Monday, May 31, 2010

Internet fail

Our internet connection had been slowing up for a while, a week, perhaps more. Then last Thursday it began to seriously fail. It wasn't that we couldn't get online, we could, but pages weren't loading properly. Some sites, a seemingly random selection, we couldn't access at all. It was all a bit of a disaster.

Of course this threw me into a total panic. Not only did I feel isolated, but I couldn't do the things I needed to do, such as internet banking. Half term was on the horizon and we rely on the internet completely to keep Son 2, a YouTube addict, amused. I couldn't read my emails to confirm he had a couple of days respite this coming week and I was unable to get hold of people by phone. Stressed doesn't even begin to describe how I was feeling.

Luckily I do have a Vodafone mobile internet dongle thing so all was not lost. I eventually discovered I could access my emails via that, but we wouldn't all be able to get online and the costs could potentially be huge if Son 2 had to use it all day during half term. Hubby has been trying to persuade me to cancel the contract when it expires this summer, but this has proven to me that it's a worthwhile investment as a fallback.

In the end we managed to get Son 2 online but the rest of us suffered. I spent an hour on the phone to BT who were polite but didn't solve the problem. They seemed to think it was probably our router (not a BT one) but I was sure it wasn't. They also muttered something about BT Yahoo server maintenance. In the end that is what I think the problem was, as yesterday morning our normal service suddenly came back (fingers crossed).

It's been scary to realise how dependent we are on our computers.

The computer downtime did, however, give me a chance to carry on reading Like Bees to Honey, which I finished yesterday. I'm still trying to process all my thoughts, but what I can say is that Caroline has written an amazing book and one from which I suspect each reader will take a different message. I'll come back to it later in the week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Time to refocus

I've had a busy week, so gave myself a break from writing. Now that novel one has finally left home, I need to turn my attention back to novel two, which has been forming gradually in my mind for a long time.

I've got many of the elements, the main and some secondary characters, the principal settings, some of the plot elements, but there are still more to find before I can start writing. Novel two, unlike novel one, is also going to need quite a lot of research. Over the past months I have been doing online research at odd times and I have quite a few websites bookmarked for further reading. I also have a few books to read or revisit and a DVD to watch.

A two week half term is about to start, so I think I've got the perfect excuse to escape to the library now and then...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A perfect book launch

It was the London launch party of Like Bees to Honey yesterday and despite a brewing sinus infection I headed happily off to Wood Green, a journey into the centre of London then back out again!

The Big Green Bookshop was full of chattering literary types, some of whom I already knew, some I recognised from Twitter and others I didn't know at all. I managed to speak to quite a few people including a number of Novel Racers, past and present, Sue Guiney and Julia Williams. I only wish there had been time to talk to many more.

Caroline did a beautiful reading and signed many, many copies of the book. There was wine and Cisk beer from Malta. It was a happy, celebratory evening which finished all too soon.

Caroline's own account of last night and her other launch events can be found here and it's fascinating to read about a book launch from the author's point of view.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I use iGoogle as the homepage on my laptop and amongst my calendar, email and various links and feeds I have a couple of gadgets which provide daily inspirational quotes for writers.

But at the top of the page the words which inspire me most are a constant. Written on a 'sticky note' gadget the first words I see each morning are 'writers...write!'. I've already blogged about the significance of those words here and I can truly say that they motivated me to complete my novel.

This weekend I added another word beneath them.


Because that is what I have to do now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like Bees to Honey - Chapter 3

I'm honoured and excited to be hosting Chapter 3 of Like Bees to Honey, the new novel by my mentor and friend, the hugely talented Caroline Smailes.

If you haven't already started your journey through this unique literary event, the first excerpt can be found here on Caroline's own blog and the whole novel will be posted around a total of 32 blogs today. Just click on the book to view.

Continuing on your way, as you truly must, Chapter 4 is to be found here on Jon Mayhew's blog.


(You can also buy a traditional copy from Amazon or other booksellers)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The buzz is growing...

Come back tomorrow and all will be revealed...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting ready to submit

This weekend I've been doing further research on agents. I'd already spent hours reading the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and checking out agency websites to find where my book might possibly fit, but this time I was doing something more specific. I was looking at how the agencies which interest me want work submitted.

It's something that is common sense but also very important. We all know we need a synopsis and a covering letter, but beyond that there does seem to be a lot of advice on the web, some of it conflicting. However, every agency has its own specific requirements and we should follow them to the letter. There is no point in failing to do so, or trying to submit a book before it's ready, because we just end up jeopardising a chance with that agency and in the current market nobody can afford to do that.

Just a little heads up that something very exciting is going to be happening on this blog on Thursday and it might just involve my lovely mentor Caroline Smailes. Please check back then...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ankles and awesomeness

I had to see a physiotherapist at the hospital yesterday. Now I thought I knew our local hospital quite well, both boys were born there and have been inpatients at one time or another, as have I. But yesterday I discovered a whole new area, a long corridor dedicated to adult therapy services, and found myself in a huge gym for an assessment of the ankle pain and spasms I've been suffering. I didn't get any real answers, but as it seems to be getting better on its own I'm not so bothered, and I'm being given exercises to do at home to strengthen my muscles.

