Running before I can crawl?

Speak to my agent!

A phrase seen on television or in the films by starlets flouncing off to their trailer. Whatever that actually means,

At over 60,000 words into a book, thoughts idly turned last night to what I’m going to do in the incredibly unlikely event that I manage to write enough words, manage to make it readable, manage to keep enough words after several edits and manage to convince myself that someone else would like to read it.

A quick read on the World Wide Winifred tells me that I need an agent.

An agent? Moi? How pretentious.

A further read, slightly more in depth, tells me that for every 1000 manuscripts submitted, they accept two.

TWO?????

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That statistic alone must be enough to put a lot of people off. TWO?? Also the fact that they receive so many, that mine will just be another one sat on the slush pile, as I found out it was called last night.

It seems though that for all budding writers, to sell your  book to a publishing house, an agent is essential. All that I read indicated that such a beast was indespensible for a long and profitable career. They have the ear of all those in publishing so know instantly if a particular tome is going to be a success or not. Hence why J.K. Rowling was rejected many times before Bloomsbury finally took a punt on her I guess.

For a debutant author it must be a fairly nerve wracking experience sending off a manuscript to an agent. Is it ready? Is it finished? Is it good enough? Is it what they’re looking for? The answer the the first three will probably always be no, agents have editors to make the book not necessarily better, but more commercially viable. Its the fourth one that is important.

This, so I read last night, is what makes a difference. I can polish and edit and hone my oeuvre all that I want, but if its not what a publisher is looking for, it won’t be accepted. That isn’t to say it’s not good, it’s just not what they want. (There is a phrase about polishing something that isn’t good enough, but it escapes me).

I read another little gem too, several times in fact. To submit to several agents is fine. To receive rejections is fine (REALLY???) but if you submit to a dozen agents and receive a dozen rejections, its not that your missive isn’t what they’re looking for. It’s because it’s crap.

If all else fails I’ll self publish on my Kindle!

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There can be only one

There are many things in Cornwall that can claim to the best ever. But forget them.

Forget St. Michaels Mount, The Eden Project, Tin, China Clay, Surfing, Lands End, Banjo Pier, Fistral Beach, Tintagel.

Dont even think about John Nettles, Susan Penhalligon, Ben Ainslie, Mick Fleetwood.

There is only one thing that is the best thing ever from Cornwall.

This:

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The cream tea. Cream first, there is no question.

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It’s such a beautiful horizon

Any trip to Barcelona means at least a line or two from the song of the same name beautifully sang by Zanzibar’s most famous export and Montserrat Caballe.

A city I was revisiting after many years, Las Ramblas was where I’d spent most of my first trip, so was determined to see a bit more this time.

I have mentioned before that I hate heights so taking the glass lift on the outside of a shopping centre wasn’t great but the views of the city once there were pretty good.

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The first morning was a bit overcast but the weather for the remainder was good. I am English, I must mention the weather occasionally, its the law.

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This market, just off Las Ramblas, is fantastic. Go. I had the most enormous sea food platter for lunch, expensive but worth every single centime.

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The snacks were just as appetizing. 20161121_215224

I wasn´t sure if it was true so I had to check that they do serve beer in Barcelona too.

The city is completely different from Madrid, a city that I like very much, the ambience is totally different, the layout is different and of course in Barcelona they have the craziness that is Guadi, everywhere.

Even my poor attempts at murdering the Spanish language went less well here than in Madrid,  only people who wanted my money humoured me, everyone else either spoke English or Catalan.

There are many many things to see in Barcelona, and I certainly didnt see all of them in my three days, the Gaudi monstrosities will be mentioned in another post, but the Cathedral of the Sea is beautiful, the whole city centre is great, the transport system is ok, the magic fountain is a spectacular show (although it wasn’t on during my visit) and many many other things too, although it did appear that the Spanish terrorists weren’t concerned about hiding themselves.

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Three days eating and drinking in a foreign city is always good, I saw much more of Barcelona this time than I did last, I’ll probably go again as there are still many more things to see.

