Well, well. It’s been a while *guilty look*.

Sometimes life just gets in the way and you need to focus on priorities. Lately I’ve had to deal with some head stuff and make sure I kept myself and my family going which has meant writing and blogging have taken a back seat, as has podcasting though I’ve tried to keep that going. Things seem to be getting better now so I’m throwing myself back in there! So I thought I’d put a bit of a bulletin together, as I know all you fans were wondering what had happened.

*peers out into darkness waiting for applause*

Ok. I’ll get on with it then…


My work in progress has been put away for a while. I was at a stage where I was putting all the wrong sort of pressure on myself and I wasn’t doing it for fun any more. I’ve since read a book Awaken the Writer Within which helped me start writing and enjoy it again. I’ll be writing a bit more about this in another post as it helped me decide…


to take the plunge into NaNoWriMo madness again. This time instead of using it as a way to start a long-planned project, I’m totally using it for fun and without any of the pressure of “this has to go somewhere”. I know it seems mad – there’s all the pressure of making the word count, but I’m honestly not worried if I don’t make 50k by November 30th. What matters is what’s already happening – I’m having fun with some characters and situations and remembering why I want to do this. So far I’m not on schedule but  not massively behind and whatever happens, I’m going to be going out of November happier than I went out of October!


My last attempt at organising and structuring the blog doesn’t seem to have worked out so I’m back to taking blogging in baby steps. Again, it’s about remembering what the blog is for which is just what it says on the tin – er, sorry, address bar. My Little Notepad, not My Little Online Presence or My Little Guide to the Universe (although, oooh, shiny new idea…) or My Little How Not to Write. It’s about having some online expressive space and not about becoming A Blogger. So there. Oh, and hopefully in the next two months I’ll be getting a beautiful new look designed by my wonderful husband whose design business is really taking off, so in the meantime I’m going to strip it down to a nice, minimal look ready for the new Me.


There was a little hitch, because of the stuff I mentioned above, which meant that interviews haven’t gone out QUITE on my schedule but hopefully that’s all back and running nicely now. There are some great guests to come and some old favourites returning. I have to say, I love doing the interviews way more than I ever expected, and I hope to see it going from strength to strength in the New Year.

That’s all for now folks. Thanks for listening…


A Day in the Life of a Writing Mum

5am. Get up with children. Stagger to sofa and plan to be really disciplined and open laptop. As soon as I’ve woken up a bit.

6am. Wake up on sofa; rub crusted drool off chin and rub crayon off walls. Note to self: mustn’t fall asleep while toddler is up and crayons are within reach.

7am. Breakfast. If I can, I’ll squeeze in twenty minutes writing before school run. Plenty of time, shouldn’t be a problem.

8.40am. Scream at children to get in car. Run back into house to retrieve forgotten bag/coat/shoes/all of the above. Will write after dropping son off at school.

9am. Back home. Will write now. Just got to check twitter.

9.40am. Oh dear. Toddler needs nappy changing – pref ten minutes ago. Clean up. Disinfect hands. Will write now.

10am.  Open laptop. Notice smell. Change toddler. No disinfectant needed this time. Will write now.

10.05am. Toddler crying. Find biscuits, hand packet to toddler. Will write now.

10.10am. Can’t possibly write till I’ve had a cup of tea. Kettle on. Will check twitter while waiting for it to boil.

11am. Re-boil kettle.

11.30am Sit down with cuppa.

11.31am. Toddler crying and rubbing eyes. Cuddle in and she goes to sleep. Eventually.

12pm. Lunch. Make lunch for self and husband. Sit down with it, toddler wakes. Make lunch for toddler.

1pm. Wash dishes from last night’s supper, today’s breakfast and lunch. Will write now.

2pm. Better just change washing over. Also toddler wants to watch Mr Tumble.

2.30pm. Sit down with laptop. Will write now.

