Monday, 29 September 2008

Dirty Minded B+)*^&^d

You remember me talking about the young ladies in our office before now. I'm sure you do. It happens frequently. Well, today, the one I was jabbering on about last week is dressed very professionally. She looks very smart in her black suit and red blouse. And the glasses add a touch of sophistication.

But, I'm sorry to say, the only thing that's running through my mind every time I see her today is....

yep, you guessed it...

Slutty Secretary.

And all the things men like to do with Slutty Secretaries. I really should write a story about her and get it out of my system. There is an alternative, but it'll end in divorce and that's not what I want. Guess I'll have to settle for ogling and fantasising.

I wasn't very productive this weekend writing wise. I reviewed/rewrote just over a chapter and a half and split up all the remaining old chapters into what I think will be the new chapter structure. The re-write is up to 85000 words now, which is 5k more than it was when I started and that includes all the bits of dung that I've cut from it. It's going well. I just hope it'll prove worthwhile.

Friday, 26 September 2008

It's Creeping up on me...

What is? middle age, that's what. I knew it was coming when I realised that I'd started to look forward to watching Gardener's World. I mean, seriously, when did that happen? When did I start thinking, Isn't it a shame that Monty can't do it anymore?

And then there's my continued issue with, let's call her, for the sake of argument, Mandy. It's not her real name, but it's sort of close. She's one of the two nineteen year old that i have the fortune (misfortune ??) to work with. She not the one in the same the same room as me - she the one in the next room the one in the room I have to walk through if I want to go anywhere. The one with the particularly pert breasts that look good enough to eat. The one who wears her hair in three different ways and still looks so damn cute it's painful. The one who I'd like very much to do unspeakable things to.

I mean - I'm 33 for god's sake (34 next month). That's like, nearly 40. It's nearly pensionable age. And she's 19. That's like, nearly half my age. When I was sitting my GCSEs she was still in nappies. And here I am, trying to not look like i'm looking at her boobs every time I speak to her. Or pass her. she doesn't help, of course, by being all girly and cute and ohhhhh, just herself. Does this make me a dirty old man? I guess it does. I hope she never realises. she might resign.

Anyway, I happend to be watching Question Time last night. Okay, not happened to be, i stayed up late to watch it. Okay, I'm middle aged, i find politics interesting. I enjoy shouting at the TV. Sue me, why don't you.

I was watching Question Time and Hazel Blears was on. I swear, I'd like to get that woman alone in a room. No, not for any reason like that. I'd just like to teach her about punctuation. She doesn't use any - when she's speaking.

I swear she speaks in one breath and just goes off at a tangent regardless of the question she's asked she just attacks her opponent and doesn't say anything other than how great the labour government is and does it all in one big breath until she can't speak anymore because she's run out of oxygen.

I could slap her. Twice. Once to shut her up and once more just make sure.

Now, has anyone seen my pipe and slippers? I think I need to go and listen to Radio 2.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Thief of Time

I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to procrastinate. MySpace is a good example. It's very easy to get distracted by MySpace. And all the new 'games' on there... Don't even get me started. Even my writing is a way to avoid doing the stuff I really need to do - the stuff at work I get paid for.

I've got some invoice I need to post to the purchase ledger, and I've got some management reports to file and some memos to write and.... Sorry, did you nod off there? Think how I feel, you only have to read this shit, I have to actually do it.

So I write instead. The key to procrastinating at work is to look as if you're working. I like to sit with some papers in front of me and a pen in my hand as I type-that way i can skip to a 'work' app if anyone comes to distract me... I mean, ask me to do something work-like for them.

At the moment,I have a very good procrastination excuse - I'm working on a second draft of what was called Chloe's Education, but what I'm now thinking of calling England's Rose. As I type, I'm 32000 words through a 85000 word manuscript. Not bad going. I might even get it done by the end of next week.

Still, I do need to procrastinate in other ways, like twitter. Or blogging. And there's always MySpace. Dear, sweet MySpace. The biggest waste of time ever invented. But life would be so dull without it. Well, duller than it is now at any rate.

On a different note, I wrote a new scene for England's Rose and sent it to a friend to read who told me it was, and I quote, "enough to scorch the panties off any girl." So that's good then.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Hairless Ape?

Okay, so last night I was working on the scene in Chloe's Education where Chloe and Adam do it for the first time and I realised that I'd given Adam a 'smooth bare chest'. I'd made him hairless, which for me is unusual. Let me explain. I'm hairy. Very hairy. I've got fluffy black hair on my chest, all down my torso and tummy that runs into my pubic hair. I have hairy underarms and hairy arms and legs. I have to shave my face every day for I'll have a Bin Laden beard. What can I say? I'm a man. I have testosterone. I'm hairy.

