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.

The beautiful River Avon. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
The river looks lovely even in the rain. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Will Raison, fish a bung at this stage.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Wayne Swinscoe, river legend.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Lee Kerry, willing the tip to fly round.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Mark Downs, where’s the fish? This river used to be proper bostin.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Fatha, aka Denis White, river god, on his way to a section win.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
“Des Shipp, on his way to victory, a class act on any venue.” (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
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?

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. 🙂

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. 

Yorkshire Rock and Bike Show 2014

We’ve had a fairly busy few weeks, what with holidays and festivals and things. And the weekend just gone was no exception.

On Friday we decided quite late on – i.e. after I’d finished the most pressing work on my desk – that we’d go camping to the Yorkshire Rock and Bike Show at Squires, the bikers’ café in Sherburn in Elmet. The late decision was due mainly to the up and coming weather forecast – there was a hurricane on the way – but also due to my workload and whether or not I’d finish on time. If the weather was bad, or if I didn’t finish the work, we’d just go and come back Friday evening and several times during Saturday. Otherwise we were camping …

… so we decided to camp. And it was the dog’s first ever camping holiday.

Tent’s first airing. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

We pitched the tent in relatively dry conditions, but as soon as we hit the last peg in, it started to spit with rain.

The first band, Powerage, had just started just as we arrived at the ground, just as the rain had.

Powerage – “Brian” and “Angus” of the AC/DC tribute band. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Powerage … and some rain … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

They continued on through their set, and Joolz (“Angus”) even got down at the end to perform in the rain with all the dancers who were braving it out. But the second band, Lovehunter, sadly only managed 3 songs before 3 powercuts and far too much rain caused them to pull out.

We found some shelter in our friend’s army and navy surplus stall. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We had something to eat in the café while this decision was being made, but when the following 3 bands were also cancelled (Invisible Idols, Cash and Rory Holl and the Men), we decided to leave the tent for the night and come back tomorrow if the weather had improved. We found out the next morning that Cash had been able to play indoors, but not until 11pm, so we were glad we’d headed home.

The roads were treacherous with torrential storms all the way and quite a few abandoned cars on the roadside. We had a lovely warm, dry, comfortable night, then headed back to the show on Saturday morning. I insisted on us looking for some wellies first, though. My old faithfuls had finally given up the ghost over the winter when they were apparently ripped, and Ian didn’t have any. So we went to get some before heading back to the muddy campsite.

We missed the first band, Red Dog, and we wanted to check on the tent before re-joining the show. And, amazingly, it was both still standing and quite dry. We tightened the guy ropes and went back to watch Bigmouth.

Bigmouth – Sam … not a personal description … um … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Bigmouth, our friend Col on bass guitar. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Bigmouth – Paul … um, ditto … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We hung around, chatted to friends, took pictures, and had hotdogs for lunch.

The Yorkshire Rock and Bike show from the car park across the road. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Hotdog for lunch. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
The Yorkshire Rock and Bike show from across the road. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

And then we watched Greenday UK.

Greenday UK – Jimmy. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Greenday UK – Reece. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Greenday UK – Warren. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Greenday UK – Ryan. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Then we headed back to the tent for a bit of a break – for us as much as the dog. I needed to sit down and he needed to calm down. He was getting so much fuss and attention with lots of people recognising him from Facebook, he was getting giddy. So we went back for a bit of a rest.

And what a difference a day makes. The weather was glorious while we chilled and listened to the cricket. But we missed the actual bike show.

Chilling in the sunshine. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Chilling in the sunshine. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Back at the gig, we caught Mad Jack and the Hatters, a fun, rockabilly band …

Mad Jack and the Hatters. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Mad Jack and the Hatters. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Mad Jack and the Hatters. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Mad Jack and the Hatters. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Mad Jack and the Hatters. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… and a friend caught a picture of us.

That’s the photographer’s thumb in the top left-hand corner. 😉 (Picture: Robert Snow)

And then we saw more of our friends in Demoness.

