Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Call

It seems like a lifetime ago I last posted. Half of me is gleefully jumping into the change, half of me is clinging to the edge of my unpublished life with my fingernails. I'm doing a lot of thinking about professionalism, memberships, training, promotion, marketing... and I'm doing a lot of calm, productive, therapeutic and even nostalgic activities, like going blackberrying* and making damson and sloe gin.

I fear change...

But this is a good change, a very good change, and it's been worked for, agonised over and, I hope, earned.

I'm not going to bring the name of my publisher into it until the contract's finalised, so if something goes horribly wrong at least I'm only embarassing myself.

But that little reticence notwithstanding, let me tell you about my Call. Some time I'll tell you about the whole history of this MS, but this post is just about my Call.

I got home on Tuesday evening... no, wait. That doesn't tell you enough about my day.

I got home from the hospital on Thursday evening. I had an appointment at the fertility clinic where they scratched their heads over why I'm not pregnant after over two years of trying, and booked me in for an exploratory day surgery in January. They're lovely people, and there's usually a few tears and a lot of laughs. This time we majored on laughs, and if I'm honest I'm having far more good days than bad days about it lately, but I still got home feeling tired and a little down.

Then I checked our voicemail. And heard an American accent.

Now, when you're English and writing for a US market, the sound of a US accent on your voicemail has a special significance. Sometimes its Michelle or Julie, but their thoroughly anglicised tones are readily recognisable. Occasionally it's Sela, but I know her voice, too.

This voice didn't belong to any of them. In the first few words, my stomach clenched, my heart went bu-DUMP and I lost my peripheral vision.

I didn't lose my hearing. The lovely, warm voice told me she was an editor, that she worked for a publisher I'd submitted to, and that she'd been trying really hard to get in touch with me.

I remember the paper I wrote on was blue. I remember the pencil was blunt and I was afraid I'd written down her number wrong.

I remember running backwards and forwards in the living room while the cats looked on in amazement. Then I found a direction, ran upstairs to the phone in my office and called Julie. Yeah, I know. I'm pathetic. ;-)

Julie was her usual supportive self and pointed out that it might be a little early to panic, and wouldn't it be a good idea to call the Editor back?

Oh yeah.

So I did.

She was there. She told me that my book had become a little lost in the system, but that once discovered, it was loved. She told me they wanted to buy it, and added a couple of mind-blowing compliments for good measure. I even actually remember what she said about what happens next. I think I was coherent. I suspect I might have come across as blase, but I wasn't. We ended the call, I sat down to e-mail her my details, and then I picked up the phone again and started calling people.

For the record, it's possible my mother is even more excited and hyper about the news than I am...

My overwhelming feelings after that phone conversation were wonder, joy, panic and a kind of fierce exultation that came from feeling I was truly justified in loving that book. There's nothing like it. I recommend it!

You know, my Call was a real shock. And I mean that in the for-God's-sake-lay-her-down-and-elevate-her-legs sense. You see, I'd all but forgotten that submission, and certainly I'd written it off. They'd had it a while. (I should explain that this delay was not down to current Editors!) And, boy, I know how long submissions can take - the first time I submitted this MS (to another publisher), I waited 14 months for a request for revisions. So I wasn't expecting any contact.

I really wasn't expecting a sale!

But that's what I got.


I think I need to pick some more blackberries.

* And isn't it wonderful that this time last year I was blogging about a rejection, and just had enough sense to say that there would be a time for this story. And enough sense to know that blackberrying is balm to a soul in turmoil, whether good turmoil or bad.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How the Wheel Turns...

This time last year, we were having a truly terrible month.

We'd had some domestic accidents - dead fridges, holey roofs, rotting plaster - we'd had some financial difficulties, Husband had had a car accident, and poor Piggy had been hit by a car and died.

Aren't contrasts funny?

I just received the call from an RWA-recognised print publisher in the US.

They want to publish McWife (aka McAllister's Wife aka McAllister's Method aka Run Among Thorns).

(Me, happy dancing in my office to the tune of a Hoops and YoYo congrats ecard from a dear, dear friend)

Monday, September 25, 2006


I may have to leave the progress meter up for, oh, I don't know, five years or so, just so I remember what it feels like.

Zokutou word meter
74,500 / 74,500

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's the coffee talking...

I love this book.

This morning I hated it. For the last few months I've mostly hated it.

But this evening I love it.



*points at progress meter, laughing hysterically*

Writing Rituals

Ever noticed how sometimes you have to have certain things in place before you can write? Sometimes I can write on the back of a till receipt with a lip-liner, sometimes... not.

