Sunday, October 28, 2012

In which I tell you some Exciting News

Well, dear reader, those who have followed me for a while may be aware that I've been writing a book, hence why my blog has not been quite so active as normal.

I put the first 15 chapters on Authonomy, a writing website set up by HarperCollins to help new writers get published, to see whether people thought it was any good or not. The general consensus was that yes, it was actually rather good. With the help of some of the very talented writers on Authonomy, I received lots of really good help and advice and the book, currently called La Vie en Rosé, regularly featured in the top rated books of the week. In fact of the 300 or so people who read it, only one person didn't like it. But then he thought he was The New Messiah so I wasn't particularly bothered.

A couple of months ago I was contacted by the Commissioning Editor of Summersdale Publishing, a great indie publisher, who uttered those immortal words, 'are you looking for a publisher?' Are frogs green? Is the Pope a Catholic? Are the Kennedys gun shy? Do bears sh..... you get the picture.

To cut a short story even shorter, I sent her the 20 plus chapters I had written, she loved them and, fortunately, so did her colleagues and they have offered me a deal to publish it. Me! Yes, I have a book deal.  JK Rowling has nothing to worry about and I certainly won't be giving up my day job but how bloody fantastic is that?  I'm going to be published. Next summer, La Vie en Rosé (although it won't be called that as there is already a book with the same title) will be on the shelf of your local Waterstones.

I sort of feel a bit of a fraud because I've never so much as received a rejection slip. In fact, apart from Summersdale, I've never even sent it out to anyone. It shouldn't be this easy, surely.  How can I be a starving writer slaving away in the garret with just a bowl of chicken bones and water to keep me going when the first publisher who contacts me wants to publish my book?  It all feels a little surreal.

Now the embarrasing bit.  I have to build an internet presence ready for when it does finally make the bookshops.  I've resurrected an old blog I started called The Accidental Author where you can share my publishing journey and if you are on Facebook you can 'like' my Author page complete with hideous photo.

So there you have it. My Exciting News. Now, I have to have the manuscript in by December 15th so it's back to Chapter 29 for me. Be back soon.

Look! That's my signature
on my contract

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Domestic God Meets Domestic Disaster

The Husband is back from working away in the great metropolis of Manchester for eight months making quality entertainment for the great British public and enjoying being on temporary gardening leave until the next project comes up. Having pruned the garden to death he's now throwing his weight behind a massive 'autumn' clean of the house.  He's the male equivalent of Monica in Friends, every so slightly OCD about keeping the house tidy, unlike me, who's a bit more 'relaxed' about it all. He's very much 'a place for everything and everything in it's place' to my 'a place for everything and everything in one a big pile... which I will sort out... eventually.'

The trouble with having moved as often as we have is that we have amassed a vast collection of bit and pieces, furniture, stuff that I don't want to get rid of, you know, just in case.  We are fortunate to have two sheds but with those now groaning at the seams, it's time to look at other options; self storage or a massive garage sale. Only we don't have a garage.  Or there's always Ebay, but as I'm currently boycotting any company that is evading tax that's a no-goer.

It's amazing all the things that we've found. Forty old pie and jelly moulds I bought in an auction - well it seemed like a good idea at the time - some funky door hooks I bought in France, even a carrier bag of old letters dating back to the time I lived in the Middle East.  It's been lovely to read through them. My favourite ones are from my best friend from school, who ended up by accident living down the road from me in Bahrain, telling me she was pregnant, and then another one just after her baby daughter was born, telling me all about it and the trials, tribulations and joys of early motherhood. They are very special. We've recently got back in touch after 20 years and met up a few months ago when she was over from Australia where she has lived for about the same length of time. She's over again so hopefully we'll get another chance for a good old catch up with our ukuleles. But that's another story.  The Husband hasn't so much as kept an old postcard and doesn't really understand my obsession for these old bits of my history but I could never get rid of them, although the bunch of letters from an old boyfriend from that time in my life may just have to.

Today, while I've been doing Important Things, he's scrubbed the kitchen, moved everything out of the way so he can get behind and underneath, and cleaned out the fridge, which is often a bit like an alternative version of Time Team where  we unearth brown, soggy unidentifiable former vegetables rather than ancient ruins.

Someone in the village is asking for recommendations for a good cleaner. Maybe I should put his name forward. He's now attacking the ironing pile and bemoaning the lack of coat hangers but when at any one time, at least half of our clothes are 'in the ironing', I haven't found we've needed that many!  Better make the most of it. The next phonecall could take him away again and then the domestic crown is passed back to me again and I'm definitely more Domestic Disaster than Domestic Goddess. And in the meantime I have a book to finish...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

In which I win the Nobel Peace Prize

Yes! Me!  Honestly, I've won...well me and you if you live in one of the EU countries and 499,999 others. We're all winners according to the Nobel Institute. And how sick must the Norwegians now be for not once but twice turning down the chance to join us and be fellow winners of their own award. Those with eagle eyes, though, will not have missed the fact that the chairman of the Nobel Prize committee is one Thorbjorn Jagland, who's other job is secretary general of the European Council, so in some ways, he just given it to himself.

There a delicious irony in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a bunch of countries, some of whom are currently involved in one of the longest wars in European history, in Afghanistan, since The Dutch declared war on the Isles of Scilly. (Oh yes they did!) It lasted 335 years, was call the Driehonderdvijfendertigjarige Oorlog and not a single shot was fired, making it one of the longest wars but also one with the fewest casualties.  The same can't be said of Afghanistan. And that this Peace Prize came on the same day that seven Royal Marines were charged with the murder of an Afghan fighter seems the most ludicrous award since French 'meal times' were awarded World Heritage status, bearing in mind that the French are the largest consumers of McDonalds in Europe.