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In praise of Helen Fawkes

I will freely admit to never having heard of the lady until yesterday, but once I had heard of her I was filled with admiration.

A young woman, a journalist for the BBC who found out that she had cancer at quite an early age. She was cleared of it twice but the third time it came back it was terminal and she died at the terribly young age of 45.

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Having read an article about her life and her acceptance of what was to come, I was amazed by the courage she showed in her determination to live what life she had left to the full.

I read her blog in full yesterday, funny, warm, cold, technical, heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.

I accept of course that she was in a position a lot of people aren’t and that a lot of her wishes in her “list for living” were made easier by the job she had and the contacts she’d made in it, but even so, I would suggest that after having beaten cancer twice, to be told that its come back for a third time and this time there is nothing can be done, the days must have been dark. During these darkest of days though, she made a decision to write her list, a list of 50 ambitions, some of them so pie in the sky as to be impossible with others very simple things.

She finished writing her list, but she didnt complete all the things on it, but she gave it a bloody good go.

RIP Helen, a woman I never knew personally, a woman I had never even heard of until after she died, but a woman with an indomitable spirit that I know I would have liked if I’d ever had the chance.

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Note to self

When you drag a book out of your long since forgotten folder to continue the writing process, may I be so bold as to offer a tip?

An unpublished author, nay, someone who hasn’t even managed the task of finishing a single novel may have nothing to teach anyone, so perhaps this is more of a note to self.

If you’ve not looked at your manuscript for so long as I hadn’t, probably more than four years, it would be a wise thing to read what you’ve got.

Having seen my word count was around 42k words I set to work, feverishly writing at every given moment for a week. Last night, a little bit stuck  at 53k I decided to read the whole lot to give me some inspiration for scenes to write.

And found many scenes written twice.

Now, this may have an advantage that one may be better than the other, this is possible, but it has a disadvantage that I will probably lose around 4k at least of my scribblings. So I´ve advanced, it’s true, but by Odin’s beard am I cross that I didn’t read it before attacking.

Curses.

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A riddle for you

What is it that at one stage I hadnt heard of it

At one stage I had it

At one stage I didnt care for it

At one stage I didnt have it

At one stage I missed it

And now I realise I struggle to be without it?

Any ideas?

OK I’ll tell you.

internet

Reliable flippin internet that’s what.

Here in the middle of the Sahara communications are fairly important, for myriad reasons, so luckily the company I work for have recently upgraded the servers. Er.. upgraded is perhaps a subjective word in this particular case.

From being able to watch live streaming sport on the laptop I now struggle to open a page on a search engine, and after about 9pm it just cuts completely as everyone tries to open a page on a search engine.

Salvation apparently is at hand though, we are supposed to be having a full server overhaul tomorrow, from whence this thing I once didn’t have and once didn’t care for will again be available in its full splendour.

Here’s hoping.

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How to write a novel.

Since I’ve pulled a few of my forthcoming masterpieces from the dim recesses of my hard drive, I’ve been writing. Like a beaver building his dam, I’ve become obsessed with it. I’m scribbling on my notebook in the office, then taking the notebook to my room where I type it up all. I´m writing a minimum of 1100 words per day.

I’m also reading voraciously. Almost everything related to writing. I wasn’t being flippant a couple of days ago when I wrote that everything I read said read a lot, write a lot and become an overnight success after 25 years.

But after starting and stopping many times its my sad duty to report that the above mentioned advice simply isn’t correct. Everyone knows that there are only three rules for writing a novel. And everyone also knows that nobody knows what they are.

What I do know though is that it’s just not the case that if you write a lot and read a lot you’ll have success. It can’t be so or every frustrated wordsmith would have penned a bestseller by now.

It must take a certain amount of talent, of ability to shape a fictional event and make somebody you’ve never met suspend their reality and believe your tale of imaginary events. Yes, I know, there are myriad nonsensical motivational quotes of how talent is infinitely less important than dedication, but there must be talent, at least some, I’m convinced.

