Friday, 30 May 2008


"As humans we instinctively know which voices send shivers down our spine and which make us shudder with disgust."

Voices are a great part of a person's attraction for me. Often I notice the voice before anything else. Some voices I find very hard to listen to for very long, and that's about as far as I took it. But reading a snippet on the BBC News website made me realise there's a lot more to it than that, and that I could use it in my writing. I think I already do, in so far as I like to give my hero a deep toned, mellow voice. But there's so much more! Check out
The perfect voice and you'll see why.

I'm off to find a more detailed report on the work....

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Electricity cuts

Today is St Germain's day. How do I know this? Because last year I bought a page-a-day-diary while I was in France, and every day has a saints' day listed, plus a table at the front depicting them all. I never knew there were so many!

Yesterday was a frustrating day. At 7am the house alarm woke us from sound sleep so dh had to rise and wander groggy-eyed downstairs and reset it. A power cut, he mumbled and climbed back into bed. The screech of the alarm when you're inside the house is nerve jangling - and deafening. By 9am we'd had three more power cuts and at 9.25 it went off and stayed off until 4.35pm. So that meant no computers, no lights, no tv or radio. No kettle, no oven. Had we been at work we'd never have noticed, but we're at home all day and there are so many things that need electricty. Mid-afternoon I thought I'd use the time to do a little housework - only to remember that the Hoover wouldn't work. Saved by the bell there!

Beans on toast for lunch. We have a gas hob, but had to use matches to light it instead of relying on the automatic ignition, and hold bread over the gas flame to make toast. It is a holiday week here for schools, and I pitied parents and grandparents trapped with kids who couldn't use their PCs, tv or any of the music gadgets they so take for granted these days.

The recorded message put out by Npower (our supplier) was intriguing: the fault is due to damage to an overhead power line caused by a third party.
My imagination went wild. What kind of third party manages to damage an overhead power line some sixty feet in the air? I was all for going out and searching for the break, just to see what had happened, but dh wasn't having any.

According to the BBC News, the weather was the third party, and it wasn't only Tyneside that suffered. High winds and heavy rain brought chaos from Kent to Northumberland. Check out the pictures:
Tow Law is about 20 miles from us - due south!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Second bite at the cherry

A discussion arose on one of my groups about Second Hand Bookshops. Some authors and independant booksellers do not approve of SHBs or charity shops that sell books because the author gets no financial gain from sales made there. Booksellers lose business to them. Online booksellers often sell seemingly new books as second hand, and at ridiculously low prices, though conversely some, like Amazon, as I am personally aware, sell secondhand books at comically inflated prices.

I can see why SHBs annoy authors, and publishers too. I can see why authors want payment every time a book is read by a new reader, because mid-and lower list authors cannot live on the proceeds of writing.

But as a buyer of books I want to be able to buy the book I want as cheaply as possible, because that way I can buy more books and not make an unhealthy dent in my bank balance. As a reader I want to be able to pass on a book to a friend or relative and say this was great - do enjoy it! (I gave up doing that when I found people did not return them - but that's another story!)

Authors seem to think I should not be allowed to do that. Yet they sold all rights to their work to a publisher and accepted a contract that paid them for that work. The publisher then paid to have the book printed, distributed, etc and I paid the bookshop for that book. Everyone ought to be happy. The book is now mine, to do with as I will.
If I like it, I'll keep it. If I don't like it, I'll offer it to my local library as a donation where it will hopefully be read and promote the author's skill to a new set of readers. Because I did not care for it does not mean that no one will like it. Sometimes, if it is more convenient, I'll give books to a charity in the hope that someone will buy them again. The buyer will enjoy a good read and the money will go to help someone in need.

(Some) authors would have me bin it instead so that no one else can read it. I can't do that. Not everyone can afford to buy new books, and rely on libraries or SHBs. I am not going to deny those people the pleasure that has given me so much in my life. And in these days of mounting illiteracy, it is important that everyone should read more. People who cannot read do not buy books at all.

