Don’t know where, don’t know when – theoretically Spain –

Limbo … my office closed at the end of April, making us all redundant, and I have a tiny financial cushion while I look for another job – but what kind of job? Temporary, short-term, massive pay, would probably be best because my house is on the market.

If it doesn’t sell, I have to find something permanent (massive pay would continue to be a bonsella) or sell a lot more books to keep the bulldog in the extremely expensive food she has to have because of her pink skin problems.

It may not sell.  My small town on the Firth of Forth is lovely, but short on public transport and therefore not in brisk demand. Scotland generally is unsettled, due to La Sturgeon’s ongoing determination to cut us adrift.  Investors are leaving, not buying, and my erstwhile employers are far from the only national company quietly moving operations down south. These are not ideal selling conditions.

If it does sell, though – hmmm. Spain? There’s an enormous townhouse there, in a lovely little town perfectly positioned for quiet tourists, which would convert into four holiday apartments plus a flatlet for me (I did say enormous!)  Right now, it’s a white elephant of note. Weeds are waist high in the terrace, two of the ceilings are sagging in the most alarming manner, and plaster doesn’t so much flake off the walls as fall off in sizeable chunks. That does mean it is affordable, and it has location location location in Velez: Costa Tropical beaches fifteen minutes away in one direction, spectacular Granada half an hour away in the other, and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada beyond that.  I’m about to list some of alarming photos and videos on the house’s Facebook page.  I took my daughter to see it last weekend. She thinks I’m demented. You’ll doubtless agree.

Fair enough. If I achieve everything I want to achieve with it, I’ll look back on the photos and videos I’ve taken and will be pretty astonished myself that I bought it, but that’s in limbo too. Demented I may be, but not to the point of buying it without a structural survey. I saw the house on Valentine Eve, fell in love with its shabby charm and potential, and requested said survey. We are now, hmm, 10th day of May. In theory the survey, promised almost on a weekly basis, is booked at last, for the 19th. Then, and only then, can I make an offer and of course in the meantime anyone could buy it from under my nose.  That would be fun, especially if my house sold at the same time.  Oops. Nowhere to live, and nowhere to go.

The thing is, if this house doesn’t sell, I have fourteen years of mortgage still to clear. Fourteen years! That takes me past retirement age no matter how often our caring government moves the goalposts. I’m not even sure I have fourteen years of life left, and I know for an absolute fact I don’t have fourteen years of Indian summer, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to spend those years working to pay a mortgage. The elefante blanco would be bought cash, and although it would never provide enough income to live on, it could reasonably be expected to cover its own upkeep and maintenance. That’s incredibly tempting, a self-sustaining home, erratic flow of visitors, a better lifestyle generally that even costs less. I adore Scotland, but the winds do seem to be blowing.

I’ve let chance and circumstance run my life for nearly twenty years now, and no regrets, not one. Being a straw in the wind brought me to the UK, then to Scotland, into this house, and into writing those books you see in the margin. (Are you up to date on the books? There’s a new one out, and one coming up and about to go on pre-order, make a note in your diary.)

grin

I blew off to Europe increasingly often to meet eclectic members of the singles website I joined to research some of the books. One resulting friend lives near Velez – straws that blew me to the door of #21 Calle de Martires. It feels right. It feels terrifying, at the same time. A stray breeze blew an email from a TEFL college into my mailbox, so I signed up to do a TEFL course – teach English as a foreign language – towards the future, and am enjoying bending my brain. Learning Spanish I’ll leave until when (if) I get there – courses are regularly offered for free either in Velez or a nearby town, and I’d get to meet other newcomers learning Spanish, win win.

Right now, the straws are hanging motionless, and I’m waiting for the wind to pick up again.

There’s a house viewing booked for tomorrow, only the third since I listed the house.  A brief breeze, which will drop again, or the start of a strong driving wind – who knows? Not a clue.

I need a windsock.

Walking the dog – a musing blog, not making any point whatsoever. Pass quietly by.

I was tugging a little impatiently on the dog’s lead today on the walk – definite nip in the breeze, lots to do back home – when I had one of those epiphany moments which for all I know she had beamed straight into my head.

To me – an item to be ticked off my day’s list, sandwiched in between laundry and writing and finishing the design of the bookmarks and and AND

To her – the highlight of her day. Oh, she likes eating, very much, and sleeping is good, and charging through the dog flap into the back garden to squabble through the fence with the westie which passes every morning on its walk and the border collie every afternoon, that’s high on her list – but her walk is the cherry on top. That’s when she checks out her little world from corner to corner.

