Friday, 31 January 2014

Book Break

There's to be a new, web-based TV show about books and authors. It promises to talk about books in a way relevant to the consumer, and "will provide a dynamic and innovative realisation of how life can be best served up in a good read."

Definitely food for thought there. What on earth are they talking about? Alex Heminsley* will front the show. Pan Macmillan is launching it via You Tube on 7th February at 12.30pm. Book Break will run the first Friday of every month. Author Naomi Wood, Karen Swan and Louise Johncox will feature in the first programme. Peter James will be interviewed.

My first reaction was Oh, good, something about books. Then I tried to puzzle out exactly where I could watch this event, and I'm still not sure if I'm tuning in to You-Tube or not. If it is only once a month, there's every chance I will forget about it before March rolls around.  Why not have it every week?  I'm sure there are plenty of readers who would love the chance to chime in and make their views known. I hope I've found out exactly where it is showing before we reach 7th February!
*Not a name I know!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Cinema Conventions

The cold has turned into a hacking cough which nobody would love, but I'm actually starting to feel better. Unhappily, dh seems to be going the other way.....

Last night I watched The Devil Wears Prada again, and enjoyed it. Sometimes you just want stuff that's little more than moving pictures - elegant pictures, pictures with humour, a pithy message or two but no great angst that will burden the dreams for years to come. The Devil fitted the bill. I think Emily Blunt does a great part as Emily, Streep is glacial and vicious without seeming to be bitchy, and Hathaway is something of a mismatch - clever ingenue, if that's the right phrase, so that when she decides to join the Runway girls, she has the brains to do the job. Not that Emily hasn't; for her it's love of fashion, whereas for Hathaway it's a challenge. Funny but I can't remember her character's name.....

I started to watch a Dustin Hoffman movie about a bug getting loose somewhere, and gave up before I was far in for fear my eardrums/brain would give up the unequal struggle.  Why does a certain type of US film have characters that shout at full speed on telephones or in corridors when a lot of the wiseass cracks (sorry, that is probably not a good phrase - it certainly isn't elegant) mean less than nothing? It's as bad as the constant thumps of deep base noise - almost ultrasound - to alert film audiences to the fact that something a) frightening, b) scary or c) plain ordinary is happening or about to happen on screen. The noise shocks even if the happening on the screen does not.

Other film conventions that irk - hero/heroine dashes across 4 lane highway, Starbucks and parcels flying and holds hand, palm out, to stop cars while she skids across. Try that here and you're likely to get squished. Then there's the hero/heroine who barges at full speed  through a conversational couple or group on the pavement, peacefully minding their own business, and no one turns a hair! A whole heap of abuse would follow you here. In the old days it used to be the cowboy who galloped his horse for miles and miles and miles - even days - across the Great Desert. Now it's the car chase where no one ever runs out of petrol at a crucial moment.....
Clearly I'm still not back to normal. Unless anyone out there has spotted a few film conventions to complain about? Go on, I'm sure you have!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Colds and other woes

Not very happy at the moment. Full of cold and impatient for it to be gone, gone, gone. I don't have time for colds. I have  a dog to walk, a house to run (ha ha!) a book to finish and a finished book to redesign. There are no holidays looming up in the next few months, so I should get a good run at the writing, if only everything else would fit into place around it.. The dog is chewing his feet to the point that I've let him chew one of my slippers instead. It's that bad.

Vets bills are astronomical. We've had tests, and bought potions - all of which are a trial to administer, because Tim can sense a medication at a hundred paces and he can move a lot faster than I can. I suppose, being in the NHS, we are shielded from the awful truth about the cost of medications, but once you own an animal, the threat of illness takes on a terrible, ominous reality. How can  a set of pills to cure dermatitis cost £160? Oh, the insurance will pay, the vet says blithely. Well yes, I do have insurance, but that doesn't mean he should recommend anything and everything. No insurance firm is going to go on paying those sort of sums every month for ten or eleven years. I'm tempted to stop all treatment, keep the feet clean and see if nature takes care of it. Or, as an old man on my riverside walks said, He'll maybe grow out of it.