And besides, no book, however much I dislike it, should ever be put in the dustbin. That seems like sacrilege.

The questions go on. Should we be obliged to pay BMW a fee if we buy a second hand mini? Or pay a designer if we purchase a second hand dress? What about that that sheet music, Vetriano's paintings, people who drive over Sir Norman Forster's bridge at Millau? should we start paying them a fee, too?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Still fine-tuning

It does not make for exciting blog reading to say that I am still fine-tuning the latest wip, but that's what I'm doing. I took an afternoon out to visit Wallington yesterday, and walked through the woods admiring the fantastic spring greeness all about me - somehow emphasized by bluebells on the shady hillside of the river bank.

I want to get this work finished soon, because I want to start another story when I'm away in France. It's a good place to write. There are so few distractions - no television, no radio, no neighbours. Mobile phones work only if you walk half a mile to the road, and if the house phone rings we regard it nervously - usually a French voice demands the owner of the house, and we have to say in our halting French that Monsieur is not here, that we are only guests. I really should start practicing my French phrases now....

I do hope the builders working on a house further up the valley will have finished when we get there. The shrill sound of an electric saw cutting through stone at intervals throughout the day did rather jar the peace and quiet. Having said that, I have to remember that the house we are going to has been having a refit.

A new bedroom was added on in October, when we were last there, and work is still going on. An inside staircase has been added, so we won't have to go outside, round the corner and down the steps to gain access to the lower rooms. That will take some getting used to. And the upstairs loo has moved. I probably won't be able to find it if I wake up in the middle of the night and want to go - it's always pitch dark there, unless the moon is just at the right position to shine in through the bedroom window.

Plus which old habits die hard - I imagine that for a couple of days at least I'll still head outside to go downstairs, and fumble about for the loo where it used to be before the brain clicks in and re-directs me.

Friday, 16 May 2008

How Time Flies

It seems a long time since I climbed Stac Polly but dh has just found pictures on his mobile phone! This is one of me he took when we were half way up, with Loch Lugainn beneath us. It was the end of February, I think, which explains why we were so wrapped up in winter clothes.

I'm working on fine-tuning HsD in fits and starts, and thinking about adding a new plot line to an earlier novel that I'm very fond of but which received 2 firm rejections for not having a) enough plot (Robert Hale) and b) not having enough internal conflict (HM&B). There are some good scenes in it that I'm loath to waste - but I quite accept that both publishers had valid complaints. My cp always said it had no spine...she was right.

Internal conflict is difficult, I find. There are only so many believable issues that can stop a couple who love each other from marrying and I'm sure you can think of them all in a twinkling. HM&B admit it, but say that the journey, and how it is handled, is the important bit. H'mmm. Then they ask for original voices and exciting stories. Ah well, nobody makes me do this. I do it all for my own pleasure.

I'm varying my diet of romance reading at the moment. I found biographies of Nigella Lawson and Byron on the library shelves and brought them home. Since Byron died in 1824 I can claim I'm reading around issues contemporary to my current wip, but Nigella? That's sheer nosiness on my part. I didn't know both her parents were Jewish, and that both her former and current husbands were/are Jewish, too. I use her How To Eat more than any of my other cook books - it is a joy to read - except perhaps for Delia's How To Cook.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Back to the Grind

That's another holiday over. I re-live them on here for a while, but eventually, even that comes to an end and it's back to the grind once more. In case you want to know, when dh came back from his French escapade, we took the Honda to the garage on Thursday and it is still there. We await events, but once the car is back, cured, then the Cornish holiday is really, really over.

