About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cash in the Attic - Puns R Us

Have been watching Cash in the Attic, over lunch. This masquerades as 'research' though how much I ever learn from it about my particular branch of collectables (ie textiles, see The Scottish Home ) I wouldn't know. A couple of weeks ago, somebody wrote to the Radio Times about the number of puns in this programme and how it was driving them daft. Now I was vaguely aware that the pun count was fairly heavy, but you don't notice every single one until somebody points them out to you. So we sat there, today, over our yoghurt and fruit, and started counting them. Actually, we soon lost count. Every single comment, every single bit of whatever passes for a script was just a long succession of godawful smartass puns. Why do they do it?
Each programme has exactly the same structure. The participants and presenters are filmed 'discovering' things that just happen to be lurking in the front of cupboards, and then the participants are persuaded to sell these family heirlooms for what sometimes seems to be a mess of pottage. Well, I know they're all willing volunteers, but it does occasionally look as though some gentle browbeating goes on. Then, they do quite well with the first few lots, after which there is a short spell in the middle where a few lots don't quite make the grade (ooh, says the presenter, maybe Phyllis and Albert won't manage their sky diving trip after all) only for things to look up with the final few lots. Are they the final few lots? Doubt it. I've never been to an auction room yet where every sale followed the same rigid pattern.
So why do they do it? It's as if the programme makers somehow get into a rut that they simply can't get out of. The heavy handed structure - we don't need it. We won't complain if you shake it up and cheat us of our expectations a bit. We're only watching because we're working from home, we're having lunch, we're nosy, we like to see what other people have in their cupboards, and we quite like to listen to what the experts have to say about various pieces and without the awful lame puns. Please. Gonnae no dae that? Gonnae no?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plays at the Palace

Still no news about anything, plays, novels, nothing. To be a writer, eventually, is to wait and wait, so you may as well get on with something else in the meantime, which is what I am doing: a new novel, a possible new play, some poems.
Went to the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock, last friday, to see Tir nan Og and Walk in the Park, a double bill of plays which had already been on at Glasgow's Oran Mor as part of their Play, Pie and Pint season. Nowhere in any of the Palace theatre publicity did it state the name of the playwright. It turns out that Dave Anderson wrote (and acted in) both. I enjoyed the whole evening, but thought that Walk in the Park was superb: moving, funny, thought provoking. Afterwards, (googling to find the playwright) I saw it described as 'whimsical' but it didn't seem at all whimsical to me. A short, powerful piece of theatre is how I would have described it.
Sadly, the audience was very small. Where, I wonder, were all those people who come up to me at writer's events and ask about writing for the theatre, and more specifially for the Oran Mor? There are thriving writers' groups in Kilmarnock and nearby Ayr, so why did more of them not come along to see for themselves, especially since this was a 'pay what you like' event. Envelopes were handed out as you went in, and you put in them whatever you thought fit at the end of the production. It is a pity more professionals (politicians? builders? lawyers? doctors? ) are not paid in this fashion....
Anyway, there was no risk of feeling that you had wasted your money, but still very few people came. A shame.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plays, Poems and Pictures


Looks as if the poetry pamphlet is going ahead. Waiting to get ISBN numbers. Waiting, and waiting and waiting. My life is spent waiting for people to make up their minds and do things. Meanwhile the printer called to say that he liked the photos which I was hoping to use on the cover. Seemed, in fact, extremely taken with them. This surprises me, since I'm a bit of a hit and miss photographer. Know zilch about the techie side, just point the digital camera and press the buttons. It's a close-up of an old piece of embroidery - Chinese I think. A bit ragged around the edges, which seems to me to be a good enough image for the poems too. Here's a bit of it.
Meanwhile, finally managed to speak to David McLennan by phone. I sent him a draft of a 'solicited' play, a potential Oran Mor play, many months ago, but haven't heard a thing since. He was, predictably, very busy. (This is true. The poor man is constantly busy, and constantly harrassed by playwrights, like me.) He promised faithfully that he would call me back in the middle of the afternoon. I waited in, specially. The phone never rang. Then, much later in the day, I realised that there had, in fact, been a problem with my phone itself. Aaaargh. I have missed my one window of opportunity, and I reckon it will never ever come again.
Later still, realise that this new season of Oran Mor plays includes one by my bete noir of last year, Tom Tabori. Shall I (a) go and see the play and heckle from the back (b) go and see the play and give it the same glowing - in the inflammatory sense - review as he gave mine or (c) ignore it completely? Of course I could go and enjoy it. There is always that possibility.
There is definitely too much seriousness going on at the moment.
We are writers. We make stuff up. That's about it. It is by no means a matter of life and death.
My horoscope for this month was astronomically excellent, but I see little evidence of it in the real world. Well, not as far as my career goes anyway. Perhaps it means something else altogether!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poetry, Clothes and Other Things

Sorry folks, but I've had to re activate comment moderation, mainly because the magic word 'poetry' induced a flurry of strange and anonymous comments. I don't mind the strange bit at all, but I do mind the anonymous element, and won't ever post anything that comes in anonymously.