I'm told 3 men were seen digging up rabbit warrens yesterday to rescue a terrier that had got stuck on the riverside. The evidence of opened tunnels is still there. I'm surprised at how shallow they are. I thought they would have gone much  deeper. I'm assuming the dog was eventually rescued.

Spot the Father Christmases in Zermatt!

Friday, 24 January 2014

As flat as a pancake

I won't get much writing done today. DH has finally succeeded in passing on to me  the cold he picked up in Zermatt, so I'm not functioning at my best. I spent the morning watching Rafa/Federer's semi-final in the Australian Open  until some glitch stopped the pics coming. (Fear not - it was recording, so I can pick it up later.) By then the dog was getting restless, so I took him for a stroll (I strolled, he ran everywhere) by the riverside. When I got back it was lunch time, and I ate while checking my e-mails. Bad habit, I know, but so time-saving.

I might repair to bed this afternoon, as I can't seem to get warm even though I have several layers one on top of another. I can try reading. I say try because I fell asleep twice last night while reading and I don't think I should blame Sarah Dunant's Blood and Beauty. It was me....Sometimes I just don't notice how tired I am.

I have several other books to get through before February. I have a Joanne Harris  and a Diana Gabaldon sitting unread on the shelf, and I am due to review two books for the HNS. It never rains but it pours - I go for weeks without the sniff of a good book and then half a dozen come along at once and I don't have time to sit and read them all.

Still, the Viking adventure is shaping up well. I'm up to Chap 16, and at 3,000 words per chapter, that's about 48,000 words. I don't have the energy to do anything to it today. Strange how writing always seeems such a sit-down-and-be-comfortable hobby, but I can't do it when I'm tired or under the weather. I need energy flowing to get the story rolling, and today I'm as flat as a pancake. Hence all these miserable cliches .....

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Going faster than my skis

Let's just say I know people are not interested in my day to day activities while in Zermatt. You've heard it all before, and I don't want to watch your eyes glaze over with boredom! But if you want a place that is pretty, stylish and expensive, it's the place for you. The skiing is wonderful,with 360 Km of pistes and masses of off-piste if that's your thing. After the Michael Schumacher incident, you'd think many would decide to stick to the groomed runs, but from the chair lifts we could see slope after slope covered in ski and board tracks all heading off into the unknown. One pair of tracks disappeared over the edge of a cliff - goodness knows where they ended up - especially as I think it was an area designated to wildlife. If they survived, and got caught, their lift passes would be revoked. We stuck to the corduroy where the piste-basher had flattened the snow, so we didn't go and peer over the edge to see if they'd survived.

The prices are high, as everyone complains, but you get quality in everything in return. A plate of frites cost 8.50 Swiss francs, a beer 9.50, so at an exchange rate of 1.4 francs to the pound sterling, lunch on the mountain every day cost around £12. Expensive, yes; but consider we were at  at 8500 feet up a mountain; the chips were freshly cooked,  hot and crisp and the bottled beer straight from the cooler. With the sun shining, we sat on the restaurant  terrace, a rug over our knees as we ate and watched the antics of the kids on the nursery slopes outside the Riffelberg Hotel or turned the other way to gaze at the Matterhorn. We could have bought a bottle of Moet & Chandon instead of beer if we wanted.

After four days skiing I found I was going faster than my skis. Tired muscles didn't hold the turn hard enough and I went straight on while my skis valiantly tried to turn down the slope. Result? I shot forward, planted my face in a pile of snow. Neither ski came off and I rolled upright, unhurt. A German gentlemen stopped, regarded me and asked 'Gut?'
I stopped trying to claw the cold snow out of my eyes, smiled through the white stuff covering my face, hair and sunglasses and replied. 'I am good.'