It must take hard work. I am currently scribbling into my  notebook many times a day. As a scene suddenly plays out in my mind I put it straight to paper, then later transfer it into the plot on my laptop, going towards the first draft.

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But even at more than 1000 words a day its going to take me a few months just to write the initial effort.

Reading the above paragraph back it’s clear that determination is also needed as well as a capacity to accept rejection with a smile. I know that previously when I tried writing as a career I managed to get many articles published in a variety of magazines, but many more were refused. I suppose a novel will be exactly the same.

But many many people possess all of the above attributes and never manage to publish a book. I have a feeling that everything I’ve read on how to write a novel is a big fat fib.

I can see that talent, hard work and determination are needed to be an author, a proper published book in a shop window author. But there must be something more surely?

Or am I just overthinking, and everybody else is right?

To be continued.

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Battered by le vent du Ventoux

I climbed Le Mont Ventoux again the other week. I think that is now the sixth time I´ve done it, so its perhaps nothing to write home about.

I was again doing it with absolutely zero training, had only ridden my bike twice in the year prior to attempting it. To be absolutely honest, I tried the day before but I was mentally weak and after reaching Chalet Reynard I turned round and headed down, an ignominious defeat for me but yet another victory for the Giant of the Vaucluse:

Next morning though I knew I was physically capable, it was just the demons in my head that needed to be defeated, so after a stern talking to, at just gone 7am I headed off up the hill.

Even early it promised to be a warm day

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The view with my morning coffee told me I was going to sweat a bit in the forest.

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The previous afternoon had shown how lovely things were at the top.

So I set off. The climb was as hard as I remember, even harder with no training and a couple of kgs more than the last time I´d sailed (Insert smiley joke face emoji here) up it, but after having grunted and groaned my way for a couple of hours I was out of the forest and onto the last 6kms.

It was now that I felt the wind. The famous vent of the Ventoux (not how it got its name apparently) was angry. On my previous five climbs I’d had extreme heat and extreme cold, sun, clouds, rain, hail and snow, but I´d never experienced the wind. Today I was having all six climbs worth. At once.

It was ferocious. It seemed to be predominantly a side wind, blowing from my left, forcing into the right hand side, which was good for avoiding traffic but not so good at trying to keep the bike straight when I was tired.

The higher I climbed, the stronger it got. I didnt have my anomometer with me, but I would say that near the top it was easily blowing at 100kph.

When the road turned to the right it was great, I didnt even need to pedal, I relaxed, sat up in the saddle and the wind pushed me faster than my legs could have done, but as soon as the road bent left again it was back to being hunched into the saddle, making my position as low as possible and fighting to keep the bike straight.

Past Tom´s memorial, last km, its hard going but I know I´m going to do it. I ride along the wall and past the cafe on the left hand side, ride up the ferocious bump right at the top ….

And cant move.

The last hundred metres involve a 180 degree turn to hit the ramp to climb up to the weather station, its steep (I dont know how steep, but steep), the legs were tired but not so tired I couldnt ride it, but as I was out of the saddle pushing to get to the top I had to turn right. The wind had changed and was blowing so hard that I physically couldnt turn the bike into it to climb the last 30 metres.

It blew me over, onto the tarmac and kept me moving until me and my bike were pushed up against the low brick retaining wall that stops people falling over the edge.

Without doubt the strongest wind I´d ever experienced. At that time of the morning there was nobody about, so I lay on the floor laughing for a while, as I couldn´t do anything else, then got up and immediately realised just how cold the wind was once I´d stopped. I´d bought a windproof jacket for the descent but put it on straight away.

Only thing was, the wind was so strong I had to do it lying down, lying up against the wall, as I didnt want to see it disappearing across the Ventoux and down towards Bedoin.

Finally, jacket on, I stood up and got myself back on the bike. I waited, chose my moment that the howling wind dropped to a level where I wasnt going to be riding backwards and climbed the last 30 metres to the top.

