Archive for August, 2010

Meeting my books

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

And so…..(in deeply hushed and reverential tones)……They. Have. Arrived. ‘They’ being the books, obviously.


It isn’t often that dreams come true (sadly) but I feel as though some of mine have. So much so that I hardly dare believe it. In fact, I don’t believe it. Not yet. The evidence is lined up on my bookshelves, 35 copies of Things He Never Knew; my dream is now tangible, and I still feel as though I’m just looking at it. I’m not living in it yet. At what point will that change? No idea. I’ll let you know.

My books arrived exactly as I had always imagined that they would. Well, almost. Technically, I slept through it. That’s right, I slept through the most exciting arrival of my life (children aside; and it would be impossible to sleep through that) because they arrived at 8:30am on Friday morning. But apart from that, it was exactly how I always imagined. Two, biggish boxes which when I opened them were stuffed full of my books. And I was pleased, I got 35 copies. It’s quite a hard thing to take in, to stare at something that came from my imagination, that I created. Many things exist in my imagination but it is rare for me to see one of them sitting in front of me. One box was full of books and one was half-full of books and half-full of promotional material which was equally as exciting, despite the fact that the posters have a mistake on them. I had already noticed this, as had the production co-ordinator and he’d confirmed that they would be re-printed. When I sent an enquiring email (very difficult to get the tone right; I did not want to sound cross when these people had just made my dream come true) the production co-ordinator replied and said yes, he knew and they are in the process of being re-printed but he thought I’d prefer the wrong ones rather than nothing at all. I thought that was very sweet. And it also shows a deep understanding of my nature which is all about having things NOW NOW NOW. I don’t think I can have been trained very well as a child. I dislike waiting. I’ve also developed a neat technique for dealing with things that I can’t have. I simply make myself stop wanting them – which usually works very well, unless I really, really want something in which case I engineer a way to get it.

my display!

So back to the posters, I think it’s the idea that MY BOOK is being advertised. Those posters are designed for people to look at them and be encouraged to buy my book. Hundreds of people will look at them and this link is what makes the posters exciting. I think. But, to be honest, the whole thing is pretty exciting. And as I remarked to someone via email I spent Friday in much the same state as a small child spends Christmas Day; thoroughly over-excited. This earned me a reply beginning “Hello small child….” , which I suppose I deserved.

But this really is a once in a lifetime experience, I say this in a serious way, unlike Tim Vine up in Edinburgh. The next box of books that I receive will be full of my second book, I will have done it before, it won’t be a totally brand-new feeling. I shall be an experienced opener of boxes of my books, and this first time was something to savour.

It took me a long time to actually unpack the boxes, because of the above feelings. I left them as they were for most of the day, until I had to sort them out properly because we had people coming for dinner. I then swept all the papers, magazines, TV remotes, toys, pens, etc., etc. off our coffee table and underneath it and created a little display with all of the books lined up and the posters fanned out. My husband looked at this, laughed and said “Are you leaving them like that until Rob and Steph get here?”

“Darling,” I said seriously. “I’m leaving them there for the rest of the week.”

His eyebrows were raised, put it like that. Of course I didn’t in the end because the risk of something being spilled and everything ruined was just too high. Especially considering our usual, alcohol-fuelled dinner party behaviour, it’s perfectly possible that a bottle of red wine might have gone flying. I like having Rob and Steph for dinner; she’s worked hard for years to pursue her ambition to become a doctor and is due to graduate in medicine next year. I’m pleased about this because happily for me she comes out with a whole range of medicine-related anecdotes from the interesting to the emotive to the fascinating, plus some truly revolting ones. This week her placement is in obs and gynae which I was hopeful about and she didn’t let me down; “Sarah,” she said, “I had to stare at a vagina for seven hours.”

I think I prefer the way my dream came true.

A quick aside

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

This is ridiculous and I am going home. I had planned to stay until tomorrow but on hearing the plans for the day I decided to revise my timetable and go back to Hampshire tonight. I have concerns about my lack of an author press kit so I want to get going on that (author bio, photos, etc.) but also a situation has arisen here.

Steve, my step-father, hates cats. With a passion. I don’t know where this antipathy comes from but for years my brothers have been begging for a cat, and he has steadfastly refused. He doesn’t like the look of them, the feel, the way they climb all over you or anything about them at all really. As I mentioned before there are already two (formerly three) dogs, a pygmy hedgehog, a tortoise, a tank of tropical fish and a handful of chickens. And it is this last which is causing the problem, because along with chickens come rats. Hundreds of them if you listen to my mother, which I generally don’t, but how to keep the rat population down has long been a major concern here. For a while my parents experimented with allowing my brother (he who eats peas wrongly) to shoot them with an air rifle. But then presumably it occurred to them that allowing a fifteen year old to roam freely round the garden in the dark with a gun might have dangerous repercussions for anyone else out there.

