrate on all of this other work.

Editing
I’m currently in the middle of a first hard-copy edit of a non-fiction book. I’m hoping that will be done tomorrow so I can start the electronic edit and get it sent back to the client. The next job on the editing list is a new novel from a fairly new repeat client. I’ve given myself until the end of next week to get that done.

In between these 2 jobs I have a book blurb to check for another non-fiction about to be published. I also have another new client who is sending me an hour’s-worth of work each week consisting of 2 or 3 very short essays.

This editing and proofreading work is my bread and butter, or my “day job”.

Summary
So, I hope that helps me to prioritise and organise myself back into kicking butt and churning out some work. Itemising it all has certainly helped straighten things out for me.

And now, at 10:30pm, and after quite a busy day, I go to bed to read. :-)

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The Gonzo Comedy Club

On Saturday we went along to the Gonzo Comedy Club in Holmfirth – we like Holmfirth and have even been looking at property there. It was my first time ever to a live comedy show … well, apart from Freddie Starr at the Night Out in Birmingham … and the Barron Knights at the New Cresta in Solihull … and Freddie Starr (again) at the Metrodome in Barnsley … but apart from all of those …

A muso friend of mine, Ian Seaburn, is the host at the comedy club and we only saw the event by accident when he shared a newspaper story on Facebook. We didn’t have anything planned and we like something a bit different, plus we like to support our friends, and I know Ian from a goth band from Huddersfield, Rhombus. He’s not with them any more, but they all still keep in touch.

Our table was reserved for us …

comedy fest 2

… we couldn’t get any closer to the front …

comedy fest 1

… and the 4 acts + host were right in our faces. But we had a great time.

Ian, the host, without a guitar or his customary dark make-up to hide behind, was a little nervous. But he did his job and kept it going.

First up was Kev Eadie, an energetic start to the show with a penchant for fruit. Then we saw Dean Moore, a smoggie (from Middlesbrough) who likes fruit a little less. The last act of the first half was Raj AC, whose famous parents may surprise you. Raj also sang a little song or two. (I thought the guitar was Ian’s when we got there.)

After a 20 minute break, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe came Rachel Fairburn, all the way from Manchester. Rachel kept us satirically and darkly entertained for the next hour and even had free colouring books to hand out – of serial killers.

The atmosphere was friendly and cosy, all of the seats were filled, and we really did have a good time. If I had to say anything constructive, I’d like to have biographies of each act available or details of how I could find out more about them, although I did that anyway with the help of Google and Ian’s own links in order to write this post.

I’d also like proper packets of peanuts available from the bar instead of cordon-bleu-prepared-assorted-nuts. And more advertising. Two young ladies there saw a flyer in a local café, but I think they should also consider Diane’s Gig List;-)

But apart from that, it was a good evening and I’m sure we’ll be going again.

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Diary of a frightened writer, 15 September 2014

*** WARNING ***
*** STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS ALERT ***

Earlier today, this morning, I posted a poll to the blog to find out what readers would like to see. We’re only 1 day into that poll, but already I’ve had one person say they’d liker fewer personal posts and another say they’d like fewer posts full stop. So here’s an extra writerly post for the first person. And, well, apologies to the second …

For those who have been following me for a while – some since 2005 – you may have noticed I seem to be stalling on some of my writing projects.

Today I started to read a book, Writing Journal: a year in the life of a self-published author, by Scott Haworth. It’s free on Kindle, so if you’d like to nip along and grab a copy for yourself, I’ll wait …

… do you have it? Good. Well, in the very first chapter he says that he’s scared that the sequel he’s currently working on won’t be as good as the original.

And I felt a hallelujah moment, because that’s exactly how I feel about The Beast Within, a sequel to Night Crawler.

coverNight Crawler is a funny book with a main character, Marcie Craig, who lots of people either love or hate. I’d been thinking about the story for months, years even before actually writing any of it down, and when I did write it down, it only took me 3 months to write the first draft.

That was in 1996 … and while I did spend 14 years trying to sell it before Ulverscroft picked up the large print edition of my self-published version, I was also thinking about the sequel.

Several times I’ve started to actually write the sequel, and each time I’ve stumbled.

Because I’m scared to death it won’t be as good or as funny or as substantial as the first.

I’m also writing a prequel, another story I’ve been thinking about for years, Catch the Rainbow, which doesn’t even feature Marcie Craig, other than in a cameo role aged 10.

