Friday, 30 January 2009

More happy tweets

Oh to be eight, as my daughter is today! A "cosmic light scooter" (it flashes when you switch it on) and her life is complete. "The best birthday ever!" - just like that. Tomorrow I'm taking her and two friends to the movies and lunch at Frankie & Benny's afterwards. I have chocolate cake and terrific party bags. At the weekend I bought two chunky, stitched, linen-bound notebooks from Paperchase. One is graphite grey, the other drab olive. They're the size and weight of serious novels. Although I do most of my writing on a computer, I love to have notebooks like this in the house; they make me feel serious about my craft.

Speaking of which I've reached a point of perspective on the crime novel. Do other writers experience their work this way, I wonder? To start with it's a working draft, then you fall in love with it and cannot see its faults (a little like a new mother) then gradually, over a period of time, you gain the distance needed to see what works and what doesn't, you dare to find fault in a way that doesn't make you despair but rather empowers you to make it better. That's the place I'm in now, and it feels good.

In addition to the beautiful notebooks I have Origins Night-A-Mins face-cream (a pun that only works in the US where they produce vitamins with a hard vi at the front. Over here in the UK we say vit-amins). It smells of oranges and I love it.

Last night's episode of The New Avengers on BBC4 was the one where Purdey poses as a shop window mannequin in a pair of skyblue satin pyjamas that slowly slip off her hips, giving her away to the villains. The New Avengers was a fairly awful show (terrible writing!) that lacked the style and charm of The Avengers, but it has nostalgia value for me as I was in my teens when it was first on the television and I had a huge crush on Joanna Lumley as Purdey. They don't make crime shows like this anymore and that has to be a good thing, by and large. Still, I wish there were more female leads in today's crime shows like Purdey, who always knew when to deploy her feminine charms to best effect. I know she was invented and scripted by a man who wanted to give us regular glimpses of stocking-tops, but on the other hand the diet these days of tough female crime fighters blending seamlessly into a 'man's world' (so seamlessly they may as well BE men) does tend to defeat my appetite for a lot of contemporary crime TV. We get it, they've got balls. But let's see a few feminine strengths, like compassion, intuition. The ballsy female lead is as tiresome (to me) as the ex-alcoholic divorced male lead with 'personal demons'. Get an exorcist and move on, chaps.

Channel-hopping last night I found a tender scene in a soap opera that tickled me. Having got themselves into a bit of a bind by dint of the sort of selfish dim behaviour with typifies soap opera characters, these two were making speeches worthy of a Nobel Prize nominee, about how they could never be together because something born from the terrible pain they had inflicted on those around them was destined to wither and die. Now if only they had deployed a little of this staggering compassion (and commonsense) prior to finding themselves in the awful fix..!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Things making me happy right now

Christina Hendricks because she's beautiful and sexy and sweet. The SAG awards for Mad Men and Hugh Laurie made me smile. I love when they get it right.

The new series of Being Human because I didn't expect it to be this good. The recasting works, especially Herrick.

Patricia Highsmith for having Tom Ripley cleaning the moss from his garden steps in the opening line of Ripley Underground. Later he can kill someone, for now it's all about the moss.

AWP 2009 Conference

This is where and when the editor will be reading from my story, The Swimming Pool and the Sea, as part of a panel discussion being held during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs' AWP 2009 Conference in Chicago in February. The discussion is entitled "Literary Mama: A Model of Grassroots Community Building". The editor is considering blogging about the event at Red Room which would be cool. If you have time, check out the AWP schedule and be amazed at what's on offer, e.g. "Archipelagos of Dust, Habitations of Language: Reiterating Landscape, History, and Origin at the Threshold of a New Century". Blimey. We have nothing like this in the U.K.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Bag and tag

Time for a crime round-up. I was in Borders in Oxford at the weekend, and spotted that Neil Cross (script-writer for the last two seasons of Spooks) has a crime novel out, Burial, which is reviewed over at the It's a Crime blog, here. Spooks is a patchy show. I was huge fan of the first series, with Hugh Laurie guest-starring as Jools Siviter, a portent of what he was capable of delivering in House (congrats, Hugh, on scooping the Screen Actors Guild Award for that role, for the second year running). Then the show went off the boil, in my opinion, during season four and I'd almost given up on it entirely by the time we reached season seven, the latest one. I'm so glad I didn't as it was fantastically good, thanks in no small part to the addition of Richard Armitage to the cast. The writing stopped trying to compete with shows like 24 and played to its strengths as a British TV series. Gemma Jones reprised her role as Connie James, known affectionately in our house as Spy!Gran. Jones had the most amazing scenes of the whole series, and deserves an award for her performance. She also got me thinking about the rumoured remake of The Equalizer (a favourite show of mine from the '80s with Edward Woodward as a vigilante in New York) - if only the show's remakers were brave enough to re-cast the lead role as a woman! Gemma Jones would absolutely storm that part. Warm cardigans, big guns. Not that different to Edward Woodward, really.