The Nobel Committee awarded it to the EU for their “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.  Clearly they didn't hear about Sarkozy kicking out all the Roma gypsies because their faces didn't fit or the recent poll that showed two thirds of the French do not want foreign residents to have the right to vote or Hungary, where they are calling for the reintroduction of capital punishment and the ultra-nationalist government preaches anti-semitism. How about Bulgaria, which has failed tocomply with the minimum measures to prevent sex trafficking and remains one of the biggest culprits in the human trafficking in Europe.

Here's a Greek policeman getting a taste of democracy right in the b***s

 Meanwhile Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland share the dubious distinction of having the worst violations of the right to a fair trial and the right to liberty in the EU. In the past five years, human rights violations in the EU have gone up fivefold. 

And this Roma family are definitely not having their human rights abused by the French

 The Eurodrones in Brussels are dancing in the street, a nice change from Athens where they were rioting in the streets in honour of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit. 'Get out of our country, you bitch' was one of their peaceful headlines. They hold the Germans responsible for the crushing austerity programme in Greece, that is, when they are not blaming the immigrants and summararily deporting them.

The EU got a nod for preventing large scale war on the continent, particularly between France and Germany. They seem to have prevented that by tying up what is left of the British military, and some other European countries in a pointless war against a largely unknown and it would appear, not that much diminished foe, down Pakistan way and to be honest, these days, with Germany being one of the few economies that is growing despite the current crisis, the French would probably welcome them with open arms - some might say, again.

So what's it all about?  My theory is that on the whole we don't know much about Scandinavia. Some might have gone on a cruise around the Fjords but given the chance, we prefer to holiday in sunny but broke Spain or hot but bankrupt Greece. Most of our knowledge of Scandinavia comes from watching The Killing and Wallander or reading The Girl trilogy by Steig Larsson. From that we learn that Scandinavia is grey in varying shades (no, not those shades), it always rains and it is entirely populated by dour, navel gazing detectives and serial killers. So they wanted to show they had a sense of humour. And what better way to do that on a grand scale but to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU at a time when it is far from peaceful and involved in a long-running war.  What a hoot!  Hats off to Norway for one of the greatest practical jokes of modern times.

The EU isn't the first controversial winner. Last year, Barack Obama won it before the paint had even dried in the Oval Office. It seemed to have been awarded on the basis of what he might do rather than what he had already done which was precisely nothing. Henry Kissinger got it despite his involvement in the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia and of course, anyone with any sense knows that Irina Sendler should have got it for risking her life to rescue Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto but instead it went to Al Gore for his wonderful piece of fiction, The Inconvenient Truth, the only inconvenience being, of course, that most of it was rubbish.

And in the spirit of peace and democracy, there is already an argument over who should actually go and get it. Three presidents are claiming their right; Herman van Rompuy (Belgium), president of the European Council, Jose Manuel Barroso (Portugal), president of the European Commission and Martin Schultz (Germany), president of the European Parliament all clai'm their right to pick up the 921,000 euro prize. I'm quite sure that they will be rushing to pass on the 0.0002 of a euro to each of us who form the European Union. What will you spend yours on?

It's too early for this to be an April Fool's joke, so we have to presume that it is true and they really have gone and given us the Peace Prize at such an inappropriate time but then Alfred Nobel made his fortune from dynamite so we should probably expect a few explosions from time to time.

My little message to the Nobel Prize Committee

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

In these cynical times it's easy to believe that there is no longer any such thing as a Good Samaritan or a Angel of Mercy. A few hours away from us, police still search for a missing child, while over the past few weeks, burglars have worked their way systematically through our village stealing gardening equipment. So a few days ago it was very refreshing to be reminded that there are people around who will selflessly help out others when a crisis hits them, however big or small.

I needed petrol so went to fill up my car. When I got to the till, I wanted to pay with a card that I rarely use. The only thing was, I discovered I had forgotten my PIN number. I tried twice but it was wrong.  I panicked. It was the only form of payment I had on me.

I told the cashier who was very sympathetic. Could anyone bring me some money? No. The Husband is in Manchester and The Boy can't drive.  Was there anyone in town I could borrow some money from?  Not that I could think of.

Behind me a queue was starting to build. I was so embarrassed and totally at a loss at what to do until a voice asked if I was local. 'Not really,' I told him, still in a mild state of panic. I told him where I live.

'Don't worry, I'll pay for it. You can drop the money round whenever you are passing.' I was stunned. Here was a man I  had never set eyes on before, and who certainly didn't know me, offering to pay for my petrol and get me out of a very sticky situation. He didn't even ask how much it was, just handed over his card. I was stunned and babbled my thanks. He told me it wasn't a problem and gave me his business card so I knew where to return the money. I noticed he was wearing a t-shirt with the name of a local furniture maker from whom we've bought lots of furniture in the past. and asked him if he worked there. He said he did, too modest, as it turns out, to say that he actually owned it.

So how amazing was that? I could have done a runner. I don't live in the town so might never even have crossed his path. Of course, I didn't. I returned it to him the following morning, thanking him profusely. It really wasn't a problem, he told me and wished me a lovely day.  I was really touched.  I believe in karma. What goes around, comes around and I hope one day someone will do something nice for him but by way of a little thank you, I'm including a link to his website here. The furniture is fabulous - and I'm not just saying that because he helped me out.