This book has also stalled several times, and I think it’s because it’s in a different voice, and might even be in a different viewpoint perspective. It also requires research, and I don’t want to get the research wrong because the book is set against the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 and there are a lot of people around who still remember that night and would rather forget it.

As if that isn’t enough to be going along with, for the past year or so I’ve been promising one of the publishers I edit and proofread for a book about National Servicemen. The publisher doesn’t just want this book, We Also Served: voices from our National Service, but they want 2 others as well.

These non-fiction books are going to take more research again, and I need to carry out interviews with elderly people. There aren’t that many elderly people who are computer literate, so I need to see them face-to-face. I also need to borrow their precious photographs.

Before I get cracking I need to provide an updated outline for the national service book and a sample first chapter. I have material for a sample first chapter, but I worry that I won’t find enough interviewees or they won’t have enough photographs I can borrow (it needs to be 40,000 words with 80 – 100 photographs) or it just won’t be meaty enough. But once I’ve sent them this (and written it), we’re apparently good to go. I have a sitter waiting to happen, and I’m dragging my feet!

So I’m scared. Scared of each of these fairly big projects.

And, apart from all of that, I’m also writing short material – readers’ letters, fillers, short stories, anecdotes, readers’ true experiences. This is to keep the writing muscle exercised and to have material out there earning its keep so I can afford to spend time writing the big stuff.

BUT … I need to just go for it and do it. I have a very supportive partner who wants me to do it. I have a wonderful work environment in which to do it. I work from home, so can lie in if I wish and work until midnight if I have to … (ahem, checks clock … midnight’s 15 minutes away). I can be at home with the pets. And I don’t have to panic about paying the bills, although I do have several responsibilities there.

So, with grateful thanks to Mr Haworth (good literary name, by the way, very Bronte-esque, but my new name will be better ;-) ), I’m going to give it a go. I’m not going to wait for NaNo to start. I’m going to start it tomorrow. And I’m going to bore everyone with how it’s going. I might also release Baggins Bottom: Best Bits Book One as a free ebook, just like Mr Haworth has with his journal, and see if that has a knock-on effect with the other books.

Wish me luck.

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Chilled weekend and a poll

We had a chilled weekend, which after weeks of rushing around and enforced separation was really very nice.

Friday night we didn’t do anything after I collected the poet from the station. Saturday we went shopping during the day, watched a football game during the afternoon (emotive – Birmingham City v Leeds United ended in a 1 – 1 draw, which was handy), and to a comedy club during the evening. We enjoyed that, it made a nice change, and it was good to see a friend I’d not seen in a while.

Sunday we were going to go fishing or walking or something, but we decided to potter in the garden a little (which also required a quick drive to the garden centre first), watch some telly, and have a proper Sunday dinner (roast chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, roast potatoes, boiled new potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy). Then we watched some more telly.

This morning he went off to Scotland again, once I’d taken him to the station, and now I have another week of busyness to keep me occupied.

Poll
I try to cover a lot of things on the blog to maintain interest. It was initially set up to keep in touch with friends and family in the West Midlands when I moved to Yorkshire and quickly became a writing blog. I also cover music news, some personal stuff, tales from our travels, photographs, anything that might make it more interesting.

While I still get hundreds of readers every month, comments have dwindled down to none just recently. And I’m wondering why this is – and whether or not to continue with a public blog or make it a private one.

So, here’s a poll to find out what readers want, and please also leave any pertinent comments in the space below.

Thank you for your participation.

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Productive week

Despite being on my own again this week, it’s been a productive one.

First of all I won 2 jobs, and one of them I turned around the same day. The second one is a nice biggie, and it starts today or Monday, depending on how I get on with what I already have – probably Monday, but I’ve allowed 2 weeks for it.

I got a final revision in from a regular client and, again, I turned it around the same day. Some things just work better with the touch-it-once mentality. Had I not just turned them both around and sent them on their merry ways, they would have been thrown into the to-do basket with everything else.

I’ve been plodding through a new edit for lovely-already-boss and I hope to have that one done by the end of today or by midday Monday.

My writer’s boot camp has come into its own finally, with me completing the following:

  • 4 outlines – 3 short stories and 1 filler
  • #1 of a filler
  • #2 of a 1,402-word short story
  • #3 of a Reader’s True Experience (RTE)
  • final draft of another RTE, polished and submitted

The latter one I edited down from over 2,700 words to bang on 1,200 words. The required length? 1,200 words. :-D The short story needed to be 1,400 words too, so I think I did quite well on those two.