Late last night, I noticed that an American bookseller is selling a copy of The Curiosity Cabinet on Amazon for £127.63. I am gobsmacked. The rights to this have now reverted to me. I'm considering Lulu-ing it, but am kind of hanging onto it for the moment, in case (some day soon, I hope) I find another publisher, not Polygon, who - having published the new novel - may just possibly want to reprint it and give it a better innings.

Back to poetry. This morning, I woke up wondering if I should (a) spend my money on publishing a new pamphlet of poetry (which was last week's plan) or (b) spend my money on new winter clothes. Yes, I've been browsing through the Sunday Times's 'Style' section - which this week is dedicated solely to fashion, much of it reasonably affordable.
And I know which option looks most enticing right now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Hard Day's Night and the Beatles

Started watching Hard Day's Night, on BBC TV, very late last night, and then couldn't stop. So many memories. I saw the film with my mum, the first time round. We stayed on in the cinema and saw it twice. Not only did I know all the words of all the songs, but I knew every nuance of every arrangement, ever quirk of the way they were sung, and most of the dialogue as well. I felt like a kid, who has to have the story told in exactly the same way every time....
As the Radio Times pointed out, this was a ground breaking film - until then movies made for the likes of Elvis and Cliff had been a series of lighthearted stories with the songs slotted in.
OK, so this was still a lighthearted story with the songs slotted in, but the way it was filmed was utterly and completely different from anything we had seen before, in the best possible way, and was the forerunner of a million arty pop promo videos.
The other thing that struck me about seeing this brilliant movie again, after a gap of a few years, was just how young the shrieking fans were - little girls who looked like little girls.
Everyone had a favourite Beatle. Mine was, and still is, John Lennon. I adored John, used to dream about him, and write stories in which he was the main protagonist - an early version of fan fiction - and I've since discovered that I wasn't alone!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Self Publishing and Poetry.

Since I've been thinking about self publishing a pamphlet of my own poetry - for reasons which I'll outline in due course - I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the process here on Blogger for the benefit of anyone who might be thinking along similar lines.
At this time of the year, perhaps because I seem to do more work in autumn, winter and spring, than in summer, when too many other things get in the way of writing, I always have the desire to take stock, think about what and where next.
I'm shelving plays for the time being.
Well, I say that's what I'm doing, but I have several proposals of one kind or another 'out there' and if somebody said 'yes' I wouldn't, of course, say 'no'! It's just that nobody ever responds at the moment, and unless I want to get a group of actors together, hire a hall and 'do the show right here' there's little more I can do, except carry on writing dramas that, in all likelihood, will never see the light of day. And much as I love working in the theatre, there is only so much on spec work that you can do. This is not, incidentally, aimed at beginners! Most beginners can expect to do nothing but on spec work for years and years. But there does come a point where you have had a number of critical successes, and many years of experience, but are still not getting any response to submissions, not even rejections, and at that point you have to wonder if you can - or even if you want to - carry on doing it for much longer.
This is, perhaps, a hallmark of just how dedicated you are to a particular medium: ask yourself if you would continue working in it (a) if nobody was responding at all and - perhaps more interestingly - (b) if you were earning so much money that you didn't have to do it. This last condition, alas, doesn't apply to me, but there are certain areas where I would still answer a resounding 'yes' - namely with novels, and poems - perhaps because I feel I still have so much to learn with novels, and am progressing further with each attempt, each rewrite. Well, that and the hundreds of ideas, buzzing around my brain. And then there are poems, where a long hiatus, and all those years of writing drama which seems to have become increasingly poetic, have brought their own rewards. I'm writing more measured poems, more surely, knowing what I want to say and how I want to say it.
Which is where self publishing comes in. Not for the novels of course. I still have hopes of finding a conventional publisher for those, particularly for the work in progress, which concerns a contemporary answer to a historical mystery, and seems pretty commercial to me - but certainly for the poems. I have a couple of pamphlet's worth and am writing more all the time. And the thought of sending them out and waiting and waiting, only to have inexperienced editors tell me what I ought to be doing makes my heart sink. A few years ago, before I stopped writing poetry altogether, I sent some poems to a literary magazine, which had better remain nameless. Back they came with the comment that the reader liked the 'livelihood' of the little boy in them, but not much else. She meant 'liveliness'. But the fact that I was being expected to take criticism from somebody who clearly didn't know the difference, astonished me. So I'm thinking about self publishing a couple of pamphlets partly for my own satisfaction, partly because the whole process interests me, partly to have something reasonably priced to sell at readings and workshops, and partly because I have other plans for some of the poems, but need something that looks professional to send out. And at the moment, I'm talking to printers. Of which more later.