2.35pm. Toddler climbs onto lap. That’s fine. I can balance laptop on sofa arm and toddler is snuggled in watching CBeebies. Start typing (after just checking twitter).

2.50pm. Toddler decides to help with typing.

3.10pm. Realise time. Jump up and DO NOT SWEAR (honest gov). Throw toddler in car and race to school. Note to self: must walk for school pick-up more often. Will write on return.

3.30pm. Return home. Discuss school with son. Have had more informative discussions with a brick wall. Give up and talk about Ben10 instead.

4.30pm. Finish talking about Ben10. Need to just check washing. And twitter.

5pm. Need to make tea.


5.10pm. Search through cupboards and freezers.

5.40pm. Look for pizza shop menu.

6.30pm. Tidy up; children in bath; rubbish in bin. Note to self: mustn’t get mixed up.

7pm. Sit down to write.

7.05pm. Could really do with a shower.

7.30pm. Finish shower. Sit down with drink and laptop.

8pm. Wake up. Realise have been asleep on z key. Delete 4 pages of zzzzzz. Rub crusted drool off chin.

8.15pm. This needs coffee. Put kettle on. Check twitter while waiting for kettle to boil.

8.45pm. Re-boil kettle.

8.55pm. Sit down with coffee and laptop. Toddler crying. Go to get her back to sleep.

9.30pm. Wake up with head on toddler’s bed and complete lack of muscle tone in neck.Rub crusted drool off chin.

9.40pm. Put laptop away and go to bed with cup of tea and book which I stay awake until half eleven reading.

Will write tomorrow. 

Exploding Ebooks

Having just read yet another diatribe about ebooks – along the lines of real books smell lovely and feel lovely and I love secondhand bookshops and is the real book dead? I don’t think so – I went away, had a quick seethe, and have returned to calmly put down a couple of my thoughts on ebooks.

So. Deep breath…

Yes, printed books look and feel lovely. I don’t have much of a sense of smell but it seems to be a general consensus that they smell lovely too. No argument from me so far. Secondhand bookshops? Fabulous. One of my favourite places in the country is Barter Books in Alnwick which is a real treasure trove, and an experience in itself. I was delighted to spend a lovely day there as part of my thirtieth birthday celebration, and found a rare copy of the story of my hometown’s co-operative movement, which I would never even have known about. Plus the shop itself is simply amazing with a mural that any booklover will gaze at for hours.

BUT. But but but. I imagine that at some point in the dim and distant past someone somewhere said “You know, these beautiful parchments that these monks are spending hours illuminating and painstakingly writing out are so beautiful and they smell so lovely and they’re so nice to handle and that secondhand manuscript shop is such fun to browse through, it’s a shame to replace them with that modern new-fangled printing press.” And presumably someone else said “yes, BUT this modern new-fangled printing press will make books cheaper to make and sell and will open up access to reading and writing to thousands more people. That’s got to be a good thing, right?” I say presumably, as otherwise I guess we’d still be writing on parchment.

You know what? Ebooks make books cheaper to write and read and buy and sell and open up reading and writing, or at least make them more reachable, for millions of people. More people will read and write books than might have otherwise happened. Yes, that means there will be a load of rubbish done too, but people are having a go – doesn’t that count for something? I’m reading books that I just couldn’t afford if I had to buy printed ones (and I do still use my library, before people shout at me. A lot). If you ask me, the real death of the book would have been if there WEREN’T ebooks, as prices of printed books, distribution, discounts, etc etc etc would rise so that more and more people would be priced out of the market and books would have returned to being a luxury item. In my very humble and personal opinion with no publishing expertise at all.

And while we’re sort of hovering around the subject, please DON’T use the term ‘real books’ with regard to printed books. It’s the content that makes it a book, not the material. If we’re going to be snobby about it, there’s plenty of books I’d say weren’t real books because, frankly, the content is dire. Printed on paper or screen.

