Saturday, September 29, 2007

Read and weep

Check out these figures in the news this week:

Total sales of the 6 books on the Booker shortlist 120,770
Sales of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach 110,615
Leaving total sales for the other 5 books on the shortlist 10,155

I know. I found it hard to believe too.

But it gets a whole lot more depressing when you add in this figure:

Sales of Crystal by Katie Price aka Jordan 159,407

How many times do I have to say it?

Don't write because you believe you'll achieve fame and fortune from your books.
Not unless you already have said f&f for some other achievement -
- like having surgically enhanced breasts and being married to an Australian one hit wonder.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cheeky blagger

Derec Jones aka Skint Writer aka publisher, author, artist, cook, poet etc aka Wales's very own Hovis boy has come up with yet another new initiative -
the Opening Chapter blag.
(blog + mag = blag. Geddit?)

You'll find articles by many familiar names and faces including one by yours truly about Bookarazzi.

So why are you still here?
Go on! Check it out ...

Me … me … on me strengths

Canterbury Soul mugged – I mean tagged – me for this meme.

So without further ado, this is how I see my top five strengths as a writer.

  • Voice

I’ve said before that my blog voice, fiction voice and Real Life voice are all pretty much the same.

My 1st 2 books were written in the 1st person …
The following 3 in the 3rd person …
(Are you following the numerology here?)

But in all cases the style is a direct and conversational flow from me to you.

  • I’m a keen observer (aka nosey cow)
I said here that I’d like to be a fly on the wall.
Wherever I am – in the supermarket, on public transport, at the school gates –
I’m watching you ...
I check your mannerisms …
I eavesdrop on your conversations …
I imagine your story.

I’m fascinated by you.
(Not scaring you, am I?)

  • I’m also pathologically empathetic
In Real Life this can be a hindrance.
I see where you’re coming from even when you’re being vile to me.
This means I’ll often end up putting your needs before my own.

But as a writer I reckon it enables me to think myself inside someone else’s skin and create believable characters.
(Though if you don’t agree, I’ll understand of course …)

  • I’m a natural story teller

My life is strung together like a series of anecdotes.
I can go on for hours (and frequently do) conjuring up tales from my past or from family history.
It’s part of the oral tradition and I have endless fascination for hearing other people’s stories too.

  • And I’m an avid reader
I know some people say they can’t read other people’s books while writing their own but that’s not the case for me.
Since I first toddled my way round the shelves of the children’s library, I’ve always had a book on the go.
I read in all styles and genres and though these days I read more critically, seeing what works and what doesn’t has become an additional part of the pleasure.

I feel sorry for people who are unwilling or unable to access the infinite worlds contained between the covers of a book.
(Are you listening, sons of mine?)

Right – over to you now.
I’m not going to do the tagging thing –
- just do it if it chimes with you.

Techy trauma

So today was my first day since July (yes, really) when I have been home and didn't have to either go to see my dad or edit an MS.

I was planning on a protracted surfing session ...

So what happens?
No broadband connection ...

40 mins on phone to Mumbai - no result.

Cleared desk and wrote a little.
(My current book wanted to know who I was since it's been so long since I'd paid her any attention.)

Then I had a brainwave.
I'd organised changing my ISP (gasp) but hadn't rec'd any written confirmation so hadn't informed my current provider yet.

Wasn't worried - was told it wouldn't happen 'til end Oct anyway.

Just in case there was a connection with the non-connection (oo-er) I tried ringing the new posse.

Cue yet another 40 min phone call to another number in Mumbai.

Because yes - they'd swapped me without letting me know.

So now I've just finally arrived online -
- 10 mins before I have to leave to pick up Little Guy from school.

Them's the breaks ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A chance to make a difference

I wanted to share the following email from Avaaz with you:

After decades of brutal dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising--and they need our help.

Clicking below will add your name to this petition to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:
"We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed."
Click Here
Click Here to Sign Now
Today over 100,000 people are on the streets of Rangoon, more around the country. When protesters last marched in 1988, the military massacred thousands.