NEWS JUST IN: That RTE I submitted yesterday has just been accepted. :-D

I’d like to do more boot camp today, but I’d also like to finish the current 1st hard-copy edit, so I need to decide which is more important to me.

The next job to do on the short WiP list is the first draft of one of the short stories I outlined. That’s always a hard one for me, and I like most of the story to be inside my head before I start. I think it needs to percolate a little more, but I may just get a burst of enthusiasm when I least expect it.

The next job after that one is a 2nd draft of the filler, so I might just skip to that one for now, just to keep the writing muscle exercised. Further proof that the short WiP schedule is not cast in stone.

I’ll be collecting the poet again from the station at teatime today, so I have until 5:30pm to finish today’s work.

I don’t think we’re doing anything tonight, but we’re shopping tomorrow and going to a comedy show tomorrow night. If the weather’s okay, we may also do a spot of river fishing at some point over the weekend. He’s not done that in a while, and it gives me chance to read or do more boot camp, depending on what I feel like. The dog also gets extra walks, which means I do too.

Or, we may go for a walk or just a day out.

We could also hear from son #1 again this weekend, though, wanting to move that furniture. But we’ll deal with that if and when it happens.

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a goodun. ;-)

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Where do I start?

What another fantastic weekend we’ve had here in Baggins Bottom. It all went by in such a whirl, though, I hardly know where to start.

The poet was working from home for part of Friday, so that’s always nice, and during our lunch break he took me to the dentist. After work, we did the shopping. Then Friday evening we ventured out to have a look at Doncaster Live.

We personally thought the event itself was very poor. We caught the tail end of one band and watched another all the way through, which was great. But then some disco-diva has-been came on and started singing and dancing along to backing tracks. As if that isn’t not-live enough (we thought the clue might be in the event title – Doncaster LIVE), the next act was a flipping DJ. Playing records. Where’s the live in that? So Doncaster Live wasn’t really this year, and we decided not to go back the next day either.

However, we did instead do a bit of a pub-crawl of Doncaster and the poet was able to show me some of his stomping grounds of old, including a pub he’s never, ever taken a partner to before, mostly because it was a bit of a taboo, him and friends only. But he enjoyed taking me there because he knew I’d like it. They call it the Vintage Rock Bar now, but in those days it was Beethams. And it really reminded me of my own rock “local” in Birmingham, the Costermonger.

So that turned out well in the end.

P1030821

At Doncaster Live. (Picture: Jeanette Phillips)

On Saturday we were supposed to be going to Birmingham to see my parents, but the poet’s son #1 asked us to help him move some furniture with him, so we moved Birmingham to Sunday and awaited his call. When it came it was to say he couldn’t afford the van hire this week, and could we do it another time, to which we said “of course”.

That left us at a bit of a loose end, so when I was asked what I’d like to do instead, I said I’d like to see the sea. And so we drove to Flamborough Head, initially to see the puffins as well. We saw lots of gannets, a few kittiwakes and, of course, the sea. But the puffins didn’t show for us. We had a lovely walk along Bempton Cliffs, though.

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Gannets, beak-tapping on Bempton Cliffs. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Sunday we did manage to get along to see my parents, and we had a really nice visit with them. On the way back, however, we received an SOS from son #2 who had broken down on the M62. We were a few hours away at the time, but by the time we got closer he was still stranded, so we helped him to get home. Unfortunately, his car hasn’t fared quite so well.

Then the poet got to do some more fishing, back at one of his personal favourites, Hayfield Fisheries. He had a slow start but once he started catching, they were whoppers. He lost a couple too (naturally), but he had a nice time and I was able to do some work.

P1030873

This one was so lively it almost jumped out of the net – look at that concentrated determination to keep it there on Ian’s face. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

I took a writing bag with me which, this week, currently consists of the following:

  • 1 non-fiction history book to edit (in the black folder)
  • #2 of a short story to write (in the green shorthand notebook)
  • #3 of an article to write (in the orange A4 notebook)
  • 1 article to edit (in the pink A4 folder)
  • my WiP progress/outlines/market information (in the A5 Pukka notebook)
  • highlighter pens
  • pencil tin

I’ll also keep the Kindle in there and one magazine to read.

writing bag 2

The poet worked at home again yesterday, but today he’s left us – again. He’ll be back on Friday. We picked my car up from the garage last night after work. It’s nice to have it back.

