‘Twas NaNoWriMo Eve, And All Through The House…

…there was the smell of panic. And the sound of slightly hysterical laughter. (Oh no – I used an adverb! Flagellate me now!)

Status report follows:

car smells lovely. Rightly so. Just cost nearly £600 to fix and needs another £150 spending shortly.

  • boiler has broken. Boiler man said to husband: ‘Blimey! One of them that’s still working!’ when he saw the model of the boiler. This is Not a Good Sign. He is searching for a part and ringing tomorrow.
  • there is a lot of paperwork for work that I should be doing. And should have done. Gulp.
  • today daughter had 2 appointments, 2 of which I had to take her to.
  • between these appointments (nos. 1 & 3) I had to
  1. have lunch
  2. go to work no. 2 and do an hour
  3. go home to clear a path through study that’s undergoing major move, in case boiler man needed to look at tank and control panel too
  4. write 2 lengthy notes to family members in case timing of everything went pear shaped, timing wise, as children were not expecting boiler man
  5. prepare dinner (which burnt whilst out at appointment 3 and Asda, because the foil was ripped)
  6. Mop floor because washing machine is misbehaving
  7. Dress up and be on the door of a huge Halloween party & disco at the village hall (for work no.1), taking money from dozens of underfives, overfives and their suffering parents/grandparents (whilst boiling alive, constantly running out of change, struggling to rip off stubborn ‘you are owed a hotdog’ raffle tickets,and being assailed by smell of aforementioned hotdogs – which I wasn’t allowed to eat)
Since then I have put the shopping away and demanded that the children cook pizza and baked beans.

My feet are cold (no heating) and I request permission to lay down in a darkened room.


NaNoWriMo Wisdom to Soothe Your Soul

Depending on your viewpoint, either:

“Aargh! Behold, the Dark Day descendeth upon me apace! I am undone! The storm clouds gathereth into a mighty maeslstrom above my head, from under which I canst not dare hope to emergeth unscathed! All that I hold dear shall be wrested away(eth) from my grasp, I will face the Doors I Cannot Pass and smash myself upon them as powerlessly as a low tide does smasheth itself upon some really quite sturdy rocks”


“Hooray! It’s nearly here! I’ve been champing at the bit to start my novel! I can’t wait to enjoy the inspirational companionship of fellow writers all working towards the same marvellous goal !I’m brimming with ideas and scenes! My notebook is full of character sketches and I have the entire novel outlined chapter by chapter in my MyNovel/Scrivener/TheNewNovelist programme!  NaNoWriMo will let me get that first draft finished without fussing about perfection – then I can revise it and this time next year, I’m BOUND to have a book deal – and be writing my next novel in NaNoWriMo 2012!). Bounce, bounce, cheesy grin that makes you want to punch my lights out, BOUNCE!”

Which ever of these is closest to your current mindset – with just 36 hours to go (for those of us in the UK, anyway, who have just swapped back to GMT!), there might be a frisson of panic. What will you eat? How many days sick leave can you really take before your boss turns up at your door bearing an ominous sheaf of papers? What if you forget to feed your parrot (it’ll be like Beth and Pip in Little Women all over again…)?  Say you get stuck in the middle, realise your novel’s rubbish, get the flu, are called away to a remote part of Borneo…

What you need – apart from a few deep breaths, a frothy coffee/stiff drink/insert beverage of your choice, and another week to prepare – is a) an alternative challenge – see the last link below OR b)some tips. Not from me, because I’ve never done it before. It’s the blind leading the blind, down here in cliche canyon.
So instead feast your eyes (see? told you where we were) on the links below, which will lead you to the NaNoWriMo Wisdom of better women than me (although possibly not better at making cheese sauce. I make a wicked cheese sauce).

Jodi Cleghorn’s Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During NaNoWriMo

Writer’s Digest How To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month

Martha Alderson How To Plot Your Writing Time in the Month of November

Alison Wells NaNoWriMo: Write 50000 Words in 30 Days when you don’t have 5 minutes Part 1

or catch up on Larry Brooks NaNoWriMo October Planning Tips – a whole month’s worth of motivation and preparation

If you want to challenge yourself in November but don’t feel NaNoWriMo is for you, take a look here at some alternative challenges from the Harlequin community.

Right. I’m off to finish my mad-coursework-housework and-paperwork(for work)-athon. Tomorrow evening is reserved for the shop-then-cook-four-weeks-worth-of-meals-in-advance-athon. See you in’Mo Madness!

Pocket Novel Notes That I Left In My Other Pocket

I realised today that there were a few things missing from yesterday’s post!

Firstly, here’s Sally’s take on her Inaugural Pocket Novel Workshop, and a selection of her posts on writing pocket novels can be found here (this link will only display most recent – click on ‘older poosts’ at the bottom to go back and see her previous posts on the topic). Meanwhile you can find guidelines for My Weekly Pocket novels on Womag’s blog here, plus some animated discussion about the fees and new longer length.

If you want to subscribe to pocket novels, you can do so here directly from publishers DCThomson, although it may be worth shopping around the magazine sub sites.

And finally a shout for The Pocketeers, a new blog all about pocket novels (surprise surprise!) – a joint venture by Sally and fellow pocket novelists Cara Cooper, Chrissie Loveday, Noelene Jenkinson, Carol Maclean, Kate Allan, Patricia Keyson and Fenella Miller. Well worth following if the topic interests you.

Happy Reading!

And still I forgot something (she says, updating quickly). At Sally’s workshop I met Bea, who blogs very movingly about her life as a carer for her mother here, and also Keith Havers, a fellow 100 Stories for Queensland author who blogs here about his writerly adventures. Do pop over for a visit (or else, LOL). Oh and also visit the blog of Carol Bevitt, who made me giggle whilst I was there too (didn’t realise you blogged Carol, but just found you!)

A Pocketful of Good Advice (and Peak District)!

Last weekend I threw caution, preplanning and all the things I should have been doing to the wind, and uprooted us all to the Peak District for a long weekend.

It’s not the kind of a place you need an excuse to visit, chock-full of natural beauty as it is, but we all had several  – visiting The Marketplace Restaurant and Scarthin Books in Cromford again, visiting Peveril Castle – but I had a just-for-me excuse in the form of a workshop on writing Pocket Novels, run by the lovely Sally Quilford and handily located in Chesterfield.

It was great to finally meet Sally in the flesh and I spent a useful, funny and hugely enjoyable few hours in the company of Sally and my fellow workshoppers. I had worried that it might be brimming with multi-published authors who just wanted some pointers on the Pocket Novel format. Eeek! Intimidating!

As it turned out, I had no need to worry. They were a friendly bunch with a great sense of humour and ranged from writing novices to people like me who have had the odd success here and there but are still working hard at it and trying to have more. Everyone was full of enthusiasm and great ideas, whilst Sally’s advice, exercises and handouts were incredibly useful, really making me feel well-informed and a great deal more confident about writing for that format.

So much so, that I’ll be giving my first pocket novel a go for NaNoWriMo! But more on that later. For now, here’s a rundown of the topics Sally covered

  • Basic requirements: format, word length, characters, structure, narrative, dialogue etc
  • Writing a traditional romance – the conventions
  • The Morality of Pocket Novel World
  • Approachable Heroines
  • Rewarding Heroes
  • Conflict – what it is and how it works in romances
  • The First of a Million Kisses
  • Compelling secondary characters
  • How to come up with plots and sub-plots
  • Quick tips for writing a pocket novel (focusing on structure)
  • Writing for My Weekly/People’s Friend – what the editors want; similarities and differences
  • Tips for writing your synopsis
  •  After your pocket novel is published: Going into Large Print and Kindle
Hopefully I haven’t forgotten any. If you get the chance to go to one of Sally’s workshops, GO! You’ll have fun and learn a lot. 
Afterwards I caught up with the family, who had been exploring the town and museum, and were having a tour around the church with its famous twisted spire. A fascinating church – lots of inspiration there!

Santa Silliness!

Yes! I bring you news of a major literary prize win!

Well OK. Not a major literary prize, BUT the lovely Wendy Soliman, who causes me constant pangs of envy because she spends most of her time in Andorra or Florida (wibble!), had a birthday recently. And in a fit of birthday-inspired madness  generosity she offered a prize for the most  ‘off the wall’ suggestion as to what Father Christmas gets up to for the rest of his year. Read her post to see what started her on this train of thought!

Since off-the-wall is my middle name (yes I know, mine was a difficult childhood. And signing the cheques…), I gave it a go.

And in return for my minutes hours of painstaking effort, I won the prize! Now I just have to sit back and wait for one of Wendy’s books – A Class Apart – to wing its way to me. Hooray!

I know you’re dying to know what wondrous & profoundly life-transforming gem won me my prize.  And it would be mean of me to deny you, oh gracious readers who find me by searching for Belushi Tea, Caron Freeborn and Christopher Somerville.

So here it is. You may want a tissue to wipe away the tears.

Downtime for Father Christmas

Father Christmas is, of course, a kindly soul. So he spends much of his year caring for the other supernatural creatures that don’t get out much – you know, ghouls,the Easter Bunny,the occasional Tooth Fairy whose patch is just a tiny hamlet in the Hebrides. And of course when Mrs Christmas demands her sunshine break (well wouldn’t YOU, if you lived at the North Pole?), they have to invite Jack Frost to their Barbados villa too. “He’s at a loose end,” Father Christmas explains to his wife. She wraps her beach kimono around herself and pouts.”It’s intolerable, Crimbo!” she cries, batting her eyelashes at her twinkle-eyed hubby. “He drips all over the floor!” “He can’t help it, dear” says Father Christmas gently. “It’s in his nature.” Mrs C sniffs. “You wouldn’t say that if YOU were the one who spent the rest of the year scooping up Easter Bunny’s pellets. Easter Bummy, that’s what I’d call him.”
The conversation always ends the same way. She stalks out and Father C sighs, knowing once again his generosity will cost him a brand new ‘Mary Christmas by Chanel’ suit for Mrs C…