As Sofia over at Mother Road might say: Holy Crap!

Just when I was falling in love with Twitter, marvelling at its brevity, its nimble mini-urls and its ability to keep me entertained, I recently found that the cupboard was bare.

Well, not bare, just temporarily over-subscribed. And there was me thinking twitter only had eyes for me and all the people I follow.

It's second nature now to pop in and read what everyone has to say, see who's doing what and add my two penn'orth. Or, as the bumper book of internet wisdom would have me believe, building my profile.

Faced with an impenetrable screen - and believe me I did try - I had to fall back upon my wits and actually write something.

PS Call me a cynic, but the birds are flying in different directions and the strings aren't taut. I think we're looking at a moment in time, before several birds get very wet indeed and sink without trace.

Random script dialogue

[Driver and passenger are driving on a bend. Car coming from opposite direction, crosses central line and almost causes an accident.]

Did you see the way that driver cut you up?

I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.

Are you kidding? He was over the centre line. If you weren’t watching the road he would have hit you.

Look, it’s just another soul having a bad day.

Know your trouble? You make too many excuses for people. You just don’t want to see that people are basically selfish and they’ll get away with whatever they can. And don’t give me all that 'benefit of the doubt' crap. Because when a car rams into you at high speed and you wind up in hospital, all your 'soul having a bad day' philosophy won’t mean crap.

Whereas judging someone for a mistake that any of us could have made is in some way beneficial? Do you feel better for it or do you, in fact, just feel more stressed, if that was possible?

I feel like my eyes are open, unlike that bloody driver. And you, my friend, you’re in denial about the very nature of humanity, a humanity that you claim to care so much about.

I do. I love humanity. It's just individual people who create problems.

An interesting paradox. So he wasn’t people?

Well yes of course he was. But I don’t think his intention was malicious. He was just careless.

Clueless, you mean!

Same difference.

So if I burgled your house and accidentally burned your house down because I was careless with a candle on my way out, that would be okay?

You’d burgle my house with a candle – what are you, a Victorian theme burglar?

It’s a metaphor.

You mean an allegory.

Jesus, psycho driver gets to almost run you off the road without comment and I get picked up on for my use of language. Where’s the consistency? Metaphor or allegory, there’s still a candle and your house has still burned down.

Am I inside?

Er, no. You’re visiting friends for the evening - I'm not a monster.

Okay so I’m not injured. Just seriously inconvenienced. But I still have my car, right?

Well, unless psycho driver met you on the way home when you heard the fire engines.

So I could sleep in my car for the night – at a push?

Be realistic. Your house has just burned down. How would you be able to sleep?

Well, my files are all backed up to a server and there’s nothing I can do for my property. What else am I going to do?

You could mourn, show a little emotion, maybe? Christ, your whole life has gone up in flames. And what didn’t has been stolen by a..a Victorian theme burglar.

But you weren’t hurt, were you?

No! What does it matter if I was hurt?

I’m just saying, no sense in both of us suffering. And besides, most of my things are insured; probably overinsured.

You know, this glass half-full approach can be really wearing.

It’s a choice, okay? And I choose to look for the best.

It’s just a subtle form of denial.

What would you prefer?

Some honesty.

Okay, I miss my stuff, life sucks and I hope the guy who burgled me gets rectal cancer - no offence.

None taken. That’s the spirit!

Happy now?


Okay, and that driver was a total arsehole who should watch the road more carefully.

Now we’re there. Do you really mean it - any of it?

Not for a second.


Now, now! Don’t distract me; I need to watch the road.

So You Want to be a Freelance Writer?

So there I was, having a little downtime and checking up on the blogs listed on my blog. I have often enjoyed Deborah Durbin's posts about the trials and tribulations (and joys, let's not forget those) of freelancing. But the blog was nowhere to be seen.

I hopped over to her website then pinged her and discovered that she is not only alive and well (anyone who knows my history will understand my trepidation there...), but has taken the plunge on Kindle.

So You Want to be a Freelance Writer is the distillation of her former blog and filled with gems to take you from A to B (Aspiration to Business).

Deborah has been a journalist, columnist and author for the last 14 years, and has written far afield both in the UK and the US. So, what are you waiting for?

We've Only Gone and Done it, Rodders!

Yesterday's Writer Networking Event was a great success. Let's not beat around the bush: it was brilliant!

Imagine 45 writers in one space, the atmosphere thick with anticipation, creativity and a just a hint of competitiveness. Add to mix Cyprus Well Director, Tracey Guiry, who partnered with me to make it happen, plus author Sarah Duncan, and Dorothy Lumley from the Dorian Literary Agency. Simmer gently serve over the course of a day.

The event has been a long time coming, and without the input of Cyprus Well would never have got off the ground. I can say that categorically because I'd been flapping my arms around for at least a year before Cyprus Well came on board.