He grunted in satisfaction, whirled  to face the downhill slope, and raced off. But I couldn't get to my feet. As I struggled, a large male skier travelling at speed shot over the hill, saw me, squawked and shot by a mere two feet away. I think I murmured something endearing like Bloody Fool! to his retreating back. He was no doubt swearing under his breath about females who fell and didn't get their backsides out of the way. In the end I took my skis off, dragged them to the side of the piste and then spent five minutes struggling to re-attach them. Those tired muscles again.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


Home again after a hard week skiing in Zermatt. Apologies to all those who responded to my tweets via Facebook - I tried to go direct  through Facebook but they prevented me, even though I had the password,  in case I was a hacker.

The Matterhorn must be the most photographed mountain in the world, I think, and it certainly towers over the village. Click on the pic to view it in a bigger frame. We had a view of it from our balcony this year, and saw it in many of its changing moods. You will, too, when I get my pics downloaded!

Getting there takes all day.  A flight from Glasgow carried 3 people for Zermatt - and the conveyor belt in Geneva airport broke down just as their baggage was coming through, so we had to kick our heels on the bus for an hour before they joined us. But this time we arrived at our hotel in time for dinner.

Coming home, which is the most recent memory, ran something like this :  leave hotel at 8.15am and ride electric mini cars to railway station to get to Tasch, where we get out and dash, as far as you can dash with a trolley laden with skis, boots, suitcases x 2, to the waiting coach. Then begins the three hour ride down through the mountains to Visp, then Sion, Montreux and beside the lake all the way to Geneva. Arrive at 12 o'clock and discover the bus has parked at the extreme far end of the concourse for Easyjet flights to the UK. Pound down the half mile, get inside concourse and discover horrendous queue snaking in those nasty U-turns across the entire floor. Stand in said queue for 27 minutes, reach check-in desk, then outsize baggage desk for skis and then escape upstairs to discover an equally big queue to get through customs.

Finally get into Duty-free and buy gifts for  the wonderful people looking after Tim, and then eat lunch.  By now it is after one o'clock and the gate closes at 1.35. It is a 15 minute walk from Duty Free to Gate D82, but thankfully a lot of it is via conveyor belts, but we make it with a quarter of an hour to spare and then discover a gaggle of school children will be sharing the plane home with us. What a delight....

As it happened, the flight was on time, the kids were fine and the plane arrived back in  Newcastle ten minutes early. Then, naturally, as always happens at Newcastle, we had to wait another 20 minutes for our baggage to come through. Skiis are always last, naturally. Then out into the airport and into a taxi. A dank, miserable grey day and we were home by 4pm. What a day!

Monday, 13 January 2014

"Agent Artery is a service with both writers and agents in mind, helping literary agencies and agents manage and keep on top of requests for representation from new authors, and helping writers to easily keep track of their submissions.

Our system has been designed to provide both agents and authors with better tracking and processing when it comes to managing submissions."

Spotted a link to this on Twitter but don't have time to explore it right now. The link is for anyone who wants to go further.

No doubt I'll follow it up and see what it is all about. The blurb for authors is as follows: -

"A single portal listing all the leading literary agencies from across the country.
Select agencies by genre, status and submission procedure then make your submissions.
With inbuilt tracking to ensure you always know at exactly what is happening with your submission.
Submissions are stored online and display date, title, agencies and agents to whom you've submitted... all under one roof."

Friday, 10 January 2014

J K Rowling and the book-buying public

There's an article worth reading behind the link quoted below. It has been around for some time, but I've just found it, and I'm "fixing" it here so that I can find it again - and perhaps bring it to the attention of a few more people who, like me, don't always catch the news first time around.