There’s a set ritual to the whole thing. She has to be on the lead for crossing the road, and until I can be sure we’re good to go. She pulls as far ahead as it will allow, in her impatience, then stops to check some enthralling smell I can’t begin to imagine. Then she charges past me again to lead the way to the next smell. Progress is – jerky.

Once I can see far enough in every direction to be sure the westie, the collie, or any other dogs, are nowhere to be seen, the lead can come off, and she’s free to roam. It isn’t the longest walk, because she’s portly by breed, and getting elderly now (I’m not in the first flush of youth myself).  At some point known only to herself, slightly different every day, her fascination with every clump of grass is sated and stage three – the ball-throwing – follows. There’s no more sniffing around, this is serious stuff, the charge followed by a canter back with stately dignity to demand the next throw. Eventually we reach a point where she’s breathing hard and decides she’ll just carry it now, thanks, and we turn for the walk home.

Nothing fancy – but it means so much to her that I felt thoroughly guilty about the tugging. Maybe if I followed her example? Perish the thought I’ll start snuffling around the same spots, that would be eccentric and I don’t have the nose for it anyway, but I resolved to enjoy it, chilly wind notwithstanding.

Actually, pretty nice out there, what with it being spring and all – Scotland is always a little late to spring but some utter genius  in the town council has turned whole swathes of land over to wildflowers, which are starting to build up their energies. The Firth is always beautiful, in every mood, and the foreshore is so vast that we mostly have it to ourselves. You’re reading this on my website, right? Look at the picture at the top. Just been there.

It was a good walk.

Happy endings (no, not that sort. Although mentioned.)

“If you want a happy ending you have to decide where to stop your story – Orson Welles”

I am slightly addicted to twists whether I’m writing a whodunit, a microstory, or any of the other ways in which I kowtow before my muse. The one on the drawing board has several twists. There’s one, though, which turns the whole story from a slightly OTT love story (the alert reader is already saying hang on just a minute) to a slightly creepy stalker story, to abrupt terror. In two paragraphs it goes from mildly steamy (and wildly romantic) to chilling, and I didn’t even plan it that way. I love it, though.

Hence the Orson Welles quote. I could literally stop the story at its happy point and leave most of its readers contented.

Not going to, though. The book in question (and I only say this because I am personally annoyed by dangling hints and coy half-references) is still in process,  The Money Honey, and it’s odd in many ways.

Only once before have I had a young protagonist*, because I find mature characters much more intricate and interesting, but Miranda’s story starts when she’s around twenty, in 1996, and the reader follows her for the next twenty years.

She only came into existence because she’s a large part of the backstory for Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting, which is being published soon. I wrote her story separately, to get it clear in my head, and then I got engrossed in the challenges it presented. I hadn’t a clue who my target reader was, but sometimes books take on a life of their own and this is one.

There was tons of rewriting for Seventeen Eighteen, as it happened, but the beta readers who have now read both books were pretty positive in their feedback. However, the beta readers who only read Money Honey weren’t. They found the ending, with its sudden introduction of a bunch of amateur sleuths from the Lawns, thoroughly confusing.

By the time that feedback was trickling in, I quite liked my Money Honey but I could see their point, as a stand-alone book she would need an ending of her own. So I borrowed from a few other authors faced with similar situations, and Money Honey has three endings.

Miranda’s whole story is about the unorthodox choices she makes (the working title was Step By Step) so it felt right to let those readers who have engaged with her make the final choice for her.  They will choose whether she calls an old friend for help, which is where Seventeen Eighteen came into the picture – or whether she tackles the situation herself, the way she’s always done – or whether the original storyline from Seventeen Eighteen holds true, but this time she and her son take on the challenge together.

No confusion there, then.  grin

It really has been a very challenging book, I’ve put it aside at least five times and every time it has come yammering after me demanding attention. She’s so unlike any of my other characters, and so very in need of a happy ending.

And yes I know the other meaning of that phrase. In fact that’s why Money Honey is going out under the Clarissa name, not EJ Lamprey. Lots of happy endings, and never, it seems, one for her.

Seventeen Eighteen has finished its rewrites, gone off for editing, started its countdown, and will be out shortly. Oh, and one other oddity – they share the same cover photograph. Slightly different cropping, a lighting difference, but the same photograph. I’m not being cheap, I’m not even being Scottish and practical, I simply couldn’t decide which cover to use it on. It feels right to have it on both.

