>Catching up

>On Friday I JOKINGLY said that as they’d forecast a mostly dry weekend that would naturally mean rain. On Saturday we had rain.

I did my shopping on the way home from work on Friday to free up Saturday and to save on petrol. Then much of Saturday was spent cleaning, tidying, washing, putting stuff away, de-cluttering, writing, with the intention of either heading off to Matlock at about teatime, or to a gig a bit later. The weather already put paid to Matlock, and a very long phone call meant it was too late for me to get ready for a gig even if I wanted to. So that was more Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor. And quite a lot of “chatting” on Facebook or by text.

Matlock has been deferred for a fortnight, when I’m hoping at least one of my Brummie mates can also make it – he’s put it in his diary and reminded me we have umbrellas if it’s raining …

Sunday I had a lovely drive in glorious sunshine (why did it have to rain the day before?) and I got to my parents’ at about 1pm-ish. My sister and 2 of the kids joined us shortly afterwards, and we had birthday cake. I got home at about 6pm and had more doss time in front of the telly (Countryfile, X-Factor, Downton Abbey).

Yesterday was a writing day and yet more chores. I even did some ironing. I had two more lovely long phone conversations, listened to more heavy rain, breathed in fireworks and bonfire smells from the back step, and watched Whitechapel before bed.

Today I’ve come in to work for a 3 day week. I have PR stuff to do and some magazine stuff still to do (I have to go see people).

It’s the start of a busy couple of months for me now, with me breaking myself in gently. We have a Ramblers’ meeting on Wednesday, and it’s the AGM, plus there’s a jam night in my village that I might stick my head into on my way home. Thursday will be another busy writing day. At the weekend we have the first of our parties to kick off NaNo, in Leeds. And on Sunday … I may go for a walk.

I’m delighted to have been given a “sweet friends” blog award by Teresa Ashby (thank you!), and will do what I need to do with that tomorrow.

>Blink and you’ll miss it

>Time, that is.

How fast is it going? I can hardly believe it’s the weekend again, and I have quite a busy one planned.

Today is going to be finalising prep work for the winter magazine – it only seems like 5 minutes since the last one was delivered. I’ve already done my weekly timesheet and I also want to get the first draft of an article written. I may do the shopping again on my way home as I’m not going out tonight so it will be less rushed.

Saturday is going to be part chores and part writing. I have drafts 2 and 3 of 2 fillers to write plus get one of them edited and ready for submission. Weather and money permitting I’m off to Matlock for the evening for illuminations and fireworks – I say money because I have to pay for petrol, parking, admission, and drinks if friends also make it. October is a 5 week month this year, so money is already slightly stretched. If I don’t go to Matlock, there’s a gig around the corner I may go to, but that also depends on money (must do a budget check today). I may just stay in and watch X-Factor again.

Sunday I’m off down to Birmingham to say Happy Birthday to my dad for Monday. Sunday evening will be more Countryfile, X-Factor and Downton Abbey. Then Monday is a writing day with the first drafts of 2 short stories to write, draft 2 of an article, and draft 3 of a filler. Incidentally, looking ahead to NaNo (again) I’m delighted to see that day one (1 November) is a Monday, and it’s a 3 day week. That means I have 2 full writing days in the first week of NaNo on top of 2 writing parties during the 2 preceding weekends. If that lot doesn’t give me a good start nothing will.

No walking this weekend, other than wandering around the supermarket pushing a trolley or walking around Matlock if I go, so the Wii will be coming out.

They’ve forecast a “mostly dry” weekend … I guess that means rain then. Have a good one.

>Mist and mellow fruitfulness

>With thanks to John Keats.

This morning is truly autumnal. Dew on the car, a low lying mist, still mild temperatures. I’m feeling … insulated by the elements and the season. We have a bit of drizzle too, but I like that too, I like to feel the fine rain on my face.

I’m getting a tad excited about NaNo. I think it’s because the community has already started to mesh with Yorkshire being the largest single forum in the UK outside of London, and bigger than many other European country forums. We’re chatting in the forum, we’ve buddied up, we’re making friends on Twitter and Facebook. It’s like one great big giant writers’ group. And I’m loving it.

We have 2 kick-off parties planned, one in Leeds and one in Sheffield. I’d like to go to both of them. To the first we take fruit, so everyone knows who we are; to the second we take, erm, fruit … but with a face on, so everyone knows who we are. Some of us are also planning to meet up on trains on the way in.

Throughout the month of November we’ll also have “write-in”s, where we all meet up somewhere and … write.

I had intended to make some very thorough plans before starting my own project, but Val McDermid said one thing at the weekend that really stuck in my mind. She never makes copious notes (though she does write down facts and figures and the like that are necessary), yet the ideas, the characters, the world, are all in her head clamouring to get out. She said that if she forgot something then it wasn’t interesting enough in the first place. She also asked if we write down everything about our friends or do we just remember them.