As for writing - though I'm tinkering and fine-tuning the last chapter of H'sD to get a gripping finale, really it is finished. It is time to start something else, and at the moment, my ideas are blurry. They need a little more time to come into focus, so meanwhile I'm tinkering about with all sorts of odd jobs such as editing my pics onto cd's - correctly labelled, and dated. I discovered I had 6 or 7 cds bearing pics and some items were endlessly duplicated, misnamed or not named at all - so they would never be found. Now, I have but 2 cds with each photo in its correct, labelled folder. I can feel my halo shining!

Another thing - I've finalised my record of submissions. I have two paper files of letters and an incomplete spreadsheet, or rather I had - now the spreadsheet is up to date and the paper files have been vastly reduced. One thing stands out like like a beacon - UK agents are not interested in taking on new authors writing historical fiction. I never got the slightest hint of interest from any of the, and believe me, I approached quite a few.

I have WsB, HsD, FAG and Shadows out on submission at the moment, and I should push the others instead of letting them just sit on my laptop. Publishers take so long to answer, some to even acknowledge that they've received my work. I should have another look at RC and decide what to do with it, since it seems People's Friend are not going to answer me. They've had a 30k version since last July without a peep out of them, so I think it is time to give up on that one. I telephoned HM&B last week about FAG. They asked for the whole ms last August and I'm still waiting to hear, but Ms Mentell promised to bring it to an editor's attention as 9 months was a very long time to wait. Almost time to bring a baby into the world!

Friday, 9 May 2008

WEEE man

He's an ugly brute, isn't he?
He's made up of the 3.3 tons of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) thrown away by the average person in the UK in their lifetime.
Makes you think, doesn't it? He stands as high as a house - you can maybe get a better idea of size by enlarging the noticeboard picture and observing the people in the background. It was too big to get everything into the one picture without being so far away the detail would have been lost. I would guess that the average person in the US, Canada, Europe and every westernised country goes through a similar amount of "stuff" in a lifetime - possibly more.
I'm as guilty as anyone else. My washer-dryer packed up this week mid wash, and I've bought a new one. Well, you do, don't you? How to exist without one?
The John Lewis partnership undertake to remove the old one for free when they deliver the new one, and I must ask them what they propose to do with it. I console myself with the thought that I've had my faithful old washer dryer for almost 25 years, so I'm not doing too badly.
The Eden Project has a good education section where hordes of school kids rush around pushing this, pulling that and generally finding out how things work. There was a party from a French school there and they seemed to be having a great time. They all gazed at the WEEE man in fascination. Such a pity I couldn't understand what they were saying.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cornwall and cars 4

So, there we were stuck in Cadgwith car park with a car that stubbornly refused to start.
While I struggled up the long uphill drag through the beautiful bluebell wood, Bill groped and fiddled beneath the driver's seat and after a tense five minutes had the engine running. We drove smartly back to our base in Mullion, where he precede to take out the driver's seat so he could see what was under it. He found that if he fiddled with the wires, connection would be made, and the engine would start. (I don't know if I explained that the immobiliser function is to cut off the fuel to the engine if the car is stolen - so it cannot be driven away.)

Neither of us was keen to go sight-seeing in the car next day, so we ambled down to the cove, which was blustery and grey, where rain drove us into the cafe for coffee and a toasted teacake. We dodged rain all the way back to Mullion. Considering our options as we walked, we decided to head for home a day early, so we ate our final dinner in the Old Inn where I forgot once again to check and see if they sold scrumpy, and wandered back to base for an early night.

Bill started the car next morning by the unusual method of groping under the driver's seat and drove us all the way to Bristol. He filled the tank with petrol, groping under the driver's seat once again to get away from the petrol pumps, which earned him some very strange looks and didn't switch the engine off when we got to Parkway Station where he was due to meet a friend that evening. I ran into the loo, then got in the car and set off driving north knowing I couldn't stop until I rolled onto our drive.