 

 

*Lucy, in Time Before Time, by Joanna Lamprey

 

Totally loca

I spotted P, almost inevitably, on line – I mean you know me, cruising the websites, self-proclaimed champion of the autumn rose, the mature single woman –

Well, I don’t mind saying I did a double-take. Wow.  I laughed out loud. I looked again. I read the provided description greedily. I sent the link to my buddy in Spain, mourning the lack of photographs, there were only four. Lovely buddy in Spain promptly found P on another website and sent back 20 photos.

Oh

My

Word

P is gorgeous. Older than I’d normally have gone for, must be said, and absolutely crying out for some TLC, but “wow” factor second to none.

I sent a message email immediately and a hectic exchange of emails followed and, since I was about to visit lovely buddy in Spain, a meet was set up. I could hardly wait – and it was as good as I had hoped, better.  This was love across a, well, must be said, totally empty atrium, but at first sight.

Hard to know what P makes of it all, of course, since P is a large 200-hundred-year-old traditional Spanish townhouse, standing forlornly empty in a narrow re-paved street in the heart of a town stretching back to Moorish influence , between and opposite very beautifully refurbished houses. The P is short for Palabras – Casa de Palabras, House Of Words – because as I wandered starry-eyed through room after room (many of them leading only into each other) (Spanish houses mix up the generations and who needs privacy when you share with family?) the peeling flaking plaster faded away, the spacious empty rooms furnished themselves and P turned into a creative retreat for writers, artists, kindred souls. The faded tiles bloomed again and the hand-painted vivid green ones became more of a feature, less of an eye-sore. The weeds pushing through the cracks in the terrace modestly vanished.

Out of the twelve existing rooms (one a smokehouse for Spanish hams because, you know, every house needs one) my private quarters appeared, and four guest-house suites built themselves in my mind’s eye. Lovely buddy was a building contractor before taking early retirement in Spain and cautiously poked, prodded, frowned, shrugged, and said the house would outlast me and yes, my plans would work. So what if six of the rooms lead only into each other? Two would convert easily into bathrooms behind dividing walls creating short passage-ways. The only rotting roof timber wasn’t a support beam, so it was easily replaced. The dream could be . . .

Before I took my leave, that first time, my legs a little shaky with shock, I had nearly exploded my camera’s memory with hundreds of photographs.

I’ve fallen in love a couple of times over the years but nothing like this. Wow.

I’ll tag these blogs ‘Palabras’ so they can be followed, or avoided, but – could it be forever? Have I the energy, the sheer passion, to follow through? Hell yes. Structural surveys are happening. Currency brokers have been appointed. Future plans for earning a living (I’ll be happy if the guest-house suites support Palabras itself, anything extra would be a cherry on top) are fizzing. Baby steps are being taken when I want giant strides, but inch by inch life with P moves a little nearer.

Yeah, having read this far you probably want a photograph. Thing is, I saw with the eyes of love and fervent imagination. Believe me, I’m already taking some flak. You should just hear my very sensible daughter on the subject.  You’ll see faded and forlorn and what-on-earth-house has windows into its own atrium? But I did set up a Facebook page and I am likely to be a bit of a bore over the next few months.

Oh, and I need to sell my house in Scotland. Now. You want a compact two bedroomed townhouse with small west-facing courtyard, about as unlike Palabras as can be imagined? Call me.

Wow, you know so much!

It’s a great feeling, reaching the age where you know everything.

Okay, not EVERYTHING. But everything you need to know, and a little bit more.

Make the most of that age, treasure every minute

Hard on its heels comes the age where you confidently share your wisdom unasked, in every situation, because that’s only fair, and you are a Priceless Resource.

Then comes the first time someone says ‘that’s not right’ and you check and it wasn’t. What? But – but – but

 

 

 

 

 

Told you to treasure it  rolling on the floor laughing

We learn every day of our lives until we die, and if we did shut off that wonderful gift, we might as well be dead. Blush and move on.

Most Indies shouldn’t ever publish. Well, most women shouldn’t have babies. #amwriting

That’s not a kneejerk yeah well you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny response.  Ask any writer, traditionally published or indie, our books are the children of our brains, and we’re protective of them.

A traditionally-published writer puts that baby into the hands of professionals who whisk it away, do cosmetic adjustments, dress it, raise it, choose its schools, and, sometimes, hand it back after a while saying hey, we’re as sorry as you are, but the kid ain’t gonna cut it. Of course quite often (not always) the kid does good and the publishers are yammering at the door – make more babies. Fast. One a year. Go go GO.