I’m a major planner, but she’s right. So I’m going to try keeping the whole thing in my head. I know the genre, the length, the timescale, the setting, the main characters, some minor characters, the number of chapters, the words per chapter, the plot, the sub-plot, the deadline, the daily word-load, the market. The only thing I don’t have is the motive, but I’m working on that and maybe it will come with everything else.

Last night I worked some of that splinter out from under my finger nail. It seems to be a flake of silvery paint … or a very fine shard of mirror glass …

>Too much spam

>I’m afraid I’ve had to switch the comments section to registered users only, but this does, apparently, include open id. I’m getting far, far, far too much spam. The spam filters are picking up most of it, but sometimes there are numerous anonymous comments scattered about the blog over several years. They’ve done a search, landed on one from x years ago, and just commented a pile of pants. Let me know if you have difficulty leaving a comment. These “real” people were even getting through the captcha, so I took that off ages ago.

Apparently I’m a nearside stop light short. That’s something I’ll have to get sorted. A neighbour pointed it out to me last night as we both got home. I also need air in the tyres. I never seem to get time to do these odd little things on the car, and when I think about them it’s usually too dark or too late or miles away from where I am. I could get tugged for the stop light, though, so I’ll have to get that fixed.

Two days ago I got a splinter in my finger. It went through my finger nail and got stuck beneath it. I’ve trimmed the nail back as far as I can, I’ve gouged at it with a needle, and I’ve even had a go with tweezers. But I keep pushing this splinter thing further in. I’ve been bathing it in salt water in the hope it’ll draw itself out. We used to be able to get black jack, a drawing ointment. I don’t think they call it that any more, and I’m not even sure that all chemists sell it under its generic name. I may make a phone call before making a journey. It’s only a teeny, tiny thing, but it really hurts every time I forget and put pressure on it.

We have a cherry picker roaming the site at work. Every time it’s on the move, it makes a bleeping sound, like when a large vehicle is reversing. This blinking beeping is getting on my nerves – it’s worse than Japanese water torture. I don’t know what they’re doing, must be some kind of second storey maintenance.

There’s a new widget we can add to our blogs, it has options like “interesting” or “funny”. I’ve added it to the blog post now … but I added “dull” too because, let’s face it, today’s is a little …

>A record?

>On 4 April 2009 (18 months ago) I submitted a seasonal story to one of those markets that says “if we don’t get back to you in 6 months, assume you’ve not been successful”. Now, this was at a time that said erstwhile wonderful market was going through major upheaval and a few of us felt a bit disappointed that they’d changed their previously impeccable relationship with authors, both regular and brand new. Since then, however, despite yet more recent job cuts, the market has got itself back into a routine and seems to be on a stable footing again. (Hurrah!)

Once the 6 months had duly passed, I sent the story off to another market. It’s been rejected twice since then (it’s seasonal so can only be sent by a certain time, then has to “cool” for the rest of the year), and ignored by a second “give us 6 months then assume” market twice (they had a change of editor and asked that any stories not replied to be re-submitted). I’ve had another look at the story, tweaked it, and am in the process of sending it elsewhere – the way you do.

Yesterday, I got a rejection from the original magazine. Eighteen months later … Can you imagine the quagmire I’d be in now had I sold it to one of the other markets I subsequently sent it to and if this original market had decided to buy it as well?

I’m not really complaining, I love this particular market, it’s always been a favourite of mine, times are very tough at the moment and we are lucky to still have short story markets willing to consider our work. But *I* would have been the one with the newly blackened reputation had this gone the other way.

At least I know this once regular market is still considering my work. But what do *you* think about this? And is an 18 month turnaround a record? Answers on a postcard.

>Time well spent

>So Friday night, once I’d done the weekly shopping and my friends had caught up with themselves coming back, we finally made it to our local club to see one of my favourite bands. The gig ran over slightly, so it was a late finish after all, but it was a good night.

On Saturday Val McDermid was absolutely brilliant, one of the best hours I’ve spent regarding writing. I probably learned more in that one discussion than I could have learned in years of correspondence courses. She was great and very inspiring.

Before the talk began I was sitting in the cafe bar at Sheffield’s Showroom cinema writing an outline for a short story. Val McDermid wandered in, sat at a table while someone fetched the coffees, and was almost immediately mobbed for her autograph by one lady. I’d picked up her book the day before but wanted to sit through the talk first and see what the arrangements were for book signings before bothering her. She very graciously gave her autograph to the lady without complaint or malice.

I wrote a second short story outline while I finished a frothy hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. I got my book signed after the event, at the book signing part of the event, and she remembered that I’d asked her a question on Facebook on Thursday, what that question was, and what her reply had been. I didn’t even have to repeat or spell my name. Marvellous.

We weren’t going out Saturday evening, but we found out that more friends of mine were coming down from Sunderland to play at our next-but-local club (same village). So two of us joined them for the evening and we had another great night.