Now, it seems to be the fashion at the moment for men to shave off all their body hair, wax their legs and chests, to become hairless. Hell, watch any porno flick made this century and the men (and women) don't even have pubes for gods sake. That's odd, isn't it? When you're 13, being a 'sconner' is the height of embarrassment, but now, as soon as you get them you have to shave them off. On this year's The Apprentice (UK version) the eventual winner, Lee, was making a list of points about a 'modern man' for the final. And he came out with "And he defiantly shaves his balls." All I can say is he must be brave 'cause I ain't letting a sharp blade anywhere near my nut-sack thank you very much. I wouldn't want to get a nick down there. Or shaving rash. Ow-fucking-ouch!

Anyway, the point is, I don't have truck with all this 'going hairless' shit and neither do my heroes-normally. I think a man should be a man - warts, hair and all. So why have I made Adam hairless? I don't know. Maybe it was an oversight. Either way, I think I'll have to change it. Given Chloe is a movie-star, she'll be used to her 'celebrity friends' being hairless, so running her finger through Adam's chest hair should be a novelty. It'll turn her on. I know it will.

And speaking of Chloe...

In this re-write I'm working on, I've described her in her introduction as "Britain's latest sweetheart". Now, we've all heart the expression "American Sweetheart" before, but "British Sweetheart" isn't something you here very often. I guess that the sort of girl you'd describe as "an American Sweetheart" would, if she were English, be described as an "English Rose." Think Princess Di, Kate Winslet, Kiera Knightly - English Roses all.

So I should change Chloe's introductory description to "She was the latest in a long of of English Roses to grace the silver screen" or something like that.

And this got me thinking. I've never been very happy with the title. Chloe's Education seems... wrong, somehow. So could I call the story England's Rose instead? And if I did, should I change Chloe's name? If the story were called England's Rose, should my heroine be called Rose? Rose Goodman - it seems to fit. Seems to work. But I don't know. She's Chloe. She has been from the start and for over a year.

It's something I'll have to think about.

Monday, 22 September 2008

I know what his problem is

I saw Gordon Brown's interview on the Andrew Marr show yesterday and I've worked out just what his problem is. Actually, it's not that big a secret - a lot of people have been saying it about him for a long time. His problem? He's so damn dull. I mean, seriously, I wanted to watch his interview. I wanted to hear what he had to say. But about half way through I got so bored I decided to go and have a shit instead.

I mean, what chance has any bloke got when people will rather sit on the loo and strain out a few floaters than listen to him speak.

I guess part of the problem is that he's following Tony Blair, who was a superb speaker. He had charm. He had style. I didn't agree with 90% of the things he said or did, but nevertheless I could listen to him speak without losing the will to live. He had passion (in his voice, at least) and it was easy to believe that he meant what he said. He's like Barrack Obama in that respect - agree with them or not, when they speak, you listen.

John Major had a similar problem in following Thatcher. That poor man is destined to go down as the PM between the Iron Lady and Phoney Tony, and yet he was in power for 7 years and won an election when everyone believed it was impossible.

But somehow, I can't see Gordon being quite so lucky. I can't see him pulling a dramatic election victory out of the bag. You see, John Major had that 'honest bloke down the pub' feel to him. He came across as the sort of chap one could sit and have a pint with and put the world to rights. Whereas, I can't see myself having a pint with Gordon. Not unless he wanted it thrown over him at any rate.

Shame we've probably got to put with him for another 18 months by the looks of it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

From First Draft to Second - and Beyond

For many writers that I know, the best part of writing is the first draft. Allowing the creative juices to flow and transferring the scenes in your head to the words on the page (or screen). Everything that comes after that, the re-drafting and editing, is 'the hard work'. They don't see it as enjoyable going over the same story, characters and action and refining and perfecting the story.

You might have guessed already, but I actually enjoy going from first draft to second. And from second to third and ultimately to a final, ready to be published, finished product.

You see, for me, the creative part is the hardest bit. Telling the story, getting the plot right and hitting all the right beats to keep the pace right and the reader enthralled, is quite challenging. Ask anyone who knows me from the Fishtank and they'll tell you how I dither over plot direction and, in particular, finding a suitable ending.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing the first draft, but I think that deep down, I'm more of a writer than I am a storyteller.