But this time it can be different--if only the world stands with the marchers. The United Nations summit starts today in New York. Let's raise an emergency global campaign, demanding they press the Burmese generals to negotiate rather than crush the demonstrators. We'll deliver it to Security Council members--particularly China's Hu Jintao, until now the military junta's protector--and to media at the UN this week.

Sign our emergency petition supporting the peaceful protests in Burma then spread the word.

For decades the Burmese dictatorship fought off pressure--imprisoning elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy activists, wiping out thousands of villages in the provinces, bringing miseries from forced labour to refugee camps. One-third of children under 5 now suffer malnutrition; millions are down to one meal a day.

But last Tuesday Buddhist monks and nuns, overwhelmingly respected in Burma, began marching and chanting prayers. The protests spread--now they're growing by tens of thousands every day, as ordinary people join in. They've broken the chains of fear and given hope to 52 million Burmese.

However, this hope is hanging by a thread. While hesitating to attack the respected monks, the regime is reported to be organising violence. Demonstrators have already been beaten, shots have been fired.

This is one of those moments where the world can make the difference: standing shoulder to shoulder with the Burmese people, helping to shine a dissolving light on tyranny. Let's call on powers at the UN--in particular, China (next year's Olympics host)--to warn the generals that violence will have the gravest consequences, and the time has come for change.

People power is rising through the streets of Burma today. Let the demonstrators know the world is with them. Click to sign the petition, then tell everyone you know.

PS: The government has just threatened the monks--here's an Associated Press article:

And we've just heard this from the international Burma Campaign: the military has reportedly ordered a battalion of soldiers to shave their heads, pose as monks and operate as agents provocateurs. This might be the first first step towards a bloody crackdown. See here for more background.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The shining lights of the litblogs

In case you've missed these exciting developments in the litblogosphere:

Cailleach's new poetry book, Kairos, has been published and she's embarking on a promo tour.

Pundy's going it (not so) alone (we're all here) and his book, A Half Life of One, will soon be available.

And that Shameless leader of the pride has a new initiative - a collective short story - here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

(de)sign of the times

I stepped well out of my usual sphere yesterday, socially, geographically and culturally.

Mel and I were invited to the press launch I told you about here.

I tried to do my posh totty impersonation (always doomed to failure) ...
... while Mel donned a Guantanamo orange jacket.

She said she looked like she'd been tango-ed.
I said she looked gorgeous.

I love things like this on one level.
All those people I'd never usually rub shoulders with ...
All those conversations I'd never usually be able to eavesdrop on ...

Although I'd give anything for a cloak of invisibility.
Oh to see without being seen ...

It was all achingly hip.
But there was nowhere to sit that didn't have a hefty price tag, so I could only manage aching hips ...

It's a fascinating juxtaposition:
30 Fuse designers exhibiting the Next Best Thing in lampshades, furniture, flying ducks and much more ...
at Partridge Fine Arts- one of the most venerable antiques dealers out there.
The future meets the past in the present.

Mel and I had a hideous Mr Bean moment.

As we gazed at our reflections in a huge ornate mirror (a snip at £550,000) we tried to work out what it would take to create a new record:
Most damage done by 2 mildly pissed bloggers demonstrating the domino effect at an exclusive antiques gallery -
ie if I tripped over this chair, fell onto this table which upended, sending that massive vase hurtling onto that mirror, which then crashed down onto this sideboard ...

Anyway, the exhibition continues to 25th September and entry is free so go and check it out.
Carefully ...

(PS Thanks to Flying Monkey for the invite.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do your bit for fiction ...

Elizabeth is involved in an interesting project called Manchester Blog Stories.

A fictional blog you can help to shape, set in real time Manchester. Each week readers can vote on future plot direction, choosing between three possible developments in the story's next chapter. The final instalment will be performed live at the Manchester Blog Awards on Wednesday 10th October.

Entertainment for the reader ...

... a challenge for the writer!

Monday, September 17, 2007


I've never restricted our sons' surfing habits.

I didn't think it necessary.

We flatter ourselves that we've done a sufficiently good job as parents to ensure they know where to go and what's ok.

