Monday, July 30, 2007

Outta here

No time for anything except to say goodbye and be good y'all and take lots of care.

Back whenever.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Brief mysterious post

Want to see an unusual combination of blogging babes and a sphinx?

Click here to see Mel, Eddy and my not-so-good self at Crystal Palace.
(Scroll down.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Space - the final frontier

When we go away, our ancient Volvo estate (Helga) is stuffed to the gunwales with camping equipment, so that there's barely enough room for our hair and it takes a masterpiece (actually usually a mistresspiece) of design and organisation to fit everything in.

We've always known our holidaying lives would be transformed by one of those sleek aero-dynamic roof box thingys.

But they're SO expensive.
And neither of us earn money over the summer, so we'd decided - yet a again - that it's out of the question.

I'd emailed the boss man at the consultancy I do freelance critiques for to say I wouldn't be available for further edits until September.
The email must have crossed in the post/ether.
Because a couple of days ago a 400 page MS thudded through the letter box.

The Bad News
I have to get this completed before we go away.
I can't/won't take it with me.
And I don't want to go away knowing I'd have to come straight back to it.
And it's b-i-g ...
I foresee some very late nights over the next few days.

The Good News
We bought the roof box with the extra £££!

You know the Bob Marley song that includes the line:
We'll be together with a roof right over our heads?

My dear friend, Ch, once admitted to me she'd always thought the lyric was:
With a roof rack over our heads ...

Guess what the theme tune for this summer's hols is going to be ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Arrivederci, Roma ...

Rome's finished and we're bereft.

I hardly watch tv these days and rarely get pulled into a series.
But this was such a wonderful spectacle, with mind blowing sets and some of the very best acting, that I was sucked in.

But I did find those names confusing.

First you had:

Lucius Vorenus
Lucius Malfoy
and Lucius Pepperus

Then there was:

and Octavier is the saddest month

Not to mention:

Titus Pullo
Titus Andronicus
and Titus Arsell.

My mistake.
That last one appeared in Nirvana Bites which has yet to be serialised on the Beeb ...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogger lite

School's out!

Summer's here.
You can tell by the sheets of raining pouring from the leaden urban sky outside my window ...

Inevitably, blogging will be intermittent for the next few weeks.

Stay safe.
And dry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kicking, gnashing, spitting ...

Choose a repair appointment to suit you

Go ahead. Choose. Doesn't mean you can get it.

Book it with one call

This one call will sap your will to live. And don't think for an instant that at the end of it you will have achieved anything apart from shaving several years off your life

Report your problem 24/7

You will be on the phone 24x7

Relax, we'll keep in touch with you

Relax? Ha! That's a good one. The tenants'll have a good laugh with this.

OK. I give in. I'll book it online.
Log in to council website.
Navigate menu options.
Get to repairs section several lifetimes later.

Read message:
To report a repair, phone our hotline.

OK - so here's what I have to say (and believe me, I mean it).

Whichever fun-loving bureaucratic slimeball came up with a system that involves punching every button on the phone keypad so many times you get repetitive strain injury and listening to the combined works of every minor composer who ever lived, and STILL not getting to speak to a human being let alone book an appointment, needs to come round like NOW so they can see what it's like to have no lights in a windowless bathroom at the very point in the life cycle of head lice that means it's essential to nit comb and you're going to have to do it by candlelight when you never wanted the sodding fluorescents in the first place.

Medallion man

Want to see a pic of a demented-looking lover showing off his athletic assets?

Sound Bite


If you're ever in a position to be interviewed, be aware that the journo may well have a fixed idea about the article before you so much as open your mouth.

And you may even realise what they're up to -
- but it won't help you.

Click here to see Fiction Bitch's experience of the phenomenon.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Guess how much Waterstone's are asking publishers to cough up in order to 'maximise the potential' of their books this Xmas.

(BTW - only 6 titles will qualify. Don't ask me what happens to the rest ...)

Go on. Guess.

Did you come anywhere near the real figure?

It's £45,000, according to the Times.

Here's some more figures from the article to make you weep:

£45,000 For one book to appear in window and front-of-store displays, and in Waterstone’s national press and TV advertisement campaign

£25,000 To feature in a bay at front of store as a ‘gift book’ in its genre and be displayed at the till

£17,000 To be one of two titles promoted as the ‘offer of the week’ for one week in the run-up to Christmas

£7,000 To be displayed at front of store as a ‘paperback of the year’ and be mentioned in newspaper adverts.