And what did we learn, on the day?
Sarah talked about her experience as an author and the realities of earning a living as a writer. She also led a pitching exercise. Dorothy talked about approaching an agent and some of the attendees had the opportunity to make a public pitch for their prized project. She also went through everyone's first page - all 45 of them - and added a few comments to think about.

However, for me, it was the personal touches that made a difference. Sarah and Dorothy made time for people, listening to them and offering advice and experience. Many developing writers have little access to those who have signed a contract and gone on to develop their craft commercially. And as for agents, most writers I know tend to feel that they are akin to unicorns - a lovely, mythical idea of something no one has ever seen.

There seemed to be a real appetite for an ongoing writing community, which we're hoping to provide through Cyprus Well's website. As for me, it proved that with the right people, the right location (and special thanks to Truro Community Library and the team for making us so welcome), the funding in place and some steely determination, great things are possible. Even in this economic climate!

Here's to the next project!

The End?

As a writer and a reader, I'm fascinated with endings. So much so that I ponder the conclusion of a book long after I've returned it to the shelf or the charity shop.

Whether it's wondering and worrying about how Rebus fills his afternoons or if Dr Rhodes eventually took over the nursing home at Hindhead, my mental gymnastics may continue for days afterwards. That, to me, is the sign of a good book.

When it came to putting a framework together for Scars & Stripes (now editing P65 and counting, seeing as you asked), I was tempted to address that issue. Having considered an epilogue, along the lines of the ending of Animal House, I wondered about the 'where are they now' element. For a time, I even contemplated using the internet to get clues from the real life whereabouts of some of the people who influenced the composite characters. This, of course, would have been lazy writing and, given the divergence between reality and fiction, both wholly inappropriate and unsatisfying to the reader.

How much more magical is a figure like King Arthur, with his 'King Once and King to be' epitaph, rather than a simple RIP? When Dr Frankenstein's monster disappears without trace on the page, we know that he'll be taking up residence in the recesses of our minds.

I think that 'what happened next' curiosity is part of what drives the social media bow wave, which shows no sign of abating. It's tempting to type in a few names, press the button and peer into someone else's life (which they've thoughtfully posted online). But what is it we're looking for? Surely, we're better off relying on our own imagination?

Well I never!

They say you learn something new every day. I'll spare you my diary entries and share three four things I learned in the last week.

1. Editing and proofreading are very different animals. Just because it waddles like a duck, floats like a duck and makes quacking sounds, don't assume it isn't a goose. I've recently been working on a client's book and, breaking new ground for me, converting her ms into an ebook (after the previous version became corrupted). I am indebted to Sofia Higginbotham, one of my blog buddies, who eats ALA, AMA and Chicago Style for breakfast. She was able to point out some of the finer points of difference between UK and US idioms (towards / toward, etc.) and explain why 'nasty' isn't a suitable word in family stories across the pond.

2. Sometimes, people and situations are just a failed experiment. So as long as no one has really been hurt, draw a line and move on. Like many writers, I also temp, here and there, so when I rang an agency that I'd signed with a year ago to ask if they planned on ever sending me any work (hit rate: nil; calls to me: nil), I was surprised to hear my 'handler' reply that perhaps she hadn't been as proactive with me as she could have been. And it turned out that the vacancy on the website was just 'an illustration' of the type of roles they handle. Although clearly, not for me, in the last 12 months.

3. Some publishers will tell you in print that they:
a) Are now pro simultaneous submissions.
b) Viewed your ms with interest, but decided they couldn't publish it with commercial success.
c) Recommend sending in a 200-word dust jacket blurb along with your sample chapters, but - and this is the crucial bit - without a synopsis and without giving away the ending of the book.

This just in...

4. Sometimes, you're waiting four months for a response from a publisher, only to discover upon ringing them up that they never received your manuscript in the first place. Thank you, Royal Mail.

Every piece of writing is an experiment, albeit one with a certain amount of emotional investment. But sometimes, it's both important and therapeutic to click the delete button and free up some hard drive space in your head. Who knows, perhaps elements of that piece will resurface in a different guise, maybe even a different genre? The most important thing is taking the decision to draw a line. Murdering your darlings needn't apply solely to fiction writing.

Losing Face and Making Space

Sometimes it takes a big person to recognise when a relationship isn't working out. "It's not you - it's me," has become a cliche and a get out clause. But in this case, I have to say, "It's not me - it's YOU!" You crave my attention and you have so many finicky rules and attitudes that I only discover if I ask the right question. And frankly you're doing my head in.

It only less than two hours of frustration-induced migraine to know that Facebook isn't for me. Maybe I'm the wrong generation, maybe I haven't read the instructions thoroughly or really understood the benefits; maybe I'm just a miserable sod. Maybe I'm using 'maybe' just a little too much.