Yesterday I happened to be passing (the laptop is in my bedroom) and saw they were on one of their frequent visits to YouTube.

Their search history of the site was on screen.

Let's see now.
What videos had my little darlings been looking for?

First on the list:
Ahhh - how sweet is that?

Next up:
Bizarre but pretty harmless I think. They don't get it anyway.
(Neither do I.)

Moving on:
Oh right ...
So ...
(clears throat)
It seems that ... er ...
(draws deep breath)
my dear sweet boys ...
(hot flush creeps up torso and over neck like advancing fog)
have been searching for videos of ...
(sweat breaks out on upper lip)
... um ... chess games.

How very ... er ... precocious ...
(lips turn up into rictus smile while eyes dart left and right - a look best described as demonic).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Despair is not the way forward

Please go here to see Absolute Vanilla's Very Important Post re Darfur.

Check out the comments too.

Then sign the petition.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Year ... Old Debi ...

We're off later today to stay with dad for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

It's traditionally a time for contemplation and meditation.
The way things have been going recently, I'll just be glad if it's not constipation and medication.

Not that there's a problem with my bowels, I'm sure you'll be happy to know ...
... but my life does feel a teensy bit stuck at present.

This was the post I wrote this time last year.
Seems I still have a lot of work to do on some of those aims.
(Especially the 'ratbag in the morning' and 'shrieking over the homework' ones.)

But ...

... I'm now earning money from freelance editing ...
... and I give thanks that we'll be spending new year with dad again.

So there has been definite movement after all.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Times They Have a-Changed

A quote from Ian Rankin in yesterday's Indie:

'I'm always happy to do interviews; it's certainly better than being ignored. For the first 4 or 5 Rebus novels, hardly anyone took any notice. I would have died for attention.'

I happen to know that Rankin was very nearly dropped by his publisher at that point that he's talking about.

The first Rebus novel was published in 1987.
As is obvious from the above quote, sales were slack and reviews scarce.
This continued to be the case for the next few books in the series.

Fast forward 20 years - those early books are now considered collectors' items, the novels have won 4 Crime Writers' Association awards, Rankin won the Diamond Dagger in 2005 and World Book Crime Thriller of the Year Award this year, several of the books have been televised and he has been made an OBE and Scottish national treasure.

Consider this:
If the first 2 books had been published in 2007 instead of 1987, none of the above would have happened.
Once it was clear sales were not taking off big-time, Rankin would not be offered a subsequent deal by his publishers and would struggle to get anyone else to take him on.

Even though this same fate nearly befell him 20 years ago, fortunately there was still a vestige of feeling at that time that it can take an author several books before their career takes off.

The first flurry

The lovely people at Flying Monkey (some of whom helped to organise the wonderful Wye Fayre) have invited me to the press launch for this:

London Design Festival
15-25 September – free to the public every day (ex.Sunday)

Partridge Fine Art & Fuse UK together present
I Love Design
Partridge Fine Art Ltd, 144-146 New Bond Street, London W1S 2PF
15-25 September – free to the public every day (ex.Sunday)


Possibly the quirkiest coupling of this year’s London Design Festival is Partridge Fine Art’s
hosting of Fuse UK: Partridge is an established dealer in sought-after antiques, Fuse UK a
collective of young and emerging design talent.

Imagine a model wearing a clear acrylic dress
(c.2006) seated on a cardboard chair (c.2002) at a rare mahogany and ebony writing table (c.1820) boasting a Louis XVI ormolu-mounted white and black marble portico mantle clock (c.1780)…

Around 30 Fuse product designers will be exhibiting at Partridge. Their pieces range from very beautiful lampshades made of re-cycled card and a maple and cherry sideboard, to a chair that collects the cash that drops from your pockets and flying ducks.

Hi, honey. I'm home ...

It may not have escaped your attention that I've been a bit scarce of late.

I have Other Things demanding my attention and to be honest (when have I ever been anything but?) I can't visualise that changing in the foreseeable future.

Expect flurries of activity punctuated by extended fallow periods.

Hope you'll bear with me.