I heard from 2 clients this morning – one is a new client and the other is a repeat client. Both have lots of work for me to do, which will keep me busy, along with what I already have in, for the next 3 weeks at least. I also have a nice little cheque to bank at some point. (Hurrah!)

Have a great week.

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The weekend beckons

The poet has just come to the end of his third week working in Scotland, and we’re both starting to notice it now. Hard. He has at least another week to go, but he could still be up there for another month after that. We’re not getting a lot done together during the week as a result, and so we’re having to cram a lot into the weekends.

BUT, it’s part of his job and his job’s what pays the bills. Doesn’t mean we have to like it, though.

So, this week has been busy catching up with work. I’ve sent a book back to the publisher for completion, after rejecting it on Monday (I rejected it), and my writer’s boot camp has finally started to pay off. Next week I should have some new material to send off on its merry way.

Yesterday evening we dropped my car in to have the exhaust looked at (if fell off a week ago last Tuesday). And the battery, and the rear screen washer, and the air bag warning  light, and the bonnet prop catch …

The mechanic has called us with a rough ball park figure to get it all fixed, and we won’t be driving it to the scrapyard just yet. We might not get it back until Monday, though, and even then if they can fit it in between the MOTs they already have booked in. It’s a good job I’m not as reliant upon it as I used to be.

I’ve had a dentist appointment this afternoon (boo!), then we grabbed something to eat and we nipped to the supermarket afterwards, only to be evacuated by the fire alarm. Then we got stuck in traffic coming home.

This evening we may go into Doncaster, as it’s Doncaster Live this weekend, and tomorrow we either go to Birmingham to visit the parents, or we help son #1 move some furniture from the garage to his house.

If we’re still up here, we may visit Doncaster again. If we go to Birmingham tomorrow, we may go fishing on Sunday or walking or anything else we feel like doing. But it all depends on son #1 and what we end up doing tomorrow.

On Monday the poet is working from home, then he’s off up to Scotland again Tuesday morning and won’t be back until Friday night.

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, have a good un.

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Boot camp (major list alert)

P1030806Ever since the poet went off to Scotland to work, just over two weeks ago, this pile of work has been sitting on a table in the living room waiting for me to go through it.

The binder consists of several ebook and worksheet pdfs:

  • 5 in 10: Create Five Short Stories in Ten Weeks by Devon Ellington
  • How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck: Learn to tell a complete story in 500 words by Holly Lisle
  • worksheets for The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors by Lynn Johnston
  • The Confident Freelancer by Lori Widmer and Devon Ellington
  • 7 Steps to Beating Page-One Rejections by Holly Lisle
  • Introduction to Plotting: Professional Plot Outline Mini-Course by Holly Lisle
  • 30 Tips for 30 Days: Kick Start Your Novel and Get Out of Your Own Way by Devon Ellington
  • worksheets for The 30 Day Novel Success Journal: Overcome Procrastination, Figure Out What Happens Next and Get Your Novel Written by Lynn Johnston (don’t ya just love those snappy titles?)
  • worksheets for The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16-step program guaranteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript by Evan Marshall
  • 2 more easy-way-to write books that may actually go straight in the recycle bin.

The pile also consists of 2 shorthand notebooks, 2 Pukka A5 notebooks, an A4 notebook and a pencil tin. I do love my pencil tins.

Aside from this pile, I also have books on the Kindle that I’m currently reading:

  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Writing Non-Fiction That Sells by Jackie Sherman
  • Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris

Now, as I said, this pile has been glaring at me from a coffee table in the living room for the best part of 3 weeks. And last night I finally settled down to sort it all out.

My notebooks usually consist of the following:

  • a shorthand notebook for ideas and outlines
  • a shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • an A4 notebook for draft 2s

I also have a see-through brightly coloured polypropylene folder (see picture) containing several A4 see-through brightly coloured plastic wallets, each containing a draft 3 awaiting proofing.

After last night I now have:

  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for ideas, notes, exercises, market information, WIP schedule
  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for outlines
  • 1 shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • 1 A4 notebook for draft 2s
  • 1 bright pink see-through polypropylene folder containing several bright yellow A4 see-through plastic wallets

Welcome to my own personal writer’s boot camp.