Traditionally-published book-parents are proud to the point of arrogant about their progeny being Chosen, and they are enraged when an indie book baby does better than their own Improved By Professionals offering because it just isn’t fair. The indie parent had all the fun of producing exactly what they wanted, AND success?

What generally happens is they write scathing blogs, as Laurie Gough did with ‘Self-publishing is an insult to the written word’.  No idea who peed in her cornflakes, but she’s cross.  She thinks indies bash out a book in 24 hours, read it through once and think ‘good enough’ and publish.

I’ll not lie to you, I sometimes wonder myself. Book parents do range from the over-processed squeeze-it-into-a-fashionable-mode through to those who pop out a book in a week and stick it out into the world in a dirty nappy, snot running down its virtual face.

But not all, Laurie Gough. Not all. Some work on their books as hard as you do. They write them, rest them, edit them, polish them, send them to beta readers,  edit and polish again, send them for professional editing, they find the money and they pour it in willingly and only then do they publish.  For an indie, that’s just the end of the beginning. There’s no handing over. There’s placing the book in the right places, trying to find the right readers.

There’s no easy publisher-provided dollop of paid reviews, no publisher-provided salesperson working the shops, nothing on tap.  Just a writer and a book, trying to make it in a largely indifferent world.

So when an indie does make it, when their readers loyally buy every book they put out, when they make a tiny niche for themselves in a giant market – suck it up, Laurie Gough. Don’t be ugly, because it makes you look ugly.

If no-one could ever sing unless they had a record contract, there’d be no live entertainment in pubs, no bands entertaining parties, no wedding singers.  Buskers, eek. You’d shoot them on sight.

If no-one ever offered their art without a professional contract with, random example, an advertising agency,  this would be a poorer world. The professional artists do a slick, pleasing, and efficient job, but the life and vitality poured straight from the artist’s eye into your brain, that’s the real deal. Love it or hate it, from piece to piece, you deserve the choice. Van Gogh wasn’t to public taste in his whole lifetime. Laurie Gough would completely approve of that. If he couldn’t find a dealer to handle his stuff, he was obviously useless. QED.

What if no-one ever had a baby unless it had been commissioned with high expectations and a mapped-out future?  Well, there’d not be 7 billion people on this planet, for sure. Yes indeed, we tend to be ruled by the elite who were propelled expertly through the system into the top jobs. And yes, some babies are a complete waste of space – for the most part, they live and die and their lives make very little impact. Sometimes, though, the elite fail horribly, and sometimes the great unwashed change our lives. Actually, very few inventions, very few of the things that change our world, ever came from the stuffed shirts taught how to think and behave from the start.

To be validated by a money-machine that sees potential for profit in you is wonderful, well done Laurie Gough.

To be validated by loyal readers is better. Had a look at your book sales. Hope they pick up soon, and soothe that anger of yours.

Lol has officially become a word – it is in the Oxford dictionary

LOL

(also lol)

Pronunciation: /ɛləʊˈɛl//lɒl/

EXCLAMATION

informal

  • Used to draw attention to a joke or amusing statement, or to express amusement:

    ‘I love how you said ‘coffee is not my cup of tea’. LOL!’

Okay that’s probably not exactly breaking news, I’m usually behind the trend on that sort of thing, lol.

Yes I know it is an infuriating little word!  Those of us who date back to the 80s get quite het up about it. There was confusion anyway back then between Lots Of Love and Laugh Out Loud.  Love fell by the wayside, as it always does (sigh) and we watched with jaundiced eyes as lol bounced into social media. Laugh out loud? At that comment? Please. It wasn’t funny enough to rate more than a smile, tops.

Well, that’s the point. It doesn’t mean laugh out loud and hasn’t for ages. It really is a quick smile, the half-shrug, sometimes wry, “I thought he meant it, lol” or a quick defuse of a comment that might otherwise sound a bit critical, “I hope you’re not going to wear that blue jacket again, lol” and although I resisted it fiercely for a long time and will FOREVER resist lolololol (or at least until it finds its way into the Oxford dictionary) I am finally not only using it but finding it quite handy. At times. In more ways than included in the dictionary definition.

Which just proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks. (Rueful half-shrug and wry smile)

It hasn’t crept into my books yet, and I don’t think it will.  My editor probably wouldn’t allow it anyway. And it will never become punctuation, I’m simply not that much of a smiler and that’s all there is to it.  My hackles still go up lol when I see it used more than once lol in a sentence or paragraph lol because that is simply infuriating. Lol. See? See how silly that looked?

mumbling

(Oh, and by the by – look at those helpful hints on pronunciation. Are they kidding?)