Afterwards I popped into the new hospital branch of Costa for a reviving coffee and browsed the magazines and paperbacks in WH Smith before heading for home. It never ceases to amaze me how a large hospital is almost like a small town, with places to eat, things to buy and even a hairdresser. I've probably told you before that allegedly an old lady once dialled 999 to get a lift to a hair appointment there?

Earlier this week I was given the awesomesauce blog award above by Clarissa Draper. I think I'm supposed to pass it on to five of you, but as so many of my readers write awesome blogs, I really can't make a decision. So I'm going to cheat and tell all you awesome bloggers to help yourselves!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May madness

May is promising to be a crazy month, in the nicest possible way.

First there was the election, but that is finished now so let's move rapidly on.Then there are book launches. I have an unprecedented three to attend.

The first, held on Saturday, was a party to mark the launch of Keris Stainton's first novel, Della says:OMG. If you haven't already done so, do read this guest post by Keris as part of her blog tour. I've followed Keris' blog since just before she got her agent, so attending her launch was inspirational.

The party itself, in a pub near charing Cross Station, was great fun. It was lovely to meet up again with Helen, and also to meet several online friends for the first time, including Tamsyn, Claire and Keris herself.

As far as my own novel goes I'm still fine tuning, in preparation for a final paper edit next week. I've got a hospital appointment tomorrow, so will aim to print it out on Friday and start work on it on Monday, when the house is quiet. My synopsis and cover letter are both ready, this is all starting to become very real.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The penalties of early arrival

Eighteen and a half years ago, son 1 was a tiny baby wired up to a bank of machines in neonatal intensive care. We were lucky that he survived, even though at 5lbs 1oz he was one of the biggest babies in the unit.

He received nutrients and medication via drips and later through a tube down his nose into his stomach. A ventilator breathed for him, expanding his lungs to the danger point of bursting. He became part of a medical trial of a lung treatment. He had a cannula on his hand through which blood samples were frequently taken to check on blood gasses, nutrients and medication levels. So much blood was taken that he had to be given a transfusion to replace it. He must have suffered pain and discomfort, despite being sedated.

So I was interested to read this article in The Times this morning about ways such care can have a lifelong impact on premature babies. I can't honestly say whether Son 1's pain threshold has been affected, though it is certainly possible as he does seem to experience certain types of pain intensely. But my eye was also caught by the tiny mention of an increased risk of mental health problems. I haven't yet seen that research and will have to have a look for it one day, because that too makes perfect sense to me.

We were one of the lucky families. Son 1 was only 6 weeks early and has had no serious lasting effects.Or has he? Who knows.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Post-election musing

So we did our civic duty and voted, knowing perhaps that none of the options were what we really wanted. And we are left with one big mess, it appears.

On a local level, I'm happy that our MP was re-elected and control of our local council has changed. I'm also happy that the neighbouring electorate delivered a resounding verdict on one of the worst expenses cheats.

But I fear for the future, for the services that we, our elderly parents and our children will one day need. I fear that son 1, who voted for the first time with such enthusiasm, is already becoming disillusioned.

I have no idea what the solution to the mess will be and I don't think the politicians do either.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bah! Brilliant Book Bonanza

Our family has been lucky enough to have suffered rarely from cancer. But I lost one of my best friends to breast cancer, I know many others who have suffered, some of whom died. It is a cruel disease.

Last autumn I thought, for just a few weeks, that I might have breast cancer. The NHS swung into action, I was seen at the breast clinic within two weeks, I had all the tests, including a biopsy. A week later I returned for the result. But for those three weeks all I could think was, what will happen if...?

Just a few months I ago I discovered the blog Bah to Cancer and then I started following Stephanie on Twitter. I have been humbled by the courage and honesty of her account of fighting cancer and the charity work she has undertaken.

Her latest initiative is the fabulous Bah! Brilliant Book Bonanza a scheme to raise money for cancer charities through a blog draw for uplifting reading material aimed at those who might be in need of a boost. The books themselves are donated by authors and publishers and the first draw takes place this month.

I love the concept of the power of reading and creative writing in times of need (long term readers may remember that it was a career path I once hoped to pursue myself via a specialist MA) and the Bah! Brilliant Book Bonanza is definitely a project to follow and support.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Everything changes...

Back in 2008 a group of Open University students were swapping book recommendations on an ever changing forum and from that moment the idea of Bookersatz, a blog where the recommendations could be archived in the form of short reviews, was born. I was one of the co-founders and enjoyed editing the blog.

But I am well known for taking on too much and last year, when I was on the final course of my OU degree and diploma and also feeling unwell, Bookersatz became rather neglected. I had no time to chase up or write reviews, my personal reading time was consumed by my studies. I put out a plea for assistance amongst writing friends and lovely Helen M Hunt came to my aid, admirably taking over the editorial functions.

Life has moved on. The OU creative writers who were the original reviewers for the blog have moved on to other things and the focus of the blog has changed slightly. A new group of contributors and readers has come forward. I fully intended to return to a more proactive co-editorial role as my health improved, but real life has got in the way yet again and I have had to make a conscious decision to devote far more time to my own writing.

So, after much agonising, I came to realise that for family reasons I still don't have the time I would wish to devote to Bookersatz. I've formally stood down as co-editor, although I will continue to be involved as an occasional contributor. I've left my baby in Helen's capable hands and I know it will thrive.