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Archive for the tag “alexander mccall smith”

Happy happy happy day!

Well November is over and so is my book – hurrah!

Actually it’s not.  I did what I set out to do and wrote 50,000 words.  Well actually I didn’t, I wrote 65,000 but a few vital scenes are missing so my book isn’t technically finished.  Although I have written the ending already I’m holding off writing ‘The End’ until all the bits in the middle are done as I hear those are the most satisfying words.

It’s been an amazing month.  I’ve managed to write almost every day and my life is still pretty much as I left it.  The house is a bit of a mess and my husband may be a little ratty but to the discerning eye I don’t think there is that much of a visible difference.

Sadly I feel this may just have been the easy bit.  Although I’ve produced 65,000 words I would say that at least 30,000 are incorrectly spelled.  Sometimes it was just too exciting and I couldn’t stop to spellcheck. Grammatical errors abound and I tend to become obsessed with one adjective and use it four times in a pragraph – most irritating.  So now I need to edit.  Sadly there isn’t a month dedicated to editing with a counter marking off how many spelling errors one has corrected. However I have found something to motivate me.  There’s a writing competition I really want to enter which closes at the end of February.  Therin lies the problem.  Apparently it should take at least a couple of years to write a novel (try telling that to Alexander McCall Smith!) and I’m aiming to have done it in four months.  I’m not sure I’ve got the guts to do what I have to do. I love the male lead so much that he kept sneaking back in even though this wasn’t supposed to be a romantic novel so unless I want to market it as a gory Mills and Boon I suspect rather a lot of lingering looks and sardonic smiles are going to end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor.  Perhaps I should just cut my losses and walk away so I can talk whimsically about the wonderful book I wrote once but ‘didn’t try to get published as the world just wasn’t ready’.

Anyway I’ve always wanted to write a book and now I have.  The satisfyingly large pile of pages taking up space on our worktop attests to that fact.  Now I’ve done it once I know I can do it again so if this one is no good – and everybody says first novels are crap, I know I can try again.

Meanwhile the world has continued turning without me.  One of my friends has had a new baby and despite her obligingly being eleven days late my knitted gift is not yet complete.  The ducklings are no longer ducklings and I’m beginning to feel less cool about the two named Christmas and Dinner.  Sally lamb is hanging out with the tups and is probably pregnant although she still left her buddies on Tuesday to follow us all down to the beach.  Fat Tracey has taken to guerrilla egg laying.  First I found a cache of 3o eggs in the bracken outside the garden then this morning we found ten in the garden, I feel so betrayed.

Maybe my next novel will have to be an expose of cruel battery hen farming methods – Fat Tracey take note!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the great work:

“The body laid out before us is that of a 65 year old man.  He has long skinny arms and legs and a large paunch.  His chest is partly covered by a long, unkempt beard and a tattoo of a large breasted woman who is giving us a lascivious wink.  His fingernails are also long and stained with tobacco, his toenails curl over at the ends.  His abdomen is tinged with green, the skin stretched tight.  The skin of his feet and hands is wrinkled, thickened and white.  The soles of his feet have peeled away and lie next to him on the gurney like a pair of discarded flip flops.”

 

helen and sally in the gardenFollowed by a picture of my children, because that’s not weird!

Post Book Festival Depression Blues? Not Likely!

They really were here!
(L-R) Sophie Cooke, Margaret Elphinstone, Liz Lochead, (David Johnson - chair), Alexander McCall Smith, Kenneth Steven, James Robertson

Well it’s all over.  The authors have departed and today I spent the whole day playing with my children which was rather nice.  The book festival was great but it’s been quite stressful too.  Not least because Allan and I have been sleeping in a tent for the last four nights.