It was baltic. All alone, cold, tired, hungry and thirsty I wanted to get my photo with the famous Ventoux sign though, to show I’d done it.

Only …….. some thieving toerags had stolen the sign. So I took a photo of me and a post.

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Believe me I was cold.

The descent was terrifying as usual, hands so cold that I was struggling to brake but once back in the forest all was again well. Another climb done, but its only now that I realise just how strong the wind can be up there.

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Beer, Lederhosen, Beer, Munich, Beer, Sun and Beer.

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The Oktoberfest obviously takes place in September, in a park in Munich. When Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese on the 12th October 1810 all the citizens of Munich were invited to come to a large field, subsequently named Thereseienwiese (Theresa’s fields) in her honour, to celebrate the wedding, and the festival has taken place every year (with some breaks for World Wars and other such inconveniences) on the same piece of land.

In 1811 the Royal Family invited citizens of Munich to come back to the same fields, for horse races and an agricultural show. The festival grew quickly and has arrived today as being the biggest festival in Germany with over six million visitors.

In 1819 the citizens of Munich took over the responsibility of organising the event and lengthened it, starting it two weeks earlier to enable visitors to take advantage of the generally better weather in September.

Today the agricultural fair is held every three years and the horse racing has long ceased to exist, but the funfair is huge and the beer tents appear to be endless.

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There is drinking to be had. Lots and lots of drinking. The famed, nay, the legendary steins (one or two of which may or may not have made their way to my house) are aplenty and the serving ladies are simply incredible in their ability to effortlessly carry several of the beasts in each hand.

I was happy enough with one.

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Although the one was filled up often.

Accommodation is wide and varied, from expensive (very very expensive over those two weeks) hotels in town to cheap campsites which provide you with all you need. Booking early is most definitely recommended though. I have already provisionally reserved my digs for this year, any later and it becomes a struggle.

There is drunkeness, but there is happiness. There are friends and there are new friends. Its just a great way to spend a few days, if you like beer.

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And I do.

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And so do a lot of other people.

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The Alhambra.

The city of Granada is a wonderful place. A temperate climate all year round although with a mountain range for skiing visible from the city, great tapas, cheap beer and many bars that stay open until the last person falls.

It has the Arabic quarter, the Albaicin, where great food, available cheaply is eaten with the backdrop of the Arabic language that I havent mastered in your ears.

And of course it has The Alhambra.

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This majestic building that dominates the high ground around the city is the biggest tourist attraction for miles around, and with good reason.

Height being a great advantage for a defender, there was a Roman fort here first of all, which was then succeeded by various buildings of various cultures, Muslim, Moor and  Christians, in different guises too. In its life it has been a fort, a Royal Palace and a Royal Court.

Due to the Morisco rebellions in Granada it was never completely finished, it has suffered from neglect, vandalism and some rather dubious restoration projects in earlier years, but the process is now underway to totally restore the buildings to their earlier splendour.

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Its impossible not to marvel at the stunning levels of workmanship created several hundred years ago and that are still largely intact.

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The themes of water, light and open space are all over the entire complex, both myself and the pigeon found them irresistable.

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The centrepiece of the Alhambra is the Courtyard or the Patio of the Lions. This fountain is a copy of the original, which research suggests was taken from the palace of a prominent Jewish businessman in the 12th century. The 12 lions stand guard around the large alabaster bowl, again the fountain in keeping with the theme of water throughout.

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There are also towers to climb. Boys never get fed up with climbing towers. Once up there its clear to see why the original Roman fortress was built here. It dominates all the ground around and gives views for many miles, vital for the guardians of the city in bygone times.

There is nothing not to love about the Alhambra itself. Ticketing though is another matter. In tourist season its advisable to book many weeks in advance. For the final courtyards, including the lions, there are only a certain amount of people allowed in at any one time, so your ticket also has the time you must enter this area. If you arrive early or late you have missed your slot, from memory its every 30 minutes.

If you are anywhere near Granada I would urge a visit. A truly awe inspiring place with gardens and architecture and soul and history and beauty and and and and ..

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