After last night, the main binder has gone back onto the bookshelf. When I’ve caught up with all the stuff I’ve already started, it’ll come back down again and I’ll go back to the beginning. Meanwhile, though …

I sorted through all of my notebooks filled with outlines and 1st drafts, discarded a few that really aren’t working, and came up with a brand new WIP schedule.

I shared a copy of my WIP schedule with blog readers before, and a few went slightly green at the gills at the thought of it, and at the seeming rigidity of it all. This WIP schedule is, in fact, written in pencil, which means it can be rubbed out if it isn’t working or if something comes in that’s more important. The order isn’t cast in stone either. If I need to get a January-related story to a short story market in the next few days, for example, then that comes to the top of the priority list.

Here’s what the first page of that WIP schedule now looks like, showing one project from start to finish:

O The Complete Angler SS

#1 Peters and Lee F

#2 Breaking the Ice SS (the 1st Stevie Tarot tale)

#3 My Operation RTE

E My 1970s Holiday Memories RTE

O Aren’t Men Daft RL

#1 The Complete Angler SS

#2 Peters and Lee F

#3 Breaking the Ice SS

E My Operation RTE

O Don’t Break a Leg SS

#1 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#2 The Complete Angler SS

 #3 Peters and Lee F

E Breaking the Ice SS

O Dancing on Ice SS

#1 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#2 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#3 The Complete Angler SS

E Peters and Lee F

O Shaking the Tree SS (a sequel to The Spirit of the Wind)

#1 Dancing on Ice SS

#2 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#3 Aren’t Men Daft RL

E The Complete Angler SS

(KEY: O = Outline; #1 = draft 1; #2 = draft 2; #3 = draft 3; E = Edit; SS = Short Story; F = Filler; RL = Reader’s Letter; RTE = Reader’s True Experience; WIP = Work In Progress)

I tick them off, or colour them with colour-coded highlighter pens, as I do them. Many of these projects were started off during my Camp NaNo in July.

For those of you still with us, this is how it always used to work before when I was prolific. I like the variety of working on something fresh, and I like to leave something bubbling away in the background while I work on something else. For me, the hardest parts are the outline stage and first draft. The rest comes really easy to me.

Aside from this short writing WIP, I also edit and proofread books and novels for clients. This is my bread-and-butter work, or what I now call the day job. I also have a couple of books of my own on the go.

Using this system for the short writing WIP means that once the 4th drafts have gone off on their merry ways, I have so many projects “out there” and so many more “in production” that a single rejection, or even a few at once, doesn’t faze me.

If I don’t have any editing or proofreading in, at least I still have plenty of other work to be getting on with. I just need much of it to be “out there” earning its keep.

Bag 2If I’m out fishing with the poet, the current WIP goes into a writing bag. Here’s one I prepared earlier, which includes an old diary and a purple polypropylene see-through folder that contains a novel, Catch the Rainbow I think is in this one. (I do love my polypropylene folders …)

Regular readers will have seen this picture before. It’s a different pencil tin (I do love my pencil tins …), and the black conference folder usually holds editing or proofreading.

So, with such a big to-do list just for the short writing WIP, I’d best crack on.

How do you work?

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The fun police

There’s been a bit of an ice bucket challenge going viral just lately, in case you’ve been living in a cave and missed it. And, as usual, there have been some very vocal people both for and against the fun awareness campaign for various reasons. While everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, however, I don’t personally believe that anyone has the right to tell other people what to do or what not to do based on their own beliefs.

For example, it’s been cited as a waste of water. Although I’m sure that where there are water shortages it probably hasn’t been done as much. And yes, I have seen at least one news story over the weekend about an island running out of water. But generally, the water has run back into the ground, or the bath, or whatever, and so will eventually end up back in our water supply again.

It’s been cited as a stupid waste of time. Even though it’s raised millions for charities, it has raised awareness for various charities and conditions, and it’s given a lot of people a lot of FUN – does anyone remember FUN? – and LAUGHTER – does anyone remember LAUGHTER …?

Some people have refused to do the challenge, because they’re ill, or don’t believe in it, or because they think they do enough for charity, or just because they don’t want to. Well, that’s their prerogative, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

And mostly the complaints have been the selected so-called charity spending hundreds of thousands on administration and executive boards and the like, despite, when you actually break it down, those “admin charges” accounting for less than 7% of total expenditure, although a lot of people who have joined in the challenge have elected to send their donation to a charity or good cause of their OWN CHOICE.