So I got up this morning and my mother announced “I’ve discovered a way to get rid of the rats.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes, really. I’m going to get some cats. Feral ones that will live in the garden and keep the rats down.”

“But doesn’t Steve hate cats?”

“Yes but these ones will be fine because we won’t see them, they can sleep in the shed in the straw and they’ll eat rats so we won’t need to feed them. I’ve found out where to get them – we’ll go today.”

So my poor step-father, who is currently working abroad in Ireland, will travel home at the weekend to find that my mother has got not one cat, or even two. No, she will have installed a flock of cats in the garden. Quite apart from Steve’s view I find the idea ludicrous. Clearly, I can have no part in this.

The other thing I noticed last night was that my mother is growing some plants in the corner of the large and beautifully decorated sitting room. I imagine most of you are now thinking of nice pots and flowers and things but NO, do not leap to this logical conclusion. I mean that there are two green things with leaves literally growing through the carpet by the window and have been for some time. When I saw that they hadn’t been removed, I commented, something along the lines of “Mummy! Those plants are still there?!” My mother looked unconcerned and said “Yes, I know. Steve thinks they’re disgusting but I want to see how big they get.”

I rest my case.

The Return to Berkshire

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Today I am experiencing a childish level of excitement. This is because I woke up this morning to find an email confirming that the review copies of my book will definitely be here by the end of the week! It was frankly the last thing I expected. So much so that as I started up the computer I said sarcastically to my mother “And what do you think the chances are of me having an email saying my review copies are on their way?” She didn’t respond because she was too busy disapproving of me using my computer before 4pm (the arbitrary time that she has plucked out of the air as being a suitable one to start using computers in the day. Just don’t say anything. I know.) So imagine my surprise when there was indeed an email from my publishers in my inbox, and imagine my further surprise when it did indeed confirm the arrival of my books for the end of the week. Finally I will get to meet my book! I’ve seen it in stages obviously; firstly I wrote the thing, then I saw the proofs, then the front cover. But no-one had put it together at that stage, the complete item did not exist, and I am nearly incandescent with excitement at the thought of seeing the finished product. However as I’m writing this it’s just occurred to me that they didn’t say the end of which week. But it’s terribly exciting nonetheless.

Wisely and sensibly, I am also reserving a little bit of excitement for when the books actually arrive. This to me is one of the most exciting bits of the process. I don’t know how they will arrive, or what in, but I envisage some form of box with copies of Things He Never Knew inside. Multiple copies. Hundreds of neat, freshly-printed pages full of my words. A box packed with my books is one of the most exciting things in the world that I can think of. I’d better not get my hopes up too high though because I know full well that I’m only receiving ten. And ten copies is not a lot when you are desperate to get reviews somehow. I do run the risk of sending them out to publications to be reviewed and not seeing hide nor hair of them ever again. I must choose my targets carefully. Very luckily a few kind – and influential – people have already agreed to review it for me and funnily enough, I am nervous. It feels like raising a child: I have written and nurtured this book, gently shaped it bit by bit, made it into what it is, and the minute it’s released I’m handing it over to be judged by the world. Well, hopefully the world. It’ll be like watching a toddler taking their first, few shaky steps. I will be just as anxious. But as a fellow writer pointed out to me last night, “There’s nothing you can do. You’ve written it and now you have to let it go.” Sink or swim type of thing. Well, OK, fine, I appreciate that, but you can rest assured I will be giving it flotation devices and giving it a good shove in the right direction.

I seem to have won the battle about being allowed to use my computer during the day here in Berkshire. Or Paley Street, to be precise. There is new rule this time though, and that is we are not allowed to drink tea out of mugs. It has to be teacups. And saucers. The last time I was here John Lewis had delivered the wrong cups and my mother was moaning about having to drink “half a pint” of tea. This time round, the correct cups are here and mugs are banned which is annoying because now you only get a tablespoon of tea. It’s no wonder I drink so much wine; if you’re drinking alcohol in this house any vessel will do. I could probably drink from my shoe and no-one would bat an eyelid. Incidentally it would be the only thing I could use my shoes for because stupidly I brought suede, lilac pumps and it’s rained so much I can’t wear them.

So it is nice being here, apart from all the 19th century rules that are enforced. I have worked hard not to bow to these pressures, and establish myself as a strong-minded, independent woman who dares to use her computer when the rules of the house forbid it, and eat her peas without crushing them with a fork first; apparently the only way to eat peas in polite society. I learned this from witnessing an argument between my mother and one of my brothers who foolishly let slip that at school he eats his peas with a spoon. This oversight earned him a lecture and lesson in pea-eating.

But last night I was sitting on the sofa, drinking half a pint of tea from a mug and thinking that it’s a very strange state of affairs indeed when doing this causes me to feel subversive. This was after my mother had gone to bed, incidentally, I didn’t dare do it in front of her. I don’t push my boundaries that far.

Next time: more of the all-consuming excitement of having my books arrive, I imagine. Time for the real work to begin……..