Thursday, 23 February 2012

Biting the bullet

Mystery headless man in white spotted at crime scene
I diesel droned the bus by the police tape that closed the block of flats and the shopping parade. Regulars might remember my little moan about derelict buildings and the vision of children. Well, the area is closed because of a shooting. Various young men have been arrested and the judicial processes set in train. Gowns and wigs will be televised. Pronouncements will be boomed in posh voices about violence and the protection of  decent society. No one is surprised. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday are lottery days. This time....this time!!! Such things can happen anywhere I know. Circles are vicious. Cones and spirals can take you up or down. I'll leave it to you to judge the general direction. 

Now - I've spent several months in a dilemma. When your name is Emma that can tear you in two. It's not that I have not been writing - it is more that I've been uncertain as to the direction to go. To be frank - I am under frilled to be a Romance writer. I am a real person with tubes, follicles, on lazy/writing days occasional armpit and leg fur and the beginning of a tummy. Well actually - quite a mature tummy. Maybe it is time to write that gritty Earth moving novel about poverty and greed set against a backdrop of boiling revolution.  A young peasant girl gives her only remaining kidney to save a dying investment banker who once tossed her mother a dollar to buy the baby milk that saved her life.  He falls in love with her but with both her kidneys gone, she dies. Oooh - I've told you the story now so there's no need to bother. By the way - she sold her other kidney to pay off her dying father's pay day loan and a new winter jacket for the elderly three legged dog they rescued from the burning barricades.

So - I have actually scrapped most things I have been doing. The fact is that I love the escape of Romance and the its ability to blend sex with glamour and true love. Good sexy romance can educate women and men a little too!  (My theory is that if a few of the angry young Kalashnakids had a bit more sex they'd be a bit more mellow).  If you think kids get told it all at school - think again. The facts sure ain't the whole truth. It's gonna be Romance with all the sex-joy-love-passion power I can muster. I've been writing the story in my head for a while and things might go a bit quiet for a few weeks. 

Now -let's talk serious bus driving. I am a full bodied Lycra clad righteous planet saving eco green cyclist AND a bus driver. You know, the real problem here is the way we manage traffic. Basically we are savages. I've never had any sort of impulse to injure a cyclist but driving long, wide and heavy vehicles in crowded tense situations is difficult and stressful. Big trucks and buses do not mix with bikes! Why do we think they should??? Now I've upset the  the cyclists.  Guess I might be the subject of a flatwa. You gotta laugh.

Emma thinx: When in Romance. Do!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Nessun Dormitory

Oh - too brief my little trip to France. Even the problems of the great freezage did not weaken my love for my adopted home. We lumbered our possessions back into our UK rented house grateful that there were no floods, ice or power cuts. There was no heating because the modern state of the art wi-fi thermostat system had suffered an "Electronic anomaly". And there was me thinking it just did not work. A while later the auto fire alarm system developed a "signalling issue" and activated the "tamper threshold" on the theft alarm system. Stuff is trouble. More stuff is more trouble. My stuff and jargon decoder is at critical meltdown. 

I left the return booking a little late and there were no cabins on the 2300 service from Caen to Portsmouth. That meant a night in the "reclining chairs". Deep joy! For a few extra pounds or euros you can buy a kit comprising of eye shades, a small blanket and an inflatable plastic pillow. Gilles and I gazed into each other's blindfolded  eyes and puffed into our stubby inverted nipple nozzles. My Romantic novelist DNA flipped towards a public love scene where two lovers - perhaps fleeing from her crazed aristocratic family of sword wielding knights, attempt to escape on a Brittany ferry to find love in a Portsmouth concrete housing block. Realizing that members of the family had boarded, their one chance to cement their love before death was in a reclining chair, surrounded by iPod playing  bleeping electro-geeks, a snoring drunk with a body freshness issue and some leather clad English biker who wanted to talk to his mate about his chain lube. Oh yes - public sleeping is a whole new game. Luckily there was a coffee machine a and a door to the outside deck. I would have kissed my lover in the moonlight if there had been any moon and if he had woken up. And they say Romance is dead! Now - looking for a link to Pavorotti singing "Nessun Dorma" (no one shall sleep) I saw on the you-tube menu this truly inspirational moment which many of you will have seen before. Even so - please allow yourself a pure surge of surprise and joy and watch this clip. You cannot tell a book by it's cover - except mine. 

