Monday, 12 December 2011

Query letters

The only thundercloud that masks the sunshine and light of writing a novel is the bit when you actually begin to make marks on the page. The conclusion may therefore be drawn that the sunshine and light part is the thinking about writing a novel - the research and sketching of a tetchy skeleton idea. The rest of it sends your stomach into plunging knots, your hopes on a roller-coaster ride, and your clutching, grasping fingers to the nearest biscuit barrel, or coffee-jar. Or alcoholic beverage.

Yes, I’m writing a query letter. (Again, she whispers. The other one didn’t count.)

Now, my problem is this: I had a query letter. The two paragraphs in it that described my novel worked really well. They won a prize. People liked it. Everything in query letter world was massively happy. Apart from...

... the novel rewrite has meant my paragraphs are redundant. They are now ex-paragraphs. Oh, they work at a push, and I’m sure if agent folk read them and thought hm! (in a happy hm! sort of way) that they would then go on to read the synopsis and chapters and probably think even more happy hm! type thoughts. But they might not. They might instead think 'why doesn’t that synopsis quite match the query letter?' Most terrifyingly they might think 'do I want to work with an author that doesn’t spot her query and novel don’t quite match?' My inner editor is cringing as it knows I should rewrite the golden paragraphs to make them fit. But I don’t wanna! I just don’t. I’d rather lick the road. (In fact, we have been through this horror list before.)

Even worse than rewriting those two paragraphs is re-doing the paragraph writing about me. Me on me – now you’d think, surely, that I could do that one, and be convincing about it. If anyone knows me, it’d be...well... me. But because query letters are so butt-achingly important my fingers seem to jam up on the keyboard. Remember the glorious mess you could get into with typewriters when you banged all the keys at once and everything jammed? Yes, exactly that. I feel like I am constantly reaching for mental Tippex (and the delete button).

The annoying thing is I know I can do this. I know that agents will like to work with me, if we ever get that far. But until I can un-jam my fingers it’s just not going to happen. I did hear a rumour that cupcakes do wonders for unjamming, so am off to find a few at lunch-time to eat after dinner and then we’ll see what happens. But since the next chance I’ll have to think about query letters, novel, and my life in general is a whole eight hours away (yay, full-time work, she says weakly) then perhaps a miracle will happen in-between times and it'll work itself out. Or, maybe and more likely, this evening I’ll sit at the computer with my brain lolling in my lap and only have the nodes connected enough to think ‘must find 80s music on YouTube’. Sadly, that is how some evenings roll. It is too early as yet to tell which way this Monday will jump.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Toys from 1976

An artist has uploaded the entire contents of an Argos catalogue from 1976. Let’s explore the toys...and prices!

Electric Washer and Cash Register

I love the description of this cash register: ‘Decimal currency price flags raised by 13 button control.’

Thirteen button control!  My friend had one of these. It was great fun pushing those thirteen buttons, I seem to recall. What a shame it didn't come with real money.

I am gutted I didn’t have the washing machine. I could have played The Game of the Missing Sock and Who Dyed My White Shirt Red?

Toy Electric Washer. Tumble washes and spins. Operated by batteries. £3.45
Cash Register. Spring release drawer and paper reel. £2.75

Scooter and Bike

This was my scooter. There were no brakes. You just held on for dear life when going down a slope – in fact, I don’t think its wheels could cope with slopes. I seem to remember I always fell off, usually because I was attempting An Ill-Advised Stunt.

I may have also had this bike, which is described as a ‘Pony’ Pavement Cycle. Pony is British slang for rubbish... but I liked my bike! It was certainly not rubbish. It got me from A (the school driveway) to B (the alley behind my house) by way of C (the brook). ‘C’ wasn’t meant to happen. I was cycling down a slope which led to the brook and wondered what would happen if I cycled with my eyes shut. The result of my experiment was my 8-year old self went straight into the brook, and then the bike fell on my head.

Bantel 3-wheel scooter. £4.25
'Pony' Pavement Cycle. Detachable stabilizers. Front wheel cable brake. £17.95

Kojak board game

I didn’t have the Kojak game with its ‘Beretta’ type plastic gun. (Yikes!) Nor did my brother, which was probably a good thing as I just know those sucker darts would not have been aimed at that board.

Chad Valley 'Kojak' Target Game. 'Beretta' type plastic gun and sucker darts. £1.99

Tiny Tears doll
I did have Tiny Tears, the doll that wouldn’t stop weeing. You fed the doll water and then it would drip out of the other end, so to speak. Everywhere you put the doll would be damp. If only I had the washing machine toy. Missed opportunity there, mum.

Casdon 'Bernie and Bath' set. Soft vinyl doll with rooted hair and accessories. £2.99
Palitoy 'Tiny Tears' Baby Doll. Drinks, cries and wets her nappy. £4.75 

The entire catalogue can be found by following this link

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Kindle glee

Oh happy days! I have won a kindle. Picture me grinning ear-to-ear like a Cheshire Cat in a cardigan.

The lovely (and amazingly generous!) author DJ Kirkby was having a competition on her blog to win a kindle. Blimey, I thought, I’ll have a pop at that. (Translation: I’ll enter that swiftly, fine fellows.)

You could have knocked me down with a well-washed pigeon feather when DJ sent me a message via Twitter to let me know I had won. Seriously?! I tweeted back, just before I sailed underground on the good ship Victoria (line). Everything was delayed so I then spent an hour without signal wondering whether I’d imagined it. But no! Up I popped into signal-land and DJ confirmed it was real. WHOOOP!

Well. Isn’t that just the best Christmas present before Christmas ever? I am chuffed to mega bits. (Translation: One is rather happy.) In fact I have been doing virtual star jumps ever since.

So I’d like to say thank you, DJ Kirkby, for being so wonderful and thank you to the Random Generator Thing, which selected my name, and thank you to the authors Rebecca Emin, Stephanie Parker, and Kevin Mahoney, who have donated free copies of their novels to add to the kindle. I am really looking forward to reading your books.

Some links for you

DJ Kirkby - if she isn't there already, add this lady to your blog roll / Twitter right now! She is inspiring (she gets up very early to write before her day job); her blog posts range from thoughtful and informative to downright fun, and she is a lovely person as well. Her first novel is Without Alice - insightful, thought-provoking, and very moving. My signed copy is already on my book shelf!

Rebecca Emin -  at the moment Rebecca has a series on her blog about her self-publishing adventures - very interesting and helpful to all authors. Her first novel is New Beginnings.

Stephanie Parker - I'm new to Stephanie's blog but am looking forward to getting better acquainted! Her debut book is called The Green King.

Kevin Mahoney - his first novel is called A Fame of Two Halves. Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, is quoted as saying: "A tremendous first novel - wry, funny and clever. I hope it's the first of many." Sounds good!