I don’t personally care whether anyone does the challenge or not. I think it’s been a lot of fun for those who have joined in, and it has raised a lot of money for a lot of well-known and less-known causes around the country. But I do wish the whingers would just stop whingeing about whatever they’re whingeing about and let people do or not do whatever they want to do, or don’t want to do.

10515219_10203376566633386_8282716501727311104_oI’ve not been nominated for the challenge, and I’m not sure I want to be. But if I am, I probably will do it, IF I WANT TO, and I’ll send MY donation to the charity or good cause of MY choice. I’ll also share the video on Facebook if I want to – last time I looked, MY Facebook page had MY name at the top of it and no one else’s.

The poet has done it and, bless his heart, he didn’t nominate me. I did have to witness him dressed up in a tiger onesie, though, and I did get the dubious honour of dousing him with freezing cold water.

I can’t upload the video here because I can’t save it off Facebook and, anyway, it looks as though I have to pay for an upgrade on WordPress in order to upload a video. So here’s his “before” shot – he didn’t hang around long enough for me to take an “after” shot.

Doesn’t he look … erm … fearless? <3

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Diva authors (Ahem! Slight rant alert …)

I’ve often been known as one of the original renegade writers. I always seemed to do things slightly wrong, yet still managed to get the job.

This doesn’t change the fact that I was still taught to be the best I possibly could – the best freelance so that editors would come to me time and time again because my work was so close to brief they didn’t have to do a single thing to it, other than just drop it into place.

I was still taught that as an author I should be bloody grateful if a publisher took me on, if a publisher was prepared to put time and effort into promoting me as a writer, if a publisher would pay me an advance and even a royalty.

I was still taught that my work should be polished until it shines before I even think of submitting it anywhere, and that I shouldn’t expect the hired help to knock it into shape.

I’ve been working this way since 1985, striving to do exactly what’s asked of me and trying to be very easy to work with.

I’ve been doing that for 30 years.

So, is it me? Is this the old-fashioned way of doing things? Do editors and publishers no longer respect you if you try your hardest to be the best damned writer they ever had?

As an editor and a proofreader I freelance for several publishers of both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary. And, most of the time, in fact around 99% of the time, I have some wonderful people to work with. Even with my own private clients they’re usually very nice to work with and for.

But every so often I seem to get what I call the diva author, the author who thinks the historical relationship between publisher and author should be the other way around, the author who thinks publishers should be bloody damned grateful that they’ve sent in their work.

If an editor asks for 1,000 words, 25,000 words, 40,000 words, whatever, I don’t then send in 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words (yes, really). And even if I did, I wouldn’t then argue till the cows come home that they need my 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words. I’d apologise, take it back, and work with it until it was right (only it would have been more right in the first place had it been me …).

If a publisher says they want, say, 25 end-notes to fit in with the rest of the series, I don’t then send them 50 end-notes or 0 end-notes. And when a publisher says 0 end-notes, I don’t send in 40,000 words-worth of end-notes (yes, really …).

If a publisher uses their regular artist to design the jacket and their regular typesetter to design the inside, I don’t then start to tell said artist and said typesetter how to do their jobs, just like I don’t tell the publicist how to market my work or the editor how to edit my work.

And I certainly don’t ask them 20 questions when we’re already well into production, threatening to pull the work if their demands (yes, really!) aren’t met.

How dare they throw their toys out of their prams like that? How dare they be so rude and presumptuous? How dare they be so precious? What’s so bloody special about them? And when, otherwise, their work is, actually, quite good beneath it all. I just don’t understand the attitude.

If they’re going to do all of that, why not just have done with it and vanity- or self-publish? If they’re so cock-sure and clever and experienced, why don’t they do it themselves? If they’re so bloody good, how come they haven’t already been snapped up by some of the very big publishing houses?

So I ask again. Is it me?

Answers in the usual place. Thank you.

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Gone fishin’

It was bank holiday weekend here in the UK just gone, and – as ever – ours was quite full and busy.

On Friday the poet had been dragged into a meeting at work, so didn’t get back as early as we’d hoped. We were up early the next day, so didn’t go out and had an early night.

On Saturday morning we headed off, earlyish, to Solihull to see my parents. We had an hour with them, and then drove on to Evesham, where they were having their annual fishing festival. We had to go cross-country because the M42 was rammed, with holiday traffic. But fortunately, as I’m a local lass, we found it in the end, and I was able to show off some of Warwickshire and Worcestershire’s beautiful villages on the way.