It concerns J K Rowling and her attempts to bring out  new novels under a false name. I can certainly see why she would want to do that. The Harry Potter cult-thing was unique. Enid Blyton was popular but I don't think she suffered the same media attention or the same pressure as J K.  Nor, I am sure, did she make the same amount of money! Once the cult thing began, J K's success was assured, but she must have wondered about her status as writer. Putting books out anonymously was one way of discovering what people truly thought of her work.

It's a sad reflection on people that the ones she trusted  most were the ones who let her down. It is equally a sad reflection on the book buying public - once they knew, they queued up in droves to buy the wretched book. It makes me wonder if any publisher could resist the temptation to "leak" the famous name and thus assure themselves of much-needed sales.

The best bit of the article is the single comment right at the end. Make sure you read that far.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Floods and country walks

One of the joys of walking the dog is getting out and about in the countryside. Even in the cold days of January, there is greenery around here in the north and this year we've had a lot of sunshine and days well above freezing. When the trees have lost their leaves there is so much more to see for those like me, who are essentially nosy. I'm well aware we are the lucky ones, and that for those who live near the coast in the south and west of the UK, flooding seems to be a constant threat.
Our local river - the Tyne - is high and has been high for weeks, but so far I have not heard of actual floods. It's running fast and it's a dirty brown colour with all the mud and silt it carries. Every time the water level drops, there are vast pile-ups of dead wood, branches, and mud left behind, and in among the debris plastic pails, paint tins, plant pots and just plain old plastic drinks bottles poke out of the mound. Heaven knows what else is lurking there unseen. The air stinks as the unsightly mass dries out. Paths we walk every day bear evidence of being underwater overnight - logs stranded by the water block our path. One day all this rubbish is going to be swept downriver on the next flood and it will end up in Newcastle and, eventually, the sea. Once there, the tides will no doubt wash it up on our beaches.

Monday, 6 January 2014


As a long time reader of Diana Gabaldon's Claire and Jamie adventures, I have to admit to a slight disappointment re the casting. Jamie was a redhead, and Claire had amber-gold colouring. Couldn't they have used a few packets of hair dye so the description matched the characters in the books? Also, she was some years older than Jamie. I forget how many exactly, but I did look it up once and it was a considerable gap. The actor is 33, the actress who plays Claire, 34.

I would never have described it as a science-fiction-fantasy story, which is how it is being advertised. To me it is historical through and through, though technically it is a time-slip novel. But it will be interesting to watch if only to see if they twist the story as much as they twisted the history in the Tudors. I'll be tearing my hair out if they do. Here are some links to whet the appetite of any Outlander fan:

Much of the articles consist of  Scottish politicians/business people reacting to the news, but there are some nuggets to be had. The series will be of 16 episodes and will show in the US in 2014. (If it is peppered with adverts, then I suppose that will reduce it to a series of 12 episodes!)

It began filming in September 2013, with locations like Douane, Falkirk and Duns Castles.  To my knowledge, woefully inadequate about today's film world, there isn't a single "big-name" star to carry the series. I suppose they're banking on the success of the novels - 20 million sold and counting, with a new one almost ready to hit the streets. (Unless it already did? Note to self - check!) 

Thursday, 2 January 2014


I'n currently obsessed with statistics. Mine. No, not the hour-glass kind, but my blog stats. I began my blog in 2008 and the stats have been rising steadily year on year - except for last year. They dropped through the January to November period and suddenly started to rise again. Now the worrying thing is were my posts so boring, or was there another reason? Does anyone else check their blog stats?

I'm also trying to find records of my book sales, to see how I'm doing and what sells. I should be able to co-ordinate it with the amount of PR I do, but that may be a step to far. Certainly I record where I promote, so I don't overwhelm one promo site, and I try to vary which title I promote, but it would be a horrendous task. I think I'll save it for a day when I'm really bored and stuck with my writing. First of all, I've discovered a gap in my records, so it would be good to find the missing sheets. Given that my study is a bit of higgledy-piggledy mess, that might not be too easy. Wish me luck!

In case the pic puzzles you, it's a wave coming gently ashore.