And the gatekeeper thing? I think I do agree that we need gatekeepers to help sort out the really good books and push them forward. I know I do, in the end, want to be published by a publishing house although who knows what will happen in the future, and don’t forget that I’ve done my own short kindle book (hint hint). BUT. Just say you’re browsing the kindle store. Yes, there are probably thousands of books you won’t come across because of the MILLIONS on there and that’s a shame. The thing is, we’re not living in an age where if you make a discovery about a book you really enjoyed you have to handwrite a dozen notes and get the footman to jog around to each of your friends’ houses to tell them about it. The means by which we actually have all of these books swamping the store, the little thing called the INTERNET, is also the means to spread the word about books you enjoy. I have 1300 followers on twitter, some of whom will read this, and retweet it to however many thousand followers they have, or hundreds, or tens, or even three followers. Whatever. The point is, in minutes I can tell people what I think of x book and more people will hear about it than I can shake a stick at.

Nicola Morgan did a blog post this morning about a fantastic-sounding book called Florence and Giles. Within minutes not only had I bought it but at least three other people that I saw in my twitter stream. The books are out there, Scully. You just have to know where to look.

Now, I’ve got to say that not all books work as ebooks. Coffee-table books, those beautiful tomes with gorgeous glossy photos and artwork just aren’t the same on screen, as technology stands at the minute. Some books relying on typography or texture. Some reflective or devotional books, arty books, books that use layout creatively. Not to say they never will be, just not yet. And I do still prefer to sit down and read a picture book with my toddlers.

But who actually decided that it was one or the other? This isn’t VHS and Betamax. Print books and ebooks can co-exist, as long as we don’t descend to silly, can’t-be-bothered so-called arguments that end in a very dismissive and snooty Is the real book dead? I don’t think so. 

Is the real book dead? Give me a break.


Old Friends

So, in case  by some chance you missed it, my first interview on In the Wishing Chair went live at the weekend, and I’ve recorded a few more interviews since. I’ve had some lovely feedback, so many thanks to anyone who’s listened so far and given me such a boost!

There’s one particular question I’m asking everyone, which I’m told is very mean but I don’t care (cue evil laugh). It is: which ONE children’s book (any age/format/genre) would you recommend? Luckily, I’m the one asking not being asked!

It has got me thinking back though to some of the books I loved when I was growing up. I think the book I’d choose would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but there are so many that I read over and over, and from that thought I passed about half an hour musing on some of them, some that until now I’d forgotten but read repeatedly. And now I feel an urge to track them down, via libraries or ebay or amazon or whatever, to try and pin down what it was that made me revisit them so often (and if anyone’s got a battered old copy languishing in their loft, do let me know!).

Here’s a few to start with:

  • The Chalet School series. I loved these. I don’t think I read them all, but a great many. Joey seemed like a great role model at the time and I think, if I remember rightly, she went on to marry the most lovely doctor. Sigh.
  • St Clare’s. Responsible for a highly romanticised view of boarding school which seemed so much better than my boring comprehensive. And Claudine rocked. Probably, though, I’ll re-reread these and find them very old-fashioned! Funnily enough I never ever fancied trying Mallory Towers.
  • The Children of Green Knowe. I actually remember very very little about the stories or characters, but the mood of them stays surprisingly vivid. I remember them being creepy and mystical and chilling – I simply have to find out if this is a fair reflection.
  • Charlotte Sometimes. This was one of my favourites and I read it so many times I can remember scenes so clearly even 20 years on. Time travel that made sense.
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden. Again, time travel that made sense, and I remember it being very tightly plotted and little details turning out to be important and relevant later on.
  • The Worst Witch. The best misfit ever. And the tv version had  Diana Rigg fancying the pants off Tim Curry as the superstar wizard. Nuff said.
  • Rebecca’s World. I wouldn’t like to commit myself too much here, but there’s the tiniest chance I first read this simply because it had my name on it. I do know that I borrowed it time and again from my primary school library. The memories I have of it are so surreal and odd that I need to read it just to make sure I didn’t spend my last three years of primary school hallucinating.
So there are some of my old friends that I want to reacquaint myself with as soon as possible. Anyone like to share their old friends?
Oh, and if anyone fancies discussing their old friends with me for a podcast episode, let me know! We could even attempt a multi-person discussion… (maybe getting a little adventurous here!)

