books

In which my publisher is 7 whole years old

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Choc Lit, the rather lovely publisher that brought Sweet Nothing, Midsummer Dreams and the Christmas Kisses series into the world is seven whole years old today.

This is very exciting because seven is, I would suggest, without any doubt at all the best age to be. You’re still little enough to be cute and not really be expected to know stuff or do useful things like wash up or know how to debone a poussin, but you’ve reached the point where you’re in sufficient control of your own limbs for the full range of running/jumping/twirling activities to be very much on the table. At least until an adult comes and makes you get down off the table.

Furthermore, at seven you’re on a par with deadly sins, heavenly virtues, and the generally agreed optimum number of dwarves that can be looked after by a single fairytale princess/occasional housekeeper.

Seven is also the title of that film where Gwyneth Paltrow’s head ends up in a box. It’s how keen Jeremy Corbyn is on the EU. It’s the maximum number of crime-fighting children/dogs Enid Blyton considered it practical to group together into a single secret smuggler-catching gang.

It’s the wedding anniversary at which you might buy one another a nice jumper or a small flock of sheep. It’s the number of days Craig David needs to meet and thoroughly romance a young lady and get to the point where they both need a nice long rest.

So seven. There you go. It’s a number. Traditionally it comes after six and before eight, unless you’re counting alphabetically, in which case (taking only the first ten numbers in this example) it would come after one and before six. I wouldn’t recommend counting alphabetically though; you lose a lot of the benefit of counting if you do.

All of which is a very long winded way of saying, Choc Lit publish books, including my books. You could buy one if you wanted. Or not it’s really up to you. Anyway, they’re seven. Happy Birthday to them.

 

In which I participate in a Lovely Blog Hop

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Last week I was tagged by Berni Stevens to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop. Normally I’m not very good at participating in blog hops. They involve remembering to post on an agreed day and only talking about the subject at hand, neither of which are my special blogging skills. In this case though, the blog hop is officially Lovely, and everyone likes Loveliness, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. It’s all about the Lovely things that have made me the person, and the writer, I am now. Aw.

So here are my thoughts on a number of areas of potential Loveliness.

First Memory

Now my first clear memory is very specific, but not particularly lovely. It’s of a family holiday in Oban where it rained a lot and, having walked boldly into town, my mum and dad decided to get a taxi back to our accommodation because of the downpour. I have a very distinct memory of the taxi driver being a middle-aged slightly balding ginger man – picture a Scottish Neil Kinnock with a taxi. So there you go – not a particularly lovely or unlovely memory, but true so it’ll have to do.

 

Books

An excellent heading for loveliness. I don’t remember ever not loving reading. Right from nursery school when that cat first sat on the mat, I think I was hooked. Although looking back now, the story of the cat lacks narrative drive. Why is it sitting on the mat? What impact does the mat have on the cat’s character arc? These things are never properly explored.

From then on I loved Winnie-the-Pooh, and later Enid Blyton – I always loved her boarding school books, whereas my sister was addicted to the ones where groups of small children catch smugglers. Then it was Sweet Valley High and Terry Pratchett, and then all the other books. All of them. So many books. So little time. Feels overwhelmed. Crawls back under duvet (with a book).

 

Libraries

The two formative libraries of my childhood were The Main Library in town where you would go with Mummy, and Scalby Library which my sister and I were allowed to go to on our own because it was nearer, and also, on the way to Grandma’s house. The Main Library had a children’s section that I remember as being massive. It almost certainly wasn’t. I suspect it was just a fairly normal sized room, but as Terry Pratchett fans know, books distort space and time, so that was probably what made it seem bigger.

Scalby Library was mainly notable for not having a public toilet, which for children who’ve walked there without adult supervision, could turn out to be problematic. On one occasion my sister, who was about 16 at the time, desperately needed to pee and persuaded the staff to let her go to their toilet by claiming that her little sister needed to go and might wet herself. I was 11. I did not need to go. This was most unscrupulous behaviour.

 

What’s your passion?

Writing (covered below). And reading (covered above). And education (covered below). And baking (not covered anywhere else, but it is an excellent way to achieve cake and so is therefore very lovely).

 

Learning

I love learning. Knowing more stuff is always excellent, and realising how little you know at the moment is excellent too, because it encourages humility and listening to other people, both of which are very very Lovely Things.