Literary Mama reading

I woke up this morning to a lovely email from one of the editors at Literary Mama who wants to read from my short story, The Swimming Pool and the Sea, at a national conference, "as an example of how fresh, beautiful writing can take a common subject (love for exasperating toddlers) and make it sing." I'm excited!Although she's only reading a short scene, it's my first time being read by an editor at an event of this size.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I need a cat and a green dress!

See this is where I've been going wrong all this time. I need to get me a dance routine and a snazzy green dress. And a cat, I need a cat. Check out this hilarious clip, How I imagined the publishing process worked over at YouTube. Heads up came from Nicola Morgan who blogs sanely and helpfully here.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Murdoch Mysteries

Alibi, a new digital TV company, were kind enough to send me preview information about this new detective series starting on February 10th. You need Sky or Virgin to watch the series, which is set in Victorian Canada. It looks intriguing. The press pack says it mixes "real historical developments in the field of forensic science interwoven with fictional stories of devilish cunning. With real-life figures from the 19th century – such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Buffalo Bill Cody and Jack The Ripper – also involved, the pioneering work of Detective William Murdoch would make Sherlock Holmes proud." More information is over at Alibi's website.

This week in retrospect

Several funny things have happened since I last blogged. I was headhunted for a job with 'foreign travel opportunities' (this is funny because I have to be put in an arm lock to be persuaded to leave the house most days, what with wanting to write and all). I was solicited by a TV company who'd found this blog and wanted to me to mention their new crime series (more on this in a moment), funny because who knew this blogging lark put it about so much? I was inspired by this news story to write a satirical flash about science. I was given an extension on the state of (blissful) ignorance that precedes the rejection of a novel by an agent, owing to deadlines and holidays. Not really funny but better than getting the punch in the gut right now. I was disappointed by Hugh Bonneville's character in TV series, Hunter, having been promised a stoic, quiet and detached man only to get the usual office stomper who shouts at his team to 'Get results!' Still, Janet McTeer made a ballsy change to the usual petite blonde they like to team up with these chaps. Oh and the latest Bond rocked. No gadgets. No quips. Rooftop chase in Siena. Loved it.

So, what have you all been up to, I wonder?

Sunday, 18 January 2009


This new writing magazine has my flash, The Spirit Level, in its first issue. Inspired by a news story from last year. Also a great flash by Frances Gapper called Calypso.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Short Review

The January issue of The Short Review is now live, and looks like perfect reading. The editor, Tania Hershman, has once again brought together a great mix of reviews and interviews. Who can resist reading about a Bucket of Frogs, or Barnacle Love, or Wifeshopping? There's something daring, off-the-wall about short stories. Less rules, more fun.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Starting over

I know it's traditional to begin the New Year on January 1st, but having been sick as a snuff movie this week I've decided that for me it's starting January 12th. That's when I will begin writing the next crime novel. I wrote the preface and opening pages some time ago but this is a fresh start. I'm excited, I must admit. Buzzed, in fact. Not that this week was a complete write-off. I did finish a short story today, and entered it in a couple of contests. I also entered a couple of others things in a couple of other contests. But the Novel's the Thing. And it's to the Novel I am turning my attention, as of next week.

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Battered Suitcase

This venue has the best name. My first time in the Suitcase, with a flash called A Bright Burning. Elsewhere in the same issue you'll find humour, poetry and artwork, including some stunning photographs by Amy Strycula.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

There's more to life than books you know

But not much more. Follow the link to find photos of the world's sexiest libraries. Hardback, softback, marbled endpapers. Can't you just smell that cloth binding? It's enough to make a girl weak at the knees (and hands).

Happy New Year!

Every Day Fiction has published my story, The View from Olympus, in the New Year's Day slot. Please do pop along and read, and comment, if you have the time. Thank you!