£500 Price of an entry in Waterstone’s Christmas gift guide, complete with a bookseller review

As for the rest of us ...Gissa quid for a cuppa tea, squire.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We have visuals

By cunningly choosing horizontal images only, I've managed to get some photos onto the Wye post to give you a fuller flavour ...

The best blogging by-product

I met Verilion, fresh from Paris, yesterday on the South Bank.
She was vertical when I met her ...

As you can see, no sooner did I congratulate myself on transferring photos from camera to laptop, than I ran into an ... er ... small technical difficulty ...

Can anyone tell me how I rotate these things?

Anyway - back to the lovely V.
This crossing over from Blogworld to Real Life has been a completely unexpected but wholeheartedly welcomed by-product of blogging.

So now V joins the impressive list of bloggers I've met.

Cast list (in order of appearance)

Maxine, Link Queen
Sharon, Think Queen
Minx, Rinky dink Queen
Skint, Not a Queen
crimeficreader, Crime Queen
Cailleach, Poetry Queen
Natalie, Chats with deities
Elizabeth, Not in the slightest bit bitchy
Clare, Boob Queen
Nikki, Award winning Queen
Granny P, Matriarchal Queen
Rivergirlie, Queen of comedy
Marie Not so struggling Queen

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Number crunching

Over 1,000,000 - the number of books in print in the UK

200,000 - the number of new titles published each year

135,000 - the number of these considered suitable for bookshops

30,000 - stock held by the average branch of Waterstone's

200,000 - stock held by the largest branch of Waterstone's

500 - number of years of existing literature that must also be held in stock

1 in 10 - the chances a new book has of being displayed in a bookshop

(Figures from Danuta Kean's article, 'Chain-reaction', in the latest edition of The Author.)

Lucky 7s

Did you hear about Elizabeth Elie?

She was born in delivery room 7 at Birmingham's Good Hope Hospital ...

... at 7.57

... on 07/07/07.

Oh, and she was her parents' 7th child.

Now there's someone who will grow up needing little convincing there's a pattern to the universe.


Did I happen to say anything about Bookarazzi yesterday?

I did?


OK - in that case I'll just mention in passing that the site has had 405 visits and 2,428 page views so far this week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Positively polar

This is cooler than cool.

No, I'm not talking about the migration of the polar ice cap to the freezer box of my fridge resulting in the fridge door not closing and me having to add defrosting the damn thing to my already unmanageable list of things I have to do today ....

No, no indeed.
I'm talking about this - the newest, bestest, coolest place to hang out in the literary blogosphere.

You may remember me telling you some time ago that I'd joined a Bloggers with Book Deals group, which explained the explosion of fab links (eyes right) since that time.

Well, for the last few weeks, we've been absorbed in creating a new collectively-run website.

(Actually, Lucy Pepper did the clever techy stuff and Clare's done sterling work as ever in pulling it all together.)
There are about 50 of us involved - some of the biggest names in the literary blogosphere, so you can imagine we're really excited about this.

The site is packed with resources, regular articles and features as well as links to all the Bookarazzi members' bios and books.

There's a blog where you can pop in and comment,
a useful FAQ section for writers,
news and events pages,
comprehensive links
and lots more.

The site will be regularly updated and will always be a work in progress.

Pop along now and make sure you bookmark us for future visits.
We look forward to seeing you there.

Oh and don't forget to let us know if you want us to link to you ...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Loved up and knackered at Wye Fayre

You can judge how successful a music festival has been by the vibe the morning after the night before.

Yesterday saw people floating round the campsite, taking down tents, packing, tidying (I didn't see a single abandoned can, bottle or plastic cup in the field) and exchanging beatific smiles:

'We were there. We shared the experience. It was s-o-o very good, wasn't it?'

There were 5 of us.
Me, G, First Born, Little Guy and Surrogate Sister.

Almost as soon as we arrived, I knew having a girl with us would make for a very different experience ...
SS's tent was a pink and lilac confection plastered in Bratz logos.
Before we'd so much as unrolled the sleeping bags, LG's nails had been painted shiny silver.

No worries - the Wye Fayre was always going to be a place where my boys having long hair and painted nails would barely raise an eyebrow.

And howzabout the weather?
After a week of flooding, the sun shone benevolently down on us all.