On the doorstep at the English house there was a soggy frosted parcel containing the hard copy of "Knockout". Wow - it looks like a book that a proper writer person could have written. Rosina  had ordered me a copy to proof read. Oh no - can I face reading it again?....

Emma thinx: Read to a child. You can cover a book by it's telling.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Snow way!

As the last snow melted I sat in my garden this morning with a cup of coffee feeling the sting of the sun on my face. The furniture is re-assembled and dry. Beneath the snow a hyacinth proclaimed its defiance. New buds were green on the fig tree We are such little things - with all our vanities and petty brief lives. Whatever becomes of us, Nature will win and all our defeats and victories will be nothing.  It is a comfort is it not?

Madame! Of course it never freezes here
I've been having a KDP free day. I shifted about 1700 copies of the "serious" short story "Sub Prime" and 800 of the Romance "Knockout". All in all now I have shifted some 10,000 copies of this book - the majority for free. I am not a marketeer or any kind of business person. To be frank, I am happy even if the book gives pleasure to just a few readers. I have never wanted to charge any money for "Sub Prime" because it is an unashamedly socialist story about exploited powerless people. The fact is I guess that in my old bed-sit "sincere" writer days, if I had sold 10,000 books I would have been able to work for a year - yes if I had sold them! The fact is that a Mills and Boon "title" used to sell about 7,000 copies before it is pulled off the shelves and pulped. I guess those days are gone. My own mistake is to have pushed out a single book without a series or stable of similar books already off the production line. If you just have the one book, so much effort and promo to get it noticed will create nothing but a brand vacuum. My advisors and I do clash a little over this. My view is that free days are great if it leads on to sales.....if. 

Amongst the many regrets of my life is that I have always scrapped all the manuscripts that came back as rejected. I have always figured that the next one would be worthwhile and someone would like it. The danger was  I may have been tempted to waste more time on the rejects rather than trying to improve. You think that posh educated experts must be right about you. You learn these lessons too late. I hope these rather dour words may get to you if you are a younger struggler out there. Do not throw it away just because a few publishers and agents sneer at it with remarks about inconsistent genre targeting etc. Soon enough you will have run out of time, your energy will be failing and younger better writers will be nearer those golden control buttons. My heart felt advice to all writer/marketeers out there is  - get a bus or truck licence.

I hope I don't sound too miserable - I am not. I would like other writers to tell me their take. I really would like some feedback on where you guys as writers think we are going and what are realistic ambitions? 

Emma thinx: If the snowball gets too big you can't see the glacier.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The Price of Love

Water meter counting the litres in the ocean

The room in which I am typing this little epistle is warm. It was not always thus. Shortly before my arrival home in France it had been minus 11 degrees - just ask my plumbing. The water supply into the house was frozen so there was no water. Fan heaters, gas space heaters and hair dryers were employed until water reached the meter, which kinda exploded. A sweet guy from SAUR turned up and fitted a new one. The water advanced slowly through the house. The air temperature reached a positive number. Radiators burst, frost sparkled on the inside walls. We travailed with spanners and buckets. I dreamed of oysters and moules marineres. We ate cold tinned ravioli. Wonderful neighbours arrived with heaters and advice. We plugged in heaters and blew the electrics. We warmed on the advice. Invitations flooded in. I longed for daylight. Outside it was minus 7. Inside I reached absolute zero. Gilles was Gallic and shrugging his way through the "comedy of life". He is calm and sometimes I hate him. Around midnight we went to bed.