What's the difference, I hear you ask. well, if you're a storyteller, probably not much. But to a writer, you know it's possible to be a superb storyteller, but a terrible writer. Take JK Rowling. The woman would struggle to write her way out of a paper bag, but she is an exceptional storyteller. The quality of writing in the Harry Potter series isn't up to much at all. I've always maintained that were she a writer in The Fishtank, she'd get hammered for her dialogue tags which aren't really tags, use of adverbs, and poor sentence construction. But she's created a vivid world, memorable characters and told an entertaining, captivating story.

Now, I, on the other hand, have a panic attack every time I write a passive sentence and worry about how to restructure the paragraph to get rid of it. I worry about how many adverbs I've used and avoid dialogue tags at all if I can get away with it. And this is why I enjoy working on re-drafting pieces. At that point, I know the story is told and I can concentrate on making the prose elegant and pleasing to the editor within.

Lost & Found is a case in point. I struggled to find the story, to get the plot right. But the parts of that story that I'm most proud of were written in the edit when I was working with Loukie. She pointed me in the right direction, and I was able to work on the development of The Colonel's character. Those extra scenes I added featuring The Colonel and his wife are, in my opinion, the best things about the book. They make it stand out. And you feel that you really know the man.

And the same thing is happening with Chloe's Education. I'm adding to it, cutting it, and re-writing great swathes of it. I'm able to forget about plot and work on character and setting. And frankly, I'm loving it. Below is an example of what I'm doing. Let me know what you think.

Chloe helped Adam collect up his scattered papers and then accompanied him back to his flat. He felt as if everyone was staring at him as they walked. He knew that no one was actually staring at him—they were gawking at the film star walking by his side. Chloe looked uncomfortable. As if someone had flicked a switch somewhere within him, he suddenly realised what the past three weeks must have been like for the young woman. He lengthened his stride and quickened his pace. Chloe kept step with him and they soon arrived at his apartment.

Has become :

Chloe helped Adam collect up his scattered papers and stuff them into his bag which he flung over his shoulder. Chloe held her books against her chest, even though she too had a bag over her shoulder. It was as if she was using them as a shield against the world that was causing her so much heartache. As they passed other occupied booths on their way out of the library, Adam noticed that the conversations within them seemed to stop. They passed a couple on the stairs between the first and ground floors. He felt their eyes follow him and Chloe and heard one whisper to the other, “Hey, that’s her. Who do you reckon that was with her?”

Across the library foyer, out the door and down the steps and through the campus. He felt as if everyone was staring at him. But he knew that no one was actually staring at him—they were gawking at the film star walking by his side. Maybe they wondered who he was, just like the couple on the stairs did, but that was only because he was with her. Had he been on his own, no-one would have given him a second glance. But that wasn’t the case for Chloe. She was the one everyone wanted to see. She was the one everyone stared at. He wished people would stop whispering, it was driving him crazy. Did they think he couldn’t hear them? That he wouldn’t notice? He glanced at Chloe. She looked as uncomfortable as he felt. As if someone had flicked a switch somewhere within him, he suddenly realised what the past few weeks must have been like for her.

“Come on,” he whispered. “Let’s hurry up.” He lengthened his stride and quickened his pace. Chloe kept step with him and they soon arrived at his apartment.

See the difference? See how I've used the expanded scene to add to both Adam's and Chloe's character? At least, that's what I hope I've done. Only you readers will be able to tell me if it's worked. Here's another example.

Adam, Eddie and Cassie called on Chloe at her house and they walked into town.

Has become :

“It’s one of these little ones?” Eddie asked as he, Cassie and Adam walked along Baker Street towards Chloe’s house.

“Well, she’s living alone,” said Cassie, “It’s not like she needs three or four bedrooms.”

“But what about when her famous mates come to stay? I expected her to be over in Silverwood. Have you seen the houses out there? Man, now there’s some serious cash .”

Adam shook his head. “You don’t get it do you? The whole reason she’s come to university is to feel normal for a while. And how many students do you know that live in Silverwood?”

“Yeah,” said Eddie, “But she ain’t normal is she? She’s a movie star. If I had her kind of money—”

“But you don’t,” said Cassie. “So drop it. And you better behave tonight. Don’t go upsetting her. And certainly don’t refer to her as Not Normal. Or else.”

“Or else what?”

“Try me and find out. I’ve heard men don’t like being kneed in the balls.”

Adam stopped in front of one of the houses. “It’s this one. I think. It was dark last night.”

He put his hand on the gate, but by the time he’d opened it, Chloe had come out of the house. “I saw you