Sunday morning I still managed to get up in time to go to the farmers’ market. I spent around £6, but I bought some fresh bread, half a dozen free range eggs, some regular sausages, a box of strawberries, 2 packets of sweets (candy), a quarter of Wensleydale cheese … and 2 buffalo burgers …

I didn’t go walking because, after 2 gigs on the trot and a trip to Sheffield, I was a tad tired. So I caught up with Saturday’s X-Factor and spent Sunday evening ogling the telly (Time Team, Countryfile, Strictly Come Dancing – the Results, X-Factor – the Results, Downton Abbey, and Inglourious Basterds).

Today was quite a late start. I’m going to do a few of the chores I’d normally do at the weekend — I’ll make a yellow trifle first, but I also need to either do some washing or buy some new clothes — and then some writing work.

>The weekend beckons

>In 4 weeks time we go into production on the winter magazine, today I’ve been working on the planning/foundation for that.

I’ve been reading quite a good book, Love is not Enough by Merryn Somerset Webb, on finance for the modern woman and it’s opened my eyes. She takes the scariness/complicated jargon out of stocks, bonds, shares, trackers, funds, etc, and I remember one finance femail editor a few years ago suggesting the wary just send off a single £25 into the tracker market and see how much it earns. But I can’t for the life of me find anything remotely similar in today’s money market.

I have a zero to good interest rate on most of my debt at the moment, although that’s still the first thing I’d like to go, and savings accounts and current accounts are earning next to zilch unless you have thousands to invest. So I’m looking at diversifying.

I’ve been looking for a certain weekly money magazine for the past 2 weeks, but can’t find a single one, not even a different one to the one I’m looking for. Obviously the folk of South Yorkshire have insufficient interest in the money markets to justify any magazines on the subject, but I found the one I was looking for online and while I’d rather not sit staring at a computer screen for most of my life, at least it’s something.

We made our decision and we will be at our local club this evening. It’s a late start (but normal finish), so I’m going to do my shopping on the way home. This will keep tomorrow morning free so I have no excuse to be late to Sheffield where I’ll be listening to Val McDermid talk about her latest book. More information on Off the Shelf (Sheffield’s current writing and reading festival) can be found here.

I’m not going out tomorrow night because I want to be up early for the farmers’ market on Sunday morning. I have a walk pencilled in for afterwards too, but that really depends on how I feel, what time it is and what the weather’s doing. I’m not really just a fairweather walker, but if it’s really nasty I’ll go home and jump on the Wii.

Have a great weekend.

>Slight change of plan

>Saturday afternoons would normally see me baking, batch cooking, ironing, and maybe a few other household chores, and this weekend that’s exactly what I had planned. Then I found out that there’s a festival of writing and reading going on in Sheffield from this week, and Val McDermid is speaking at 2pm on Saturday. So now I’m going there instead. Aside from the ticket price and the train ride to get there, I’ll also no doubt pick up a copy of her latest book Trick of the Dark for a nice treat and maybe get it signed.

Friday evening we also have a gig planned at one of our local clubs, and Sunday morning I’m at that farmers’ market. What a fantastic weekend.

Yesterday I found out a bit more about my future at the day job and I’m feeling a bit like a hot potato, so I think that’s ok. I’m not really supposed to say anything yet because it’s all confidential and sensitive, etc, so I’m not going to – for a change. Tomorrow I confirm the content for the winter magazine and in the next 2 weeks I’ll be starting on something else as well.

Today is a writing day, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m being very good and obedient and everything at the moment. Having an incredibly full to-do list usually has a lot to do with it.

>Busy social diary

>I’ve realised that Christmas will be upon us very soon. Never mind that we still have Halloween and Bonfire Night to go, the big one is just around the corner. The festive season has already been on supermarket shelves for several weeks and I’ve pencilled in a couple of things I want to go to this year.

I definitely want to visit the Barnsley Christkindlmarkt. It’s been 2 years since my last visit but they had a GuggenFestmas last year and I’m hoping they have another. (Links are for last year.) I also want to visit the Lincoln Christmas market. I actually have a budget this year for Christmas so, hopefully, both events will be so much more fun. And then there’s the Dearne Valley Ramblers Christmas Dinner on the same weekend I plan to head to Lincoln.

Before then I still want to find a bonfire party to go to, or a fireworks display (although I prefer bonfires), and before then I still want to visit the Matlock Illuminations. I publicised these on Facebook and already a few friends have taken their families. Some of my friends from Birmingham were hoping to meet me there, but I think childcare and cashflow are hindering plans so I may just head off there the weekend after this one anyway because I don’t want to miss them.

I still intend to visit the farmers’ market at Wentworth this weekend, and next Sunday is still a trip to Birmingham.

Last year I gatecrashed my sister on Christmas Day. I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet this year. I’d half promised my brother I’d try and get to Canada, but I don’t think I can realistically afford that yet. (See how well I’m managing my finances now? Two years ago I would have whacked it onto the plastic and gone anyway.)

The day job is quiet at the moment. I’m enjoying the lull before the next lot begins. I have to get my 4-week notice emails out this Friday for contributors to the winter magazine. That’s come around quickly. Deadline is Bonfire Night. I’m steadily plodding through my freelance stuff too before the NaNoWriMo madness begins in November.

Gosh, what a busy few months ahead. It’s a good job I have a diary.