I was dreaming of water - great waves of gushing running water - maybe purging my anger, maybe purging me of the morally equivocal life I've led. Maybe dumping 931 litres of freezing water through the ceiling....Yes, the water had reached the upstairs bathroom and found a detached flexi-pipe. I ran downstairs through a downpour of water and got to the inlet valve. I glanced at the new meter which had started at zero. It read 931 litres. Well - it's always nice to know the size of a problem! Water was about 2 inches deep through the entire ground floor. Gilles arrived and commented on "La comedie de la vie". We swept, scooped and sponged the night away. Around 7.30 am the daylight I had longed for arrived. We surveyed the ruin. I suppose it is a comedy really.......

Today, the world's most helpful and kind plumber arrived to replace radiators. I have spoken of this guy before in a previous blog.  He is an old school craftsman and gentleman. If you live in the Saintonge area I cannot recommend him too highly. Soaked furniture and possessions are slowly drying out. We are alive, fed and have a home. 

OK - It's St Valentines day tomorrow. In the Super U hypermarket at Saintes there were not whole sections of the shop dedicated to cards, red velvet heart shaped cushions, teddy bears and special red roses. The main special feature was fat duck livers. In Walmart in the UK the merchanisers had gone mad. I reckon that the first guy to market heart shaped Valentine double dipper recession burgers in a red ribboned box will clean up. The ASDA (UK Walmart) brand have marketed a smart price budget Valentine card for 7 pence, (11 US cents). I guess that this was a tongue in cheek exercise to publicise their Smart Price no nonsense pricing. If so, I take my hat off to them. If Gilles has even thought of buying me one there will be no further blogs for a while unless I can post from prison.

Several days in cold water, ice and propane gas fumes have diminished my normal romantico flame and passion. Tomorrow is another day and I wish you love.

Emma thinx:  Don't throw cold water on a flood of kindness.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Pistons on La Piste

It is snowing here in Southern England. Two issues occupy my brain.
1) Will it be snowing in the morning and will the school be closed?
2) Will Gilles and I be able to slither the car to the Brittany Ferries terminal at Portsmouth in order to cross the Channel so that we can go home to France?

Come what may I am going home! Sunday morning hot baguette and oysters for lunch with wine ....Nothing will stop me! I will crawl through the snow living on nothing but the huge cask of brandy around my neck like a St Bernard mutt. (I love dogs and always think that mountaineers should have the rescue brandy round their own necks). 

There is always much controversy over reverse parking and driving skill in the benda fender gender agenda. My sexy French lover, Gilles is an executive high earning occasional car driver. I am a minimum wage full time bus driver. If he offers to drive in the snow and ice - yup, he's got the job. Would I ever say anything.......? Do you think I would ever offer a single word of guidance...?

Emma thinx: Love has no end - only endings.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Right Old Pickle

Heaven and Hell in a jar

"Can ya tell'em at the school he's got a tempracha,"  came the voice of intercom mom from floor 23 of the tower block.
"Is that an' igh tempracha or a low tempracha," I ask.
"Woh - dunno for sure dear - but ee's right poorly."

I trudge back to the bus. It is Friday. The chances of intercom mom having a thermometer seem unlikely. Her boy is a right little sod and secretly I must admit I did hope that if she did have one, she had inserted it up his bottom. I think he attends about one Friday in each half term. At the school I informed the staff. As I swung the bus out of the yard I'm sure I saw them dancing in my mirrors. 

However, let me get back to the real business and glamour of my life as a best selling romantic novelist. In my last blog I raised the issue of pickles and a lady apparently had not encountered pickled onions. You know, we always think that everyone is like us. When you are a kid you think that your family is normal. I never forget when I first went to a friend's house and found that not all parents hated each other. I was astonished. 
You never know when you might need a pickle

Now I think about it, you do not see many pickled onions in France. You do see cornichons (dill pickles) and one just cannot eat dried pork saucisse without them. But the pickled onion is probably almost as iconic as British fish and chips.  Most fish and chips shops still have a huge jar of pickled onions on the counter. It was my first ever experience of the impulse buy. Mr Henry Papadopoulos, the Greek fish and chip shop guy, plopped an enormous crisp vinegar soaked onion on top of my battered cod and chips (fries). Oooh, As my mouth blended the acid onion crunch with the crisp batter and the soft hot white fish sprinkled with salt, I experienced a deep physical joy. Soon after I discovered sex and I think it was only that that saved me from addiction and a life in the chippie. Incidentally, if you do eat a pickled onion, make sure your lover has one too. Greasy, salty gum-sucks are OK but unilateral pickled onion can slow things.
I think the goldfish might be dead.