Fortunately the sat nav got me out of Bristol and onto the M5 without a hitch and I cruised north at a steady 68 miles an hour to conserve petrol. I didn't dare stop for more and I had about 300 miles to go. It was dodgy, but I made it and rang Bill before he met David and set off for France. We were both so relieved I can't begin to tell how delighted we sounded! You'd think we'd won a vast amount of money or something.
It wasn't quite the holiday I'd envisaged. We never got to Penzance, or St Ives or any of the other places I'd had on my itinary. We did have a Cornish Cream Scone with jam and clotted cream, and we did stop at the Eden Project on the way down, which was lucky. We had planned to go back on whichever day it rained (and it was sure to rain sometime in the week!) as a couple of hours wasn't long enough to take it all in.
The Project is a series of Biome conservatories containing plants from the rainforests and the warm temperate regions of the world, all set in a disused china clay pit outside St Austell. We managed a swift wander in the rain forest, and retreated from the steam heat with misted glasses. I took the pictures of spring flowers you see here as we walked down into the bowl, but we missed the temperate and Mediteranean gardens. I'll post some more pics tomorrow, including the WEEE man.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Cornwall and cars 3

Tuesday was rainy and cool so we amused ourselves by burning logs on the stove in Parc Wartha which cheered the place up enormously. The back part of the house dates back to the fifteenth century, and the upstairs flat, which we rented, has been updated with great style and sensitivity. The walls are built out of huge chunks of Cornish stone, often the Serpentine for which the Lizard peninsula is famous.
After lunch we walked down to the cove, pictured above, and found the tide still very high. We also found ourselves with a one-legged seagull. We seem to be haunted by one-legged birds as we have a second one-legged robin in our garden at home, and now this seagull. He found it difficult to land exactly where he wanted, especially in a gusty wind, and we didn't have anything to feed him but tangerine segments, which he did not even investigate. (I went back with a thick, fresh crust of bread next day, but other people commandeered the seat that he'd chosen as his spot, and when they left, he left. I waited, but he didn't return, so I left the bread anyway. I like to think he came back and found it.)
About five o'clock we got a call from the garage in Truro to say they'd found the fault and we could pick the car up as soon as we liked. H'mmm. The garage was 40 long Cornish miles away. We said we'd be there next day, and then grabbed the bus timetables. Three buses, and we reckoned we could be there by eleven.

We were up very early next morning and stood in the rain at the bus stop outside the Methodist church. We were not alone, even though it was only 7.45. The bus breathed in and squeezed around the narrow Mullion streets, hurtled around the lanes to Helston at alarming speed. If you've never been to Cornwall, you need to know that driving through country roads is like driving through a leafy, sunlit tunnel. The hedgerows at this time of year are littered with primroses, bluebells and orchard spikes, but behind that beautiful greenery lurks two tons of solid stone and soil, often six feet high and not something with which you, your car or the bus outght to collide. The Cornish hedge repells all invaders. Your car, person or bus will suffer irreparable damage.

A short wait in Helston, another bus and off to Truro. Double the distance this time at 18 miles. Another change in Truro and off to Trispen, another nine or ten miles, 40 in all. We got off right outside the garage and joyfully picked up the Honda. A bad connection in the wires that ran beneath the driver's seat had been the cause of the problem. Something so simple! But we couldn't really complain after 8 years of trouble free motoring, paid our bill £85 and drove off back to Kynance garage to settle our account there. We paid out £150 but couldn't object, considering all the man had done for us, and on a Sunday, too; but I couldn't help thinking what such a small thing as a bad connection was costing us.

We drove another four miles to Cadgwith cove, parked the car and walked down through the woods to the cove and had lunch there. The sun disappeared and there was a brief fall of hailstones and lots of rain but we enjoyed a brief walk around once it cleared. It is such a hilly village that we didn't walk far, but headed back to the car and you'll never wouldn't start. Same probalem all over again. The immobiliser had immobilised us.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Cornwall and cars 2

This is the Wolf Rock lighthouse where our car was parked on the open grassy slope.