Sally’s sleeping had been getting steadily worse so we decided that we really needed to face up to the problem and take the dummy away (yes yes we shouldn’t have given her one in the first place – isn’t the retrospectoscope marvellous).  Things were really starting to improve and we decided that the last thing we wanted to do was cause any set backs by both moving back into our bedroom with her whilst Allan’s mum was here.  This left us Helen in her own room, Sally in our bedroom, Beth in the spare room…….oh dear – we had run out of rooms.  Pitching the tent in the garden was my idea and it seemed like rather a masterful plan initially.  Once the 30 mile an hour winds got up I must admit it seemed a little less masterful.  Of course we have all mod cons.  We ran an extension cable out there so we have a bedside lamp and an electric blanket on our air bed so we’re coping.  It’s not so much fun having to walk across the garden to go inside for the 3am feed.  Allan is having the same problem as he has to get up and feed Sally lamb at 4am!  Beth is going tomorrow but she’s the first in a long line of visitors this summer so I fear we may be spending much of the season in the tent.

Anyway on Saturday morning I arose from my tent and after a nourishing breakfast I headed round to the village hall where I was delighted to see a veritable throng of people waiting to collect tickets.  (Well at least 5 or 6).  The sun was shining and there were plenty of people availing themselves of the soup and sandwiches provided by Colonsay Pantry.  I sat outside with a bowl of carrot and coriander and chatted with my friends for a while.  You have no idea what  rare luxury this was for me – I had no children in tow and was able to laze around in the sun worrying only about myself.  Then when aforementioned friends started demanding attention I was able to just slip away to sell raffle tickets instead of having to get into a long and complicated argument over the wrongfullness of removing all of the roughcasting from the hall.

The first author to take to the low platform (we thought using the stage was too formal) was Margaret Elphinstone.  She’s a historical novelist and gave a great talk describing how she carries out her research and writes her books.  It made me feel really inspired and that the trip I forced Allan to take to Jerusalem three years ago when I was writing a bonkbuster about Pontius Pilate was totally justified.

After Margaret came Poet Kenneth Steven then – the headline act – Alexander McCall Smith.  He was really very funny.  As my Dad says he could easily have had a career as a stand up comedian.  I really enjoyed his talk and will definitely be reading his Courdoroy mansions series now.

I must confess that Saturday evening was a little disappointing.  Beth had kindly offered to babysit so that Allan and I could attend the whisky tasting with singer/songwriter Robin Laing.  Two problems arose from this – 1. I don’t like whisky 2. it became apparent that there was nobody there to wash the glasses.  Three hours later Allan, myself and my mum were standing in the kitchen only seconds away from smashing one of the glasses and using them to slit our own wrists. Two hours of solid washing up does become rather tedious.  Fortunately during my search for tea towels I discovered Gavin’s stash of chocolate for selling to those not satisfied by soup and sandwiches.  Gorged on Yorkies and revived, we threw ourselves back into the task with vigour.

On sunday morning I threw off my washing up hangover and headed round to watch Sophie Cooke give a reading from her novels and poems, very enjoyable.  Then James Robertson gave a hugely funny reading of Winnie the Pooh in Scots.  It was very amusing and later I accosted him and suggested that he ought to produce an audio cassette (it turns out I was not the first person to suggest this – he was very patient with me though).  Sadly the subsequent Q&A session all got a bit political.  The woman sitting next to Beth seemed to think she was on some sort literary question time – I was sorely tempted to reach for my whisky tasting glass razor and take her life instead of my own……..Three hours later she had finally been dragged from the hall and it was time for me to give my introduction of Liz Lochead.  Sadly I forgot all my carefully done research but fortunately I managed to remember her name and she made it onto the stage.  Her poetry reading was fantastic and so inspired was I that I found myself composing a poem about the tent this morning.

The festival was rounded off by a debate featuring all of the authors.  Sadly the take home message from this was that it’s going to become increasingly difficult for new writers to break into the market.  Rather disheartening for me then since I have a secret (or not so secret) desire to be a writer.

Then they all headed off to the pier and I headed home to my neglected husband and children and a rather delicious plate of meatballs.  This morning I woke up with a huge sense of relief (mingled with fear that the tent was actually going to blow away).  I’ve really been struggling in my capacity as head of social media.  I’m just not that good at working Twitter and what with my two children, dog, hens, lambs, online teaching students (who are a bit like pets in a way) and mother in law visiting I haven’t had much time to get my head around it.  Hopefully by next years festival I will be better at it – that’s if I’m not voted off of the committee at the debriefing meeting on Wednesday.