Demoness. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Demoness – John. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Demoness – Lisa. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Demoness – Seb. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Then it was time for food again. And it was a good job we had another rest, as the next band, Hellraiser, were so much fun and had everyone dancing.

Hellraiser. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Hellraiser. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Hellraiser. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Hellraiser. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Hellraiser. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

By the time Broken Angel appeared on stage it was 10pm and we were quite tired. But we stayed to watch them as I’d not seen them, and I’ve only known them for 7 years.

Broken Angel – Mick. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Broken Angel. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
Broken Angel – Josh, Paul and Mick. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

We were back in the tent before the fireworks went off, which Rufus didn’t like at all. But he’d been brilliant for the whole time, loved it on the campsite, didn’t make a song and dance about the loud music, and spent the entire night – the entire night – in his basket instead of trying to get into bed with us … although he didn’t like the airbed much.

What a fantastic weekend. It was well organised, well managed, well attended, we felt safe and secure and we saw lots of friends, old and new. At 9am we packed up the tent, needed help jump starting the car (as leaving the glove compartment open the day before left a light burning and that drained the battery), said goodbye to our friends, and were home 20 minutes later … just in time for another cracking thunderstorm.

Here’s the last picture I’m going to share from the weekend.

Campsite at sunset. (Picture: Diane Parkin)


Coalfields 2014

One week after we got home from our holiday we went to Coalfields 2014, a music festival held in Darton, Barnsley, every year. This year, proceeds went to Barnsley Hospice.

The festival kicked off at noon on the Black Vines Alternative Stage. There then followed nine hours of music provided by 46 acts or artistes.

We got there at about 1:30pm and it was already nicely busy. We had a wander, bought hotdogs, drank pop, and drifted from one tent or stage to another, settling down to watch anyone who caught our eye.

We remembered 2 bands from last year – Fluffy Gremlins (who haven’t grown much – they’re all kids) and Demographic (whose lead singer seems to have grown the biggest beard in the festival ground). We saw another new band we’d like to know more about (The Fallout from Manchester). And we saw friends and colleagues in their bands, one of them new (Platinum, Fiery Biscuits and Foenix).

The weather stayed very kind to everyone – I had to sit in the shade for much of the afternoon – and there wasn’t any trouble. We nipped home at teatime to see to the dog, and there was a police patrol car just arriving as we were just leaving, so we had a chat with the driver.

Here are a few pictures to give you a flavour of the event (all copyright Diane Parkin or Ian Wordsworth):

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Coalfields is held each year at the cricket club in Darton, usually in July. We went for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So we made a point to go along this year and spend more time at the festival.

While we were there, an invite came through via Facebook to a beer festival right in our home village, just around the corner from our house. So we left the music festival at about 8:30pm and went in search of the beer festival.

Some friends of ours were playing there in their new band, Sunshine Bus, plus there were sweets for me (I had Turkish Delight) and cider for him (he had … lots …).

We had lots of fun singing along and dancing, and the poet came home with 2 half-demi-johns (quarto-johns?) of locally made cider. Unfortunately, this is the only picture we took … Enjoy.


Saturday 19 July 2014 – Dent to Hemsworth

We had an early start and a quick breakfast but the car was packed and ready to go by 10am, which was the time we were supposed to be out of the cottage. But it was still 10:20am before we actually went. We had just one more drive over the tops to see the birds and the scenery, but it was pouring with rain, visibility was poor, and we were mindful of the cats in the car.

We came home via Hawes, Leyburn, Bedale and the A1(M), and it took us 2½ hours to get home – and we didn’t even leave the county. The weather was much brighter and drier on our side of the hill, but while we were stocking up on provisions at our local supermarket, we had a cracking storm.

The animals were all happy to be home and the cats didn’t stay out for long. We’d only had to stop once for Holly on the way home this time. And the usual post-holiday chores began – aka unpacking and washing.

We didn’t take any photographs today, so here’s one of the cottage we took last year, followed by one I took the first time I visited:

The lovely little cottage where we stayed. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
The lovely little cottage where we stayed. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
River Dee, Dent. (Picture: Diane Parkin)
River Dee, Dent. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

We’re looking forward to going back.