 Before I get away from the fish and chip issue I must make a major statement. The best fish and chips I ever ate were on the pier at Santa Cruz in California. As I sat in the open air overlooking the Pacific Ocean, an enormous pelican decided to dispute possession with me. Those birds are killers!

I'm sure there are all kinds of pickles out there unknown to Brits. In Texas, somewhere near Fort Hood, I found a quaint "old time western" shop selling cactus pickle. I wonder if anyone else does pickled boiled eggs? I received some as a gift at Christmas. Chip shops often sell them but they are just so acidic that my poor old tubes shriek at the sight. I've dotted a couple of pickle pics around the text just to excite you all.

And finally, some readers will not have encountered the quest of Kathy Lynn Hall to raise money for Wounded Warriors. She has written an e book, "The Great Twitter Adventure", the profit of which will be donated to the fund. It sells at only 77 pence in the UK, and is a first rate read! The above link is for for Amazon UK. Here is the Amazon USA link. Come on guys....99c or 77p...

Emma thinx: If you think you'd give your right arm for something, remember those who've given theirs for you.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Oxymorons Run Amok in Free Sales Orgy

You know that insecure feeling when you come downstairs after the party, slithering on a wine soaked crushed samosa that obviously missed the eloquent mouth of some unknown drunk, who at the time, was the wittiest and most flattering intellectual in the world? For a moment you gaze around wondering how cobwebs could possibly suspend so many popper streamers until you remember that the spiders have had several months of freedom to weave silk ropes that could catch an anchor chain. And all because the lady is a novelist and does not do dusting. She also does not do ironing or checking of sell by dates on mundane produce. How can a pickled onion be out of date? Who did not know that 2007 was a vintage premier cru champagne year for bloody pickles? 

This is a long way to explain that I had a bit of a party and that I know my life is being sucked into a femaelstrom of microwaved Swedish meatballs. Apparently Edgar Allan Poe first introduced the masculine form of the word into literature. I must start to get a grip. I get up in the morning in my furry dressing gown and check my sales, my blog comments, my facebook likes, my triberr karma rating, my Amazon chart position, my twitter re-tweets and my Goodreads reviews. I am become  Electro-Fem, a Joan of Story Arc, a Romantic Grovelist at the keyboard shrine. Then I put on my woolly pully and go out driving my bus. Good job all the other motorists don't know that the huge vehicle in their rear view is being driven by a neurotic self doubting ego maniac on a cobweb and pickled onion literary guilt trip. This life would not have happened to Jane Austen.

Oooh - I'm glad I got that lot off my chest. The party was on account of having some 3,000 folk reading my book Knockout! by Saturday. By the end of the weekend I had shifted 8,000 books. Of course, they were all free on Amazon's grand KDP Select Adventure. My serious "mined from the sorrow of life" prize winning etc. short story Sub-Prime had shifted 328 copies. You know, I always bear in mind that I sell the Romance for 77 pence in the UK which is less than a candy bar. When it became free, there was an exponential increase in interest. And I bet you that someone who got it for nothing reviews it and says it is a soppy formula written load of sex, cops, robbers and slobbers. (Oooh, I love it!) I do hate it when people miss the point. As I hover on the publish button, Amazon have just started tweeting me as a "mover and shaker" and I'm still high in the rankings with sales increasing if anything. Does this make me feel secure? Of course not. See my thinx today. My future sense of security rests on the continued real sales.  I think there might be a few bad hair-trigger days.

 Somewhere in the fog of the party, an intellectual goatee beard type is reading the sell by date on my pickle jar and asking me what year it is. "Look", I exclaim, "I'm an artist - how the hell should I know?"

Emma thinx: From the ground you see the mountain. From the peak you see the drop.