SS's cheeks turned a brighter shade of pink than her tent almost as soon as we'd unpacked the car.
Another new experience - I don't know if blondes have more fun, but they sure as hell burn faster.The tent field was directly opposite the main Fayre site across a tiny road, so wherever you were, you could always hear music.
I've always thought life would be much improved if it had a soundtrack, and this was as close as you can get.

The venue and the way it was set up meant that it felt totally safe.
We plastered the kids in sunscreen and let them off the leash, bumping into them every couple of hours (usually when they were hungry).

They hit the sack round about midnight on Friday night.
And woke at 4.30am!
After growling, 'Get back in your bags' at regular intervals, I finally gave up and they were off again fueled, I suspect, by copious amounts of Red Bull.

I'm sure the organisers and performers would have preferred the place to be heaving, but from a punter's point of view, not being packed was a huge plus and added to the feeling that we were in a space so laid back and easy going it had none of the negativity you can sometimes encounter at larger events.

I have a suggestion for next year ...
The food consisted of a van selling burgers, chips and tannine stew and another doing healthier options of salads and soups.
If there had been a real coffee and cakes option, I reckon it would have done a roaring trade. (With us anyway ...)

Alcohol drinkers were more than well-catered for;
a gigantic beer tent with stacked barrels offering a bewildering array of choices;
a converted VW van which opened out to reveal a fully-stocked cocktail bar;

and (my personal fave) The Bimble Inn - a massive tipi with a champagne bar down one side and a stage at the far end.
The floor was covered in rush matting, blankets and cushions and the wooden tent poles were festooned with twisted muslin and fairy lights, creating the ultimate chill-out zone (esp after the sun went down and the temperature plummeted).

Younger children were also more than well-catered for with some wonderful imaginative entertainments.
So on to our personal musical highlights - bearing in mind there were 4 stages running concurrently - a veritable smörgåsbord of audio treats:

Middleman (thumping bass)
Alf (gorgeous voice from the lead singer who wrote Ray of Light recorded by Madonna)
The Moon Music Orchestra (see pic)
Ralfe Band (guitar riff reminiscent of a Ry Cooder and Pink Floyd mix)
James Yuill (man with laptop)
and Alberta Cross (kids bought cd)

The undoubted ultimate highlight for the kids was making friends with Seamus from Any Dream Will Do.
There were the inevitable glitches, as with any event this size, the most obvious being the delay in the arrival of diesel for the generator on Saturday morning, with the result that it took some time before any of the acts could perform on the main stage and several had to be bumped sideways onto the smaller stages.

Further evidence of the chilled-out vibe - I saw no aggression, no prima donna tantrums - only laid-back spontaneity and good humour.

The organisers say this about themselves and their aim:

'Wye Fayre is brought to you by people who love music festivals the way they used to be - high standards, non-commercialised, good value for money, family support, great food, great creativity and bulging imagination.'

As far as we're concerned, they fulfilled this on every level.

Want further evidence?
I don't usually post pix of the kids here, but couldn't resist this, taken on the journey home.
Forgot to mention we were delighted to see Dan Maitland perform on one of the stages.
Dan's a member of EDWG - a talented writer as well as accomplished musician.
Clever, eh?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Women Who Read

A lovely ex-blogger emailed this to me.
I went to her blog to do the link and found - oh joy! - she's back!
And while we're on the subject of virtual comings and goings, look who's popped up here.
And how did I get THERE?

So - back to that email:

One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap.
Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out.
She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat.
He pulls up alongside the woman and says,

"Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," she replies (thinking, Isn't that obvious?).
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could
start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,"
says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the game warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know
you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can
also think.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What to Wear in Wye

Hoping to meet up with lots of you at Wye Fayre this weekend.

Check the website for latest details.

According to the weather forecast it looks set to be fine ...

... And they never get it wrong, do they?

So - suntan lotion and welly boots it is then.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Net results good

I've been thinking about this here blogging lark.
Nothing new there then, you might say.

Except that this time I'm thinking about it in conjunction with its potential to be a force for good or evil.

I posted recently about Rachel's hideous experience with a deeply disturbed cyberstalker.
This woman committed true crimes for our times.
She used blogging as a tool for a vicious and sustained campaign of harassment, eventually going on the run and using internet cafes to continue her abuse.

Rachel's experience was clearly extreme and all the more horrific given the other things she was dealing with in her life at the time.