We had a few hours there, watching the river anglers battle the elements and the pike (the pike kept pinching their fish). It poured with rain and the wind blew a bit of a gale. But we were able to shelter beneath the heavy canopy of some trees and eat hotdogs and doughnuts.

Rufus found a whole sausage under a table, and he had a good walk down the riverbank and back, and was quite well-behaved, considering the number of other dogs there.

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The beautiful River Avon. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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The river looks lovely even in the rain. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Will Raison, fish a bung at this stage.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Wayne Swinscoe, river legend.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Lee Kerry, willing the tip to fly round.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Mark Downs, where’s the fish? This river used to be proper bostin.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Fatha, aka Denis White, river god, on his way to a section win.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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“Des Shipp, on his way to victory, a class act on any venue.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

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Ferry, ‘cross the Avon … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Back in the day, the poet would never had entertained the idea of Evesham and back in a day, it being the other side of the world. But since he’s been coming to Birmingham we me once a fortnight, the other side of the world suddenly doesn’t seem as far. So we headed back, on the motorway this time as the traffic had dissipated, bought fish and chips on the way, and had tea with Mom and Dad.

We got back later than we usually do, and the following day we were off again. This time to fish locally-ish – down in Retford, Nottinghamshire. We went to Hallcroft because they’re dog-friendly. They even provide a big bowl of water for the dogs. And after a slow start, he finally got some bites…

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These pictures are a bit grainy as they were taken on the mobile phone. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

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The first catch of the day was apparently a beauty. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

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(Picture: Diane Parkin)

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And this one had apparently never been caught before … (Picture: Diane Parkin)

I’d taken my writing boot camp with me and, once the dog settled, managed to do some work. I have lots of plans and ideas in place now. Now it’s time to start writing.

On the way back we dropped in to see his parents, in Doncaster. And when we got home we watched The Wind that Shakes the Barley. A cracking, thought-provoking film.

On Monday we had a lazy start, but still had some running around to do, which we did in my car to keep the battery charged… for what it was worth… see later. And Monday night’s viewing was that wonderful classic, where the Germans all speak in perfectly clipped English, The Eagle Has Landed, one of my all time favourite books/films.

This morning I had to run the poet to the station again, as he’s off to Scotland again. My exhaust had been blowing since Friday, but he didn’t think it sounded any different. We got halfway to Doncaster when the exhaust fell off… Oh dear. So he had to call a taxi while I called the AA.

They said the AA man would be with me at 9:05am, but he made it at 8:36am (what a very, very nice man…). The poet missed one train and caught the next, and I was back home by 9:30am, after having another flat battery. The car’s now booked in to have the exhaust looked at, the battery examined, a new bonnet prop catch, the airbag light continually being on, and the rear windscreen washer not working… I hope I win a new car soon. (sigh).

So, that’s my weekend and my day so far. I still have lots to do, like author/proofreader revisions on several non-fictions. I have the writing boot camp work to go back to, as well as new work on that. I have jobs to search and pitch for. And I have a walks report to write and submit. I’m also quite delighted to see that I can revert back to the old WordPress editor if I want to. They must have had several complaints about the new interface.

What are you up to this week?

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Finally on top?

I was going to have a right proper rant about something today, but I can’t for the life of me think what it was about. Either my memory’s going or I’m mellowing – whichever, old age probably has a lot to do with it.

So, what have I been doing all week? Well, mostly I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself. The poet’s been working away in Scotland this week, including an evening at the Edinburgh fringe. And, aside from missing him, and having to cook my own teas, I wouldn’t have minded going to the Edinburgh fringe myself. He’s back now, for the bank holiday weekend. Then he goes again on Tuesday.

The week has generally been spent plodding through the work in progress, although I seem to have lost Tuesday entirely. I’ve worked on 2 non-fiction books this week, editing and revisions, and I’ve also pegged 24 jobs to pitch for, if they’re all still available. I didn’t have time to do a walks report, and I didn’t do very much writing boot camp. But today, I’ve just finished everything I wanted to finish this week and, at 1:30pm, seem to be twiddling my thumbs. I didn’t do any blog posts because I didn’t know what to write, but maybe had I done it when the rant caught me there might have been something to read!