Miss Saigon and the Unreliable Narrator

I’ve listened to and loved Miss Saigon for about twenty years. I know every word and I identify with the characters – well, as much as I can without actually being an American GI or a Vietnamese prostitute forty years ago – so much that my pulse still races building up to the finale or when Kim and Chris sing out all their hopes and fears in The Last Night of the World. 

Despite that, it still took me until only a couple of years ago to realise something quite important. Kim isn’t a reliable narrator. Actually, she doesn’t do most of the narrating. If you ask me, The Engineer keeps the story moving along and to be honest he’s far more reliable. If you overlook the fact that he’s a self-serving, greasy pimp. He is pretty much upfront with his motives and he gives us an eye into what’s happening both in Kim’s story and in the wider setting. Plus he has his own humour and charm which make him a likeable and sympathetic character without the tormented heroism of Chris or the tragedy of Kim.

Anyway, the narration. One of the most crucial parts of Kim’s story is what happens at the Fall of Saigon in 1975, and we get to see this in Act 2. The thing is, for years I listened to this and watched this as if it was a flashback. But it’s not – it’s a dream (and hey Sherlock, it’s there in the song title – Kim’s Nightmare. D’oh). That changes things – it’s not what actually happened, it’s what Kim remembers as happening. She was on the other side of the gates from Chris, and has had no contact with him for three years at this point; she has no way of knowing what he was thinking or doing and she fills in the gaps with her imagination in the guise of a nightmare.

The reason this is important is that it provides her whole motivation for getting through what happens to her after the American evacuation. She hides herself and her son, murders her cousin and flees from Vietnam because she’s clinging onto a certainty that Chris loves her, promised himself to her and will return for her as soon as he can. Now if you take her point of view, which for years I did, this makes more sense; a Love-in-Adversity sort of theme. And you are full of sympathy for her and less so for Chris, who went off and married someone else, the cad.

When the penny finally dropped with me and I realised how unreliable Kim is as a narrator – basically she is deluded for most of the story’s action – it changed my perspective on their characters. Kim is no less sympathetic but for different reasons, and I can no longer rely on her view of Chris. Instead of being a hero who changes into a cold-hearted scallywag who abandons Kim to her fate to go off and marry someone else, he’s a flawed man who had unexpectedly deep feelings for Kim but basically got on with his life. I’m not saying he wasn’t in love with her – he shows how much he was in love with her by the snatches that are revealed of him after he left Saigon, the way he had nightmares and what John says when he meets Kim (He [Chris] went crazy when he lost you, Spoke to no-one for a year) – but in the end He [Chris] finally said ‘I’m home now, My life has to go on here.’ For all we know, he regrets his impulsive offer to take her away to America and by the time the helicopters are leaving, maybe he’s ready to leave with them instead of the struggle that Kim imagines him having with John. And you couldn’t totally blame him. He’s obviously been messed up by the war, Why God Why reveals some of his struggles, but it does change how you view him.

Re-listening to Miss Saigon with this in mind adds a sense of tragedy to earlier scenes that wasn’t there before. When Kim explains her reasons for surviving before you realise how deluded she is, you have hope for her happy ending. Listening to her again knowing the truth adds poignancy (not to mention a certain amount of wanting to shake some sense into her). It also changes how rational her final choices are. If she’d not held this idealistic view of Chris fighting all odds to come back for her and play happy families, she might have been able to accept the provision for her and Tam that Chris and Ellen were offering. Instead, I think she loses what little reason she had left and it has devastating consequences.

All of these things are a great example of how the reliability of a story’s narrator can have  huge impact, both on how the story goes and how it affects the reader/audience.