Monday was busy day. We bussed into Helston, topped up dh's mobile phone as we thought we might need it in the next few days, and after lunch we set off to walk to the garage at Kynamce to see what was happening to the Honda. We went on one of the bridlepaths across the cliffs and were somewhat startled to see two riderless horses thundering towards us down the narrow, rutted lane. Fully bridled and saddled, they looked as spooked as we were and we edged by each other with some trepidation. One was a heavy boned skewbald and the other a huge gunmetal grey, both well turned out.

One mile down the track we met a limping young lady who immediately wanted to know if we'd seen any horses...another mile brought two more people and another of the horses had thrown the rider, which had spooked the second horse, which had done likewise. We never found out what had scared them so but there were a lot of helicopters chuntering around from the air sea rescue base at Culdrose, and flying pretty low, too. Perhaps they were the villains.

Anyway, got to the garage (3.9 miles!) and found the car had been loaded on something dh calls a beavertail and driven to Truro. So, all being according to plan there, we set off to walk across the Lizard Downs to join the coastal path back to Mullion. All went well until the smooth, grassy path petered out into heather and gorse, sudden bogs and hollows. Dh disappeared rather suddenly into one hollow and had to be pulled out again! We finally hit the coastal path and headed north, enjoyed the spectacular views, tried to avoid stepping on wild flowers in the grass and gradually got more and more tired and still the path went on. Mullion was not even in sight when we were overtaken by two other walkers heading in the same direction. They were being met at Windyridge Farm and they were kind enough to offer us a lift back to Mullion. I accepted gratefully. 10.6 miles over some rough country was more than enough for me!

This is Polurrian Cove, about half a mile from Mullion.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Cornwall and cars

This is Poldhu Cove on the Lizard peninsula. We spent the last week staying in Mullion, and there are wonderful walks in almost any direction - to the coast, the coves, and the coastal path along the sea's edge, which is astonishingly pretty at this time of year with all the spring flowers.
This is me on the path between Polurrian and Poldhu and if you click to get a larger pic you'll see some of the wild flowers beside me. They were amazing, some so tiny they were like little blue stars in the grass. Hard not to walk on them out on the open cliffs.

We had some adventures. After shopping at Tesco in Helston we drove down to the Lizard lighthouse, parked up on the grassy slope, looked around the Wolf Rock lighthouse, then ambled along the cliffs. When we grew tired of peering over the edge, we went back to the car. It wouldn't start. For some reason the imobiliser in the security system cut off the engine. The car wouldn't move. Ha! Five o'clock on a Sunday afternoon perched on the cliffs in a rising wind and a car that won't go. Wonderful.

Dh fiddled and probed, but nothing would shift it. About ten to six, after watching all the other cars zoom merrily out of the car park and beginning to feel very small under that wide sky, I volunteered to go to the tiny gift shop on the cliff edge and see if I could phone for assistance.

This offer was snapped up, and off I trudged. The young man proved most helpful and help was summoned from the local garage in Kynance. Ten minutes later, when I had barely recovered from trudging back up the hill to the car, the cavalry showed up in the shape of Mr Johnson and son, a tow rope was produced and off we went up horrendously narrow lanes back to their garage.

I rode with Mr Johnson, who told me he once towed a Rolls Royce backwards (because it's front wheels had locked) from the same spot, and that new Range Rover had gone right over the cliff last year. It's still there, he said, and I wished I'd known earlier when I was looking over the edge. I also wondered how a car as big as a Rolls Royce had fit in those narrow lanes....but then, a RR must be as wide, if not wider. Mr Johnson took us back to Mullion and promised to take our car to the nearest Honda dealer next day - which happened to be the other side of Truro, in a place with the quaint name of Trispen. All three men were of the opinion that only Honda could sort out the electronics that would enable to car to move again.

I think we were lucky indeed that Mr Johnson was willing to turn out on a Sunday evening...

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...