If I’m allowed to stay on the committee I have lots of ideas for next year.  I would love to get Julia Donaldson to come across.  If any other famous authors are reading this and fancy a trip to Colonsay please let me know!  For now though I’m looking forward to getting back to normality.  Or at least my version of normality where you sleep in a tent and get up at four am to feed the lamb living in a dog kennel at the bottom of your garden (next to The Weaves in fact!).

Croftesses read books too you know

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Quick run away or he'll try and lamb you......

I’ll let you into a secret.  Before I became a croftess and started spending all of my days mucking around in the dirt with my hand up sheep’s bottoms I used to spend most of my time semi-reclined reading books.  Yes I am partial to a Mills and Boon but from time to time I like to dip my toe into something a little more highbrow.

Colonsay already has a very successful music festival run by my Dad and his chum Keith.  I love the music festival but sadly it came along at a rather difficult period in my life.  For the last few years I have either been heavily pregnant, the sleep deprived mother of a monster baby or 5 days post partum at the festival.  I must say I was proud of myself last year.  After discharging myself from the midwives and fleeing Edinburgh I took Sally to her first music festival at the tender age of six days.  She slept happily through a number of artists but found Lau rather noisy.  Helen had to be removed from the hall by the mother in law after trying to take to the stage during The Poozies.

Although I’ve done my best i’ve secretly always felt a little bit left out of the music festival.  I don’t play any instruments particularly well and I’ve never had the time (or, lets be honest, the inclination) to put together a decent performance for any of the sessions.  If I’m being really honest – and I seem to be having some sort of purge here – I’ve always been a bit jealous of my little sister who is a fantastic musician and has always really shone at the these events.  Anyway before you pull up a chair at my pity party lets move on……

I’ve always been good at reading though.  I used to pride myself on never leaving a book unfinished until I realised I was wasting my life with some really dire reads.  When I heard from my Dad in his capacity as LDO (that’s local development officer to you uninitiated) that plans for a book festival were afoot I felt really excited.  Partly at the chance to hear some famous authors speaking but also at the opportunity to actually organise something on Colonsay and, for the first time since I was little, feel like I was really part of the island.

I attended my first meeting 37 weeks pregnat – felt very enthusiastic and then dropped off the radar for several months.  By the time I returned to the civilized world of people who can talk about things other than nappies and don’t have sick in their hair the lineup was finalised and it was clear this event was really going to happen.  We even have some top notch authors booked including Alexander MCCall Smith and Liz Lochead.

I’ve found the whole process rather difficult though.  I’m not really a team player so having to take into account the opinions of others has been difficult at times.  Also by merit of being the youngest committee member by some 30 years I was entrusted with online promotion.  It became apparent fairly quickly that whilst I might be able to organise a birthday party using Facebook that is pretty much where my talents both begin and end…….I have a lot to learn.

In spite of my efforts the festival has forged forwards.  Sophie Cooke, Kenneth Steven, James Robertson and Margaret Elphinstone have been added to the lineup.  Members of the public have somehow managed to purchase tickets and the festival gets underway on Saturday.  The mother in law is coming to help tomorrow and my first showbiz task is to meet Liz Lochead off the boat.  I must admit that my excitement is being somewhat overshadowed by wondering if Sally will agree to take a bottle and if I will manage to express enough milk to make one for her ( if not Helen has some delicious tropical fruit flavour yogurt drinks).  I also have a secret fear that despite frantic revision reading sessions I may not be intellectual enough to attend such an event.  Perhaps there will be an IQ test before we are allowed into the hall, if so I may have to sit outside being bitten by midges whilst the intelligenti of Colonsay hobnob indoors.

I’ve just been given an idiots guide to Twitter by one of my fellow organisers media savvy daughter and I’m going to do my best to write a sort of festival mini-blog over the next few days.  If you want to take a look then this link may take you to the Colonsay book Festival Twitter account.  On the other hand it may not, if you have accidentally found your way to a website selling rain covers for off road buggies I sincerely apologise.

In other crofting news Allan lambed two sheep today.  He is so unbearably proud of himself I am beginning to wonder if he may actually have fathered the lambs too.

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