These are today's Rituals for writing on a Sunday morning while suffering from a slight headache:-

Heated lavender wheat bag round my stiff neck - CHECK
Plate of malt bread - CHECK
Anadin Extra - CHECK
Coffee (decaf hazelnut) - CHECK
Timer (set to one hour initially) - CHECK
Sense that I'd rather be cleaning out the toilet with a brush held in my teeth - CHECK
Music (hang on, let me get iTunes started... no I would NOT like to download the latest version, this thing leeches my system bad enough as it is... yes I WOULD like you to start before lunchtime... thank you. I'll start with Sting's unplugged 'Mad About You', whose faintly Moroccan drums and strings invokes the start of Danglies for me - CHECK)
Word open to Danglies' latest version - CHECK
Vague feeling of suicidal risk, as if I'm about to drive down Hardknott Pass at night without brakes or lights (NB - I have done this. Second gear is your friend. My learning from this situation was to respond to suspected electrical faults promptly. Oddly, this incident appears on my Most Scary Things I've Done AND my Most Fun Things I've Done lists) - CHECK
Long list of other things I should be doing preying on my mind... taxes... finding the Hastings tickets... running round Latrigg... - CHECK
Faint sense of guilt over blogging first - CHECK
Severe, crippling sense of guilt and shame over people's expectations and how bloody long these revisions are taking - CHECK
Cat on the windowsill - Um.... Pippi? Minnie? Cleo? Chrissy? Where are you?!

- *cracks knuckles* I'm going in.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My name is Pippi...

... and I wish it to be known that I am the most important member of this household.

The Young Upstarts that are currently at The Vets (unfortunately, my Slave informs me that they will return, minus girly bits, this evening) are clearly supremely unaware of my heightened Status Within the Home, and continue to be Rumbunctious and Disturbing, and even dare to attempt to Pounce on me.

This is not to be bourne.

I am attempting to cement my Status Within the Home by being excessively regal and fabulous while they are away. My Slave informs me that this is called, "Being a Madam," and that I am Very Good at it.

Naturally I am Very Good at it.

There is nothing that I am not Very Good at.

I believe it is my Right, Duty and Privelege to to undertake the following actions:-

Sitting In Front of the Monitor
Sleeping on My Pillow (which my Slave insists on calling HER pillow)
Singing Tunefully (which my Slave calls Wailing)
Demanding Foodstuffs and Adoration

I wish it to be known that my Status Within the Home demands that I do these things, that I am Very Good at them, and that I am not, and never have been, a Madam.

You may go about your business now.

Your business is, of course, to please me.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I had a truly fab time - pictures on Julie's blog.

All the ingredients for an excellent break were there - something to celebrate, something fun to do, something delicious to eat, and most important of all some wonderful friends to do it all with.

If only I hadn't left my suede boots behind. I tell you, I'm footwear-challenged this winter...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reading in Reading

I'm going to be away for a few days, and will be taking in Julie's book signing for her newly released Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak (which is FAB and you HAVE to read it).


Deeply excited.

In the mean time, I'll leave you with this pic of Minnie to go, "awww" over:-


Monday, September 11, 2006

Country Life

Just some random - and predominately rural - musings for a Monday.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to see a bull flirting. Amazing how something that's usually described in the terms, "huge", "heavy", and, above all, "bored", could trip along so perkily after the cow with the seductive curl to its tail... I'm sure that if I hadn't been driving by at 60, a few moments later I'd have seen the bull doing something else beginning with "f"*. I'm not sure if this is cool or freaky.

Today I drove past a farm dog eating rabbit road kill, oblivious to the traffic that was swerving to avoid consigning him to the same fate as his dinner. Witnessing it, I was both laughing and going, "ewwwwww!"

I'm never surprised by the odd, mundane things that I draw comfort from. When the farmer behind our house starts the milking machine, it causes a small power surge that dims the lights. I find that flicker of the lights and the subsequent low rumble of the machine morning and evening absurdly reassuring. Everything is as it should be, it says to me.

There is a certain breed of middle aged male that prides himself on what he calls, "plain speaking". Unfortunately the word he is really looking for is, "rudeness".

When I lose another two pounds, I will have lost 2 stone (28 pounds for our transatlantic visitors) in three and a half months. Yesterday I weeded out the clothes that are now too big for me. My wardrobe is almost empty.

Tomorrow I get to work from home, go get acupuncture, shop for presents and witness the fitters FINALLY replacing the wrong cupboard with the right one. I'm anticipating a good day...

