Monday, 29 July 2013

Author's notebooks

In an article in August's Writing Magazine  John Curran tantalisingly recalls discovering a cardboard box full of Agatha Christie's notebooks on a visit to Greenway House prior to its hand-over to the National Trust. It took him over a year deciphering and transcribing her scribbled notes into 73 individual Word documents.

What struck him was their chaotic nature and lack of chronology, suggesting that several were in use at once. It led him to conclude that where ever she was at the time, she must have grabbed whatever notebook was closest to hand to jot down the thought or plot point which had popped into her head.

I know the problem! Having forgotten a gem of an idea before now, between the blinding flash and arriving downstairs in search of a notebook to write it down, I now have several notepads, strategically placed around the house.

I haven't yet found myself a version that I can use in the shower (where many of my better (?) ideas come to me) but I believe there is such a thing available...

John Curran's books:

Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks
Agatha Christie's Murder in the Making

Thursday, 25 July 2013

E-books and frugal times

According to The Bookseller yesterday, Nielsen predicts that e-book sales will out-strip print sales by 2014. But as e-books sell on average for less than print books revenue is also likely to be down.

Debbie Young ( in her excellent book Sell Your Books!, confesses that since she acquired her e-book reader, many of the e-books she has bought have been impulse buys.

A friend who works in the cosmetic industry always maintains that an economic downturn has less impact on sales than one might suppose. Feedback suggests that a customer sees spending a few pounds on a lipstick as a 'treat' to cheer themselves up.

Perhaps this rationale is working for e-books too!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Wonderful York... with a few surprises

 Every now and again we writers need to lift our heads for an injection of inspiration. And what better place to do that than in the beautiful city of York.

We have just spent a few (very hot!) days staying in a great pub right on the city walls. It even had a beer garden which looked up at York Minster.

The Lamb and Lion, Higher Petergate, York

Despite the heat, we enjoyed exploring the city using an old guide book we'd bought on another visit back in the dim and distant past (scarily, about 24 years ago!). We weaved around the narrow streets and up and down the snickleways - the alleyways and passages which link them. They have such marvellous names. The Shambles is well known but there are others; Jubbergate, Ogleforth, Finkle Street,  Mad Alice Lane (apparently poor Alice Smith was hanged here in 1825 for... well... for being mad) and, my particular favourite, Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate.

We walked the walls, honoured the visiting steam engines of The Great Gathering at the National Railway Museum, took a trip back in time to the age of the Vikings at the Jorvik Centre and climbed York Minster tower to gaze across the roofs of the city. 

And just when we'd seen everthing we'd expected to see, we saw something we hadn't expected....

... a hedgehog trotting along the street! Priceless.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Smell the roses

This year the roses in our garden have been stunning, particularly 'Malvern Hills' (above), the scent of which wafts over us every time we step across the threshold of the French windows.

Interesting, the sense of smell. When we were choosing which roses to grow we found that some varieties which I thought had a gorgeous scent my husband couldn't smell at all - and visa versa!

A recent study found that smells can take a person further back in memory than visual or verbal clues. 

Sharing 'smell memories' with my husband we realised that those on the list which evoked the strongest recollections were those which we never smell nowadays. 

He recalled plaster-of-Paris (broken arms were his forte as a child!) and the soapy smell of hot steaming washing being transferred from the drum of the twin tub into the spin drier with huge wooden tongs.

I remembered the oily pong of the paraffin heater during my first ballet lessons and the burning whiff of the decorators blow torch while our house was painted when I was about 4 years old.

Intriguingly, both of my memories are associated with anxiety. I remember I cried going to ballet and the blow torch terrified me so much, I refused to go out into the garden! Oh happy days...

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Art of Using Leftovers

I'm usually pretty adept at finding ways to use up left over food. Even so, there are times when I save bits and pieces more in hope than expectation. Then they sit at the back of the fridge until they've died a natural, if bizarrely coloured, death when I can throw them away with a clear conscience.

But now that's about to change, since I read about Suzy Bowler's book The Leftover Handbook in the subscribers' pages of Writing Magazine.

Set up in a simple to use A- Z format of ingredients, it suggests clever ways of turning those little bits and pieces into something inspirational.

I can see it getting well-thumbed in my kitchen - oily, sticky and splattered with food; the sign of a good cook book!

Find out more on Suzy's blog

Why tennis is like writing

As I watched the gladiatorial battles at SW19 this week, it occurred to me that tennis players are like writers. They fluctuate between self-doubt and self-belief.

But while we writers despair that what we're writing is rubbish in the privacy of our darkened garret, Wimbledon's finest must fight their internal demons in the full glare of the world's spectators.

I'll take the garret anytime!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Better late than never

I'm not usually the dithering sort but taking the plunge to set up a blog has taken a long, long time. I have been pacing up and down around the edge of Bloggerland with the wariness of a nervous swimmer who could be persuaded that the water is lovely but is still not sure they might drown.

But here I am, finally, jumping right in and posting my very first blog on the eve of what the forecasters are saying is The Start of Summer 2013.

So I look forward to sitting in the sunshine and engaging my 'write' brain to come up with thoughts to share, in my new blogging adventure!