I think I’ve always loved learning, but I didn’t always love school. Secondary school, in particular, was fairly horrible, but I adored university so much that I went back and did an MA, and then a second BA, and then a teaching qualification. If tuition fees weren’t so prohibitively high I’d do another degree in a heartbeat. I fancy Law. Or maybe Politics. Or PPE. Or…

 

Writing

My earliest memory of writing was deciding, with a friend from school, that we were going to write, and star in, a satirical play about two rebellious schoolgirls who join a children’s choir. I definitely remember that we thought this play was going to be hilarious and would, almost certainly, change the world. We were about 10, and I don’t think we got past arguing over names for our characters.

So there you go – the important writing skills of a) having an idea and b) getting hung up on some tiny detail of the idea and never actually writing any words, were developed at a young age and have served me well ever since.

 

And that’s my Lovely Blog Hop Blogpost. Next week historical author Heather King will be taking up the baton on her own site and sharing her lovely thoughts and memories about what made her the writer she is today. You can also come back to this very blog right here next week to catch up on my 52 Weeks:52 Books progress with my update for March.

In which I think a lot about books and not so much about deceased Prime Ministers

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So no blog post last week. Apologies once again – the need to earn money was continuing to get in the way of things I actually want to do. It’s probably for the best though. I’d have felt obliged to say something about the death of Baroness Thatcher/Maggie/The Iron Lady/Thatcher Thatcher Milk Snatcher (delete as you wish), and that would have been a struggle, because what is there to say? She used to be Prime Minster. Some people thought she was a marvellous Prime Minister. I wasn’t, personally, one of those people. But she stopped being Prime Minister 23 years ago, so while clearly her death is news, I suspect I’m not the only person in the country who’s struggling to see why it had four days of basically being the only news. So if I had blogged last week it would probably have said, “So Margaret Thatcher died. Hmmm. Well then.” And that would not have been an exciting blog for any of us.

So, what else is news? Well the shortlist for the Women’s prize for fiction has been announced. This is what used to be the Orange Prize, before the good people at Orange decided that people who can read are not part of their target market (I’m extrapolating here – I assume that’s what they decided). And it’s a fairly stonkingly impressive shortlist. Proper name authors like Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver and Kate Atkinson are in the mix to get beaten by the literary prize goliath that is Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies.  Obviously, these sorts of prizes are hugely subjective. One judging panel won’t necessarily agree with another, but the fact that Mantel won the Man Booker and the Costa Prize would suggest an unusual level of consensus at the moment.

I can’t really comment further than that, because, rather depressingly, I haven’t read any of the shortlist. I haven’t read Bring Up The Bodies because it’s part 2 of a trilogy and part 1 (Wolf Hall) is still sitting on my To Read pile, along with non-fiction books about drugs (pharmaceutical and street), quantum mechanics, and evolution, two autobiographies, and a whole shelf (more than a whole shelf – in places they’re stacked vertically) of assorted fiction. And that’s before we start on the virtual books waiting in my kindle. There are simply too many interesting books out there in the world.

I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I read quite widely. Fiction and non-fiction. Different genres. But increasingly I find that there are just too many books. I’ve already instigated my 100 pages rule – I’ll read the first 100 pages of anything I start. If I’m not gripped by then, I give up on it. But I’m still not keeping up with all the things I would like to read. And so I have a plan.

Firstly, can we all stop writing new stuff for maybe 12 months, just to give everyone a bit of time to catch up? Secondly, and this part makes me sad, I think I may have to accept that some of the books on the To Read pile are never going to get read. I never throw away books. Once they’re in, they are, traditionally, housed indefinitely in my (slightly overfull) bookshelves. I think that might have to change. Some books, the ones that actually will probably never get read and the ones that I’m never going to want to reread, might have to make the fateful journey to the Daisy Chain Benevolent Fund bookshop in the sky. (NOTE: not actually in the sky, just in the row of shops opposite the church and before the turning for Sainsburys).

This is a sad decision.  I love books. I love their sense of possibility. I love the potential for losing yourself and all your everyday stresses and being immersed in a different world. I love the opportunity for random learning. I don’t like sending them away, which is silly – I don’t feel the same about CDs or DVDs which involve just as much creativity and human endeavour, but books, to me, feel special.

So what about you dear reader? Are you a bibliophile hoarder like myself or a dispassionate “read once and pass on” type? Do you limit the size of your To Read pile or let it grow to the point where you may need to build it an extension? In other words, are any of you as daft about books as me, or am I a lone crazy person after all?