Monday, February 16, 2009

Burglars, babies and birthdays

Is this a record? Updating my blog so quickly? Well, yes, probably, but I'm no longer a happy bunny.

On Saturday morning I woke up to find I'd been burgled during the night. Still makes my stomach turn over when I think about it. The b*ggers were creeping around downstairs while I was asleep. They found my car keys and took my car, the TV, my mobile, money and my G4 ibook (laptop).

Son Miles has now nailed up the utility room door where they got in, his partner Clare cleaned and tidied the whole of the downstairs of my house - including, to my shame, the office - and Philly came home to take me shopping and provide in-house support. Lou was on the phone every five minutes, but bless her, her imminent baby has been taking its toll and she has been very poorly. Goodness, I even had to go down by train to put my grandson to bed on Friday! Quelle sacrifice...

Leo (in Manchester) read me the riot act about security, and wished all sorts of blights on the perpetrators.

To happier things, I attended the 60th birthday party yesterday of my friend Judith, held in her friend Sue's spectacular ancient farmhouse in a gorgeous part of Kent. Wonderful food, great frinds and plenty of champagne. I had a great time, but coming back to reality was a bit of bump.

Will now wait for the insurers and try and focus on The Book. Will it get finished, I ask myself? Of course I reply - even if it's a day or so late!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Talks and thoughts

Last Tuesday, 10th February, I was invited to give a talk on how I became a novelist and how to write a novel. Not that I know, of course! The hotel was the Hythe Imperial, where I had hosted the CWA conference last year, and the ladies, none of whom were writers, were a lovely bunch. We had a great lunch and I sold all the books I had taken with me. Most enjoyable, and a break from sitting at the keyboard dredging up scintillating prose.

Last night, there was a programme on publishing on BBC2. How extremely depressing. Most of us novelists knew it all, of course, but to see it on The Money Programme really brought it home. So far, in the last few years, the government has gradually eroded the very cornerstones of my life. The independent bookshop has almost disappeared. The pub is following close behind, thanks to the smoking ban and the cheap alcohol in supermarkets. Oh - hang on! The bookshop's disappeared because of - yesss! The cheap books in the supermarkets.

The supermarkets, of course, keep a close eye on what, in the way of reading matter, they allow us to buy. So unless your publisher has the wherewithal to pay huge marketing fees to get your book onto their shelves, you're pretty well doomed. Therefore, you are relegated to the status of "mid-list" author, and who are the authors who are getting dropped to make room for celebrities who are asked to "write" romance novels? (Naming no names.) The mid-list authors. It honestly makes you wonder why we do it?

Neill Denny of The Bookseller believes the changes in the book world have led to a more democratic list for readers.
"The market is better reflecting the tastes of the entire population rather than an educated elite that went to bookshops," he says.
"That educated elite are still going to bookshops and buying books, but loads of other people are buying books now that weren't 10 or 20 years ago.
"I think that's a good thing." (Courtesy of the bbc website.)

Is he right? The problem is that these new readers are only given the choice of the books on sale in supermarkets, not the thousands of books written by people like me and many of my friends, who have to fight to bring our books to the notice of the general public.

I don't know - no smoking, no pub, no bookshop. Stop the world, I want to get off.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Romantic Novelists vote Richard Armitage

Sexiest Thing On Two Legs

British actor Richard Armitage has leapt from last year’s 4th place to this
year topping the ratings in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2009
Valentine’s poll, to take the title of Sexiest Thing on Two Legs, beating
top Hollywood stars to the number one spot.
Johnny Depp, who topped last year’s poll, was pushed firmly into second
place, with Hugh Jackman and George Clooney mere also-rans. “Richard
Armitage took 20% of the vote, more than double the count of any other male on the list,” said the RNA pollster. “He was a clear winner from the off.”
The RNA is not alone in admiration of the actor, as numerous online Richard Armitage fan sites will testify. The ardency began with North and South, grew by leaps and bounds with the leather-clad baddie in Robin Hood, and shows no sign of diminishing as Spooks takes to the airwaves.
‘It’s a coup for Britain,’ said one starstruck writer, ‘not just for sexy

According to romantic novelists, the sexiest male celebrities of 2009 are:

1 Richard Armitage

2 Johnny Depp

3 Hugh Jackman

4 George Clooney

5 Daniel Craig

6 Sean Bean

7 Alan Rickman

8 David Tennant

9 Pierce Brosnan

10 Gerard Butler
(Courtesy of the RNA Press Officer)

I can only say, I agree!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Shirley Valentine

On Wednesday evening I watched a BBC television programme called Movie Connections. Only just watched, as it happened. Because on Wednesday morning, my friend Roy Brown, who, when he isn't being an actor and a singer, is a builder, came to mend my roof and my guttering. I have Sky TV, with - natch - Sky Plus, and unbeknownst to Roy, during his stirling efforts, something must have happened to my Sky dish. So, when I turned on the television for the news, nothing happened. The upshot was that the nice Sky man on the end of the phone, after taking me through the requisite checks, confirmed that I needed an engineer. Meanwhile, how do I survive without the, admittedly small, amount of TV I normally watch?
DS1 (writers' parlance for Dear Son One, namely, Miles) to the rescue. He plugged various cables into different sockets, re-programmed the television, and Lo! I could receive terrestrial TV.
And there it was. Movie Connections on Shirley Valentine. How peeved I was that I hadn't been able to Sky Plus it for perpetuity. For twice, over ten years ago now, I played Shirley. As someone on the programme said, it was the defining moment and the greatest role any actress could ever have. Forget Lady Macbeth, this is the one. More people came up to talk to me in Tesco than ever before. "That was me, you know," they all said. And it was. There is a greater truth in Shirley's story than there ever was in that sad woman forever washing her hands.
I shall be forever grateful to my friend Judith, who cast me in the role and whose birthday party I shall attend next week, for giving me the greatest chance ever. And for anyone who has never seen it - at least rent the DVD!