So, what to do now? Well, I’m about to break for dinner (aka lunch, as it’s the middle of the day, sort of), and I have a hair appointment at 4:30pm. I should have gone to that last Friday, but when I hopped into my car, the battery was flat, and I had to move the appointment to this week instead.

Ah yes, that’s some of what we did at the weekend last. Because the poet managed to flatten his car battery at the Yorkshire Rock and Bike Show, and because I also had a flat battery less than a week later, we did go shopping for jump leads last Saturday. We also wanted to spend a bit of time together as he was about to abandon me for the best part of the week, so Saturday evening we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the pictures, and we had a lovely meal at Pizza Express

On Sunday we went to fish, but everywhere was full or there were matches on, so Sunday turned into a bit of a scenic drive.

This weekend we’re off to Birmingham for part of it, then we’ll decide what to do with the rest of it. 

So, what to do this afternoon? I think I’ll do some writing boot camp. What are you up to this weekend?

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Hey you! Yes, you at the back! Say hello!

I have no idea why, but Wednesday’s post seems to have been more popular than some of the previous ones as it was possibly shared and re-tweeted much more than any of my posts have ever been shared before. So, all you people at the back, before you read any further, nip on down to the bottom and say hi. No need to be shy, we’re very friendly here.

Have you done it? Go on, I’ll wait …

# tum ti tum ti tum ti tum …

Done it? There now, that didn’t hurt, did it?

So, what have I been up to this week?

Well, so far, without counting today, I’ve pitched for 24 new proofreading or editing jobs, including several regular gigs. I’ve also caught up a bit on the non-fiction editing – I’ve done author and proofreader revisions on a non-fiction book, I’ve edited an essay and I’ve been reviewing another non-fiction book that needed additional work doing to it.

I’ve written the walks report and submitted it to 6 local newspapers, and liaised with a couple of said newspapers, and I’ve caught up on the daily competitions. I’ve also been doing my own writer’s boot camp. I’m working on 5 short stories and have a couple of 1st drafts I want to have a look at.

And a big job I did yesterday was my first critical data backup in 9 months … I’ve done a lot of work in that 9 months, it would be awful if the computer crashed and I lost it all. That took a little longer than intended as it involved tidying up the hard drive anyway to make sure I wasn’t copying any duplicates or anything that really isn’t needed any more.

As part of that backup I found a load of old ebooks that I’ve not been able to read anywhere due to the archaic format. But I think I’ve managed to transfer the majority of those to my new Kindle Paperwhite. They’re all saved on there as “personal”, and if I delete them from the home page they also go from the collection(s) I put them in. But I think I can at least read them.

There are a couple of old magazines on there I’d like to read, Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. I might try those first.

I still have today’s chores to do – daily competitions, surf for more work and pitch if necessary, invoices to raise (hurrah!), the notes section of a non-fiction to read through, today’s boot camp. And I think I have a hair appointment at 5pm-ish.

We’re having a bit of personal upheaval over the coming 4 weeks, so this weekend the poet and I are having some quality time together. I think we’re going fishing tomorrow, and we may go to the pictures on Sunday. We also have to head over to the other house to inspect it for new tenants and change the locks, but we may do that this evening.

So, y’all have a great weekend – tell us what you’re up to – and I’ll see you on Monday. :-)

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Burn out!

Phew! What a busy few weeks we’ve been having here in Baggins Bottom. First a holiday, then a music festival swiftly followed by a beer festival, then a trip to Solihull and Tipton, then another music festival including a camping trip in major thunderstorms. And to top it all, I come in here today, and the whole interface has changed. Ooh-er. I think I need to pause and take stock.

In between all of these exciting shenanigans I’ve also been very busy. I’ve been editing and proofreading books well into the evenings to make sure I meet deadlines. I’ve fielded argumentative emails from argumentative clients. (I’ve had some proper bostin clients too, by the way.) And I’ve given my writing a good kick up the backside.

I’ve been reading a selection of books in order to get me writing, and these are filled with lots of positive, pro-active exercises that lead to finished products, rather than being exercises for exercise sake. I’ll share some of the better ones with everyone once I know which ones have actually worked. 

And it is all work. As well as a part-completed Camp NaNo during July, I’ve also started several short stories and even finished the first drafts of a few. Now I need to plod on through, continue with the exercises, and get some stories polished and off into the ether to earn their keep.

So, what have you lot been up to while we’ve been gallivanting around the country? Answers below. 

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