* Farting. Do you KNOW how flatulent cattle are?

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I don't really have a favourite season. I'm as happy making snowcats (and, on one memorably occasion, a snow-Hadrian's Wall) as I am sunbathing or swimming in the river. As content blackberrying as I am watching the may blossom come in.

What I do really love is the change of seasons. Those wonderful cusps of the year where you waver between one season and the next, before you dive, wholehearted and joyous, into the change. The anticipation of seasoal foods and festivals, of different ways of living.

It's not quite autumn yet. We're getting chill, misty mornings and bright, blazing afternoons like these.

There are blackberries on the vine and scarlet berries weighing down the rowan trees. The garden's calling me to 'put it to bed for the winter' and the cats leave little misty breath-marks on the windows when they watch the birds.

And under the trees, down in the woods, another fruit of autumn is pushing its way through the leaf-mold and pine needles.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I'm inordinately pleased with myself.

I'm about to post about the Deadly Sin of Anger, and I'm illustrating my point with fluffy kittens.

*Pause to consider gorgeousness of kittens-as-anger post*


As you may know, our backyard is full of kittens. Nine regulars and an uncounted number of visitors, all belonging to the farm behind our house. The kittens are half-wild. Every day we give them our cats' leftovers, make sure they've got water, and check they're doing okay. In spite of this, when we open the back door, we're greeted by small, fluffy demons from hell. Little kitty babies in paroxysms of fury, ears flat to their head, eyes narrowed, teeth bared, spitting and hissing and waving their little razor-sharp claws.

The pictures here are of the youngest kittens, and the most friendly. I can't get close enough to take a picture of the angry ones! We've had the most contact with the kittens pictured, mostly because a) their mother insisted and b) every time we open the back door, they rush into the kitchen like ballistic fluff-balls. But imagine these little bundles transformed into gremlins after their fortieth espresso, vibrating with rage.

Ah, I hear you cry, but it's not anger, it's fear!

Of course it is. It's fear and defensiveness.

But how do we tell? Isn't a lot of anger merely a mask of fear, in one form or another?

In Dangerous Lies, Mari gets desperately angry with Alan.

She wriggled suddenly, miraculously wrenching a knee from the confining cloth.
She put it to good use.
While Alan lay gasping on the floor, curled up in a protective ball, she got herself to her feet and tried to wipe the taste of him from her lips.
“What’s the matter, Waring, do you need to tie your women up these days?”
He blinked at her from the floor, his face pained. I’ll bet it’s pained. “For pity’s sake, Marianne!” he groaned.
“I don’t want your pity, and you don’t want mine!” she shrieked.

Part of that is a righteous anger for things that are 100% his fault, but a major part of it is fear that her experiences have chcanged her into someone different, someone unlovable.

Behind Emily's anger in Taken is the fear that occupies her every day - fear that her nightmare isn't over, that she will be a kidnap victim again.

Tristan sat down heavily in the chair.
“And you know the thing that really fascinates me about the whole thing,” she stammered slightly, tripping up on her rage as much as her words, he thought. “Apart from the whole ‘keep Emily busy in bed so she won’t ask questions’ thing..”
Oh hell.
“And that’s….” she faltered, losing it in spite of all her effort. “W-when were you going to tell me there was a freak out there who wants to hurt me?”
And then she looked at him. He wondered why he’d wanted to see her eyes earlier, because, God, he never wanted to see her look at him like this.
“What if I had managed to escape, Tristan,” she hissed. “What then?”
“I wouldn’t have let you.”
She was half out of her seat, fists clenched, screaming at him, “There are some things you can’t control!”

Hal's anger in Rescuing Rachel is a mask for his fear of being unable to be himself in a demanding, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week role.

She hadn’t expected this. Oh, she was no fool. She knew she didn’t deserve to have him fall to his knees and bathe her feet, but she’d expected... hoped for something of the care he’d shown her only a few hours ago. But that Hal was gone. This Hal was silent and cold, more than distant, barricaded against her utterly.
The ancient architecture around them, rosy stone and studded oak, was just a setting. This man was his own castle.

So much of human behaviour (and animal behaviour!) is motivated by fear.

Now, I know why Mari, Emily and Hal are angry at certain times in their story. But I didn't always know.

With those angry characters on my hands I had to ask one of Kate Walker's big WHYs and unpick that robe of rage to discover the fear beneath.

But with the kittens I'll just have to go with intuition. They're too scary to unpick...