After Musa Publishing accepted my 5000 word short story The Silent Hills, they mentioned FB to its stable of authors as a great tool for promoting our work. I find LinkedIn really user friendly and I've recently fallen for the charms of Twitter (thanks in part to the tweets of Jimmy Carr and Crab Quotes), so why not Facebook. I mean, how hard can it be to befriend a few people and spread the word. Pretty hard, it turns out. Firstly, my business FB page only does 'likes' and secondly a personal account has miraculously appeared that tags my comments as me and not my business.

As Anne said to me today, after receiving a friend request: 'This person used to ignore me in a roomful of people, so why would I want to become an electronic friend of theirs?'

I understand that social networking taps into our deepest needs to belong and feel valued, whether we're intent on overtly selling a concept, product or service, or unconsciously advertising our needs and opinions. But time and purpose, once frittered away, can never be retrieved (okay, so it's a bit dramatic, but that's how some writers are).

The interesting thing was how I felt after I'd deactivated my account*. It was as if Sisyphus had been given a reprieve. I was freed from the mire of who to befriend, what to read and when the right time is for a gentleman to poke. Plus I can spend the time checking tweets, updating LinkedIn and blogging.

* I know, even deactivated FB pages can be defrosted.

The Big Question

“Mummy, why doesn’t Uncle Malcolm ever stay to dinner?”

“Well darling, Malcolm is something called a vegetarian.”

“Is that a sort of religion?”

(Frowns.) “No dear, not exactly. Uncle Malcolm has certain beliefs about what he eats.”

“Like what?”

“Well… like not eating animals.”

“You mean tigers and lions and giraffes and elephants?

“No dear, no one eats those. I’m talking about cows and sheep and pigs and chickens.”

“I’ve got those in my farm set at home, haven’t I, mummy?”

“Yes darling. So that’s all cleared up then.”

(After a millisecond pause.) “But why doesn’t he want to eat them?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they have legs.”

“So does Uncle Malcolm eat fishes then?”

“Erm, no dear, he doesn’t.”

“So is it because they have eyes then?”

“Perhaps that’s it; let’s talk about something else.”

“But mummy, didn’t you tell me that potatoes have eyes. Does Uncle Malcolm eat potatoes?”

(Heavy sigh.) “Yes he does. And potatoes do have eyes, but it’s not the same thing.”

“So what’s different about a potato’s eyes? Are they on the back of its head?”

“A potato doesn’t have a head.”

“Then where does it keep its eyes?”

(Heavier sigh.) “Eat up; your dinner will be getting cold.”

“So… about the potatoes. Does Uncle Malcolm eat them because they’re a vegetable and he’s a vegetarian?”

“Yes dear, how clever you are to have worked all that out by yourself. Why don’t we have a little rest from our conversation now?”

(Pause for two bites of food.) “Do potatoes have noses as well?”

“Now you’re just being silly, when have you ever seen a vegetable nose?”

(Narrows eyes.) “When we had a snowman, he had a carrot nose.”

(Casts eyes to the floor.) “Yes, I suppose we did, but that was different.”

“Because the snowman wasn’t a vegetable?”

“I expect so, dear.”

“About Uncle Malcolm, mummy; why doesn’t he eat animals then?”

“I don’t know dear, why don’t you ask him next time we see him?”

“But you said we weren’t to discuss it and you told Uncle Malcolm he wasn’t allowed to say anything to upset me.”

“Did I? Oh well, that must be right then.”

“Do animals eat other animals?”

“Yes, sometimes.”

“And do animals eat vegetables?”

“Yes, sometimes they do.”

“But animals don’t eat crinkly chips, do they mummy?”

“No darling, not crinkly chips.”

“Except our dog Jambo – he likes chips.”

“Yes, except Jambo.”

“And Jambo likes meat from a can as well.”

(Pats child on head to alleviate desire to scream.) “Yes dear.”

“And do vegetables eat other vegetables?”

“Why don’t you tell me what you think?”

“Erm… I don’t know. But potatoes could see the other vegetables, only they don’t have any teeth.”

“So that would be a ‘no’ then?”

“Do fish eat vegetables?”

“I imagine some do, yes.”

“Is that why we eat fish and chips together?”

(Gazes at ceiling for inspiration and divine intervention.) “Probably.”

“But I still don’t see why Uncle Malcolm only eats vegetables.”

“Alright, you win, I’ll try and explain. He doesn’t want to cause suffering, directly or indirectly, to another living thing. Does that help you?”

“Thank you mummy.” (Two bites later.) “But aren’t vegetables alive?”

“Sort of, but it’s not the same.”

“So they are alive?”

“Everything is alive, sweetheart.”

“Even the television?”

“That’s just being silly.”

“But you said everything. And what about rocks and rivers and… and… mushrooms?”

“Rocks – no; rivers – no; mushrooms – yes.”

“So why does Uncle Malcolm eat vegetables if they’re alive?”

“Because Uncle Malcolm has to live too, otherwise he couldn’t visit us on Saturdays and bring you nice presents.”

(A long silence.) “I think I might become a vegetarian when I’m older.”

“That’s lovely dinner; now finish up your burger because your fries are getting cold.”