But I doubt if there's anyone who's been hanging round the blogosphere for long who hasn't had negative experiences to some degree or other.

From bullying comments to malicious emails;
from frustrations with the technology to fears re exposure;
from spammers and porno merchants to painful misunderstandings that take on an existence of their own;
all life is here.

BUT ...

Rachel harnessed the power of the blogosphere to eventually catch her stalker.
A button was produced with the stalker's photo and the Crimestoppers number.
A host of blogging good guys published the button on their blogs, with the result that the stalker was eventually caught in an internet cafe in Aldgate.
(I was deeply mired in Hay at the time, so didn't take part in this particular aspect of the campaign.)

Then take the story of Dina's book and its journey through the blogosphere.
As Lee, who initiated the journey, commented:
'It goes to show that not every virus is malignant.'

So next time you're wondering if blogging has a place in your life ...
Or you're feeling intimidated and considering allowing yourself to be bullied out of the playground ...
Remember this:
The potential to do good is here too.

It's up to us.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The next link

I'm delighted to announce that this lovely blogger is the next link in the chain from here.

I will be sending Dina's book to her later today and look forward to the continuation of its journey through the blogosphere.

Meanwhile, Dina's blog continues to provide us with an insight into her life.

In this post, for example, she says:

'I realised that what's really new with cancer is this sense of living longer. So, for example, right now, the other mothers at school - most of whom haven't seen me for several weeks now - have no sense of what kind of illness this is. Is this cancer you die from? Recover from? And the truth is I don't know either, and none of the medical people answer these questions either. This is the unknown of now - so everybody just says, take each day as it comes.'

She follows this up with a discourse on the Guardian crossword.
That's Dina for you.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lucky me!

Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday greetings.

I had a great day ...

This friend kindly offered to babysit.

So G and I went here to celebrate their 10th birthday -
- and the launch of (the brilliant and quirky) Martin Millar's new book, Lonely Werewolf Girl.

And I received a wonderful pressy from these people.

Lucky lucky me ...

Ola Tatiana (and thank you, Steve)

Look! Look! Look!
(I'm excited - can you tell?)

Senor Redwood has kindly forwarded this to me - a very positive review of Buscando a Tatiana - the Spanish translation of Trading Tatiana - written by Zeki, editor of Gangsterera.
(Clearly an enlightened and highly intelligent individual with wonderful taste in literature.)

My lovely man in Spain has also been kind enough to provide me with a translation.


'Looking for Tatiana (El Tercer Nombre) by the English writer Debi Alper reminds me of another novel which at the time, despite its undoubted qualities, passed more or less unnoticed through the commercial bookshop sector without attracting much critical interest. I’m referring to The Dwarves of Death by Jonathan Coe, another English writer. Both novels portray English society from the viewpoint of hopeless (’defeated’) young people who expect little from an establishment which has already destined them to the most menial tasks. They move through the underworld of the ghettoes relying on social aid, somewhere between the world of outcasts and libertarian and creative bohemia, resisting the failure looming over them with a mixture of hope, making do with the least possible, and a belief, somewhere between idealist and disillusioned, in the eternal values of solidarity and brotherhood.'

It's interesting that he's picked up on the way the book has passed under the general radar.

But he's also been very astute in sussing out the underlying themes of the book:

'The story combines the flight of the two young women in a kind of interior immigration. Tatiana, an immigrant from an eastern European country, fights to escape the clutches of unscrupulous compatriots intent on keeping her as a sex slave, while Jo, a permanent exile on the edges of the welfare state, strives for a place in this society which is denied her.

We are presented with the radiography of a cosmopolitan and variegated society which hides its social deficiencies under the cosmetic of a savage liberalism. However, the novel delves into the tiny opportunities left by hope, gambling on human relations free of spurious interests, struggling to give birth to an optimism that ends up by proving itself to be almost impossible.

A special sensitivity in the creation of the characters gives us a highly evocative reading experience that allows us to glimpse the challenges confronting the younger generations. Spaces of utopia won’t be created without victims – but they will be created: that is the final message of this text that goes beyond the usual clichés.'


Rachel's cyberstalker (see here and here) has been jailed for 6 months (see here and here) after she was caught in an internet cafe.

Let's hope she's now given the help she clearly needs and Rachel can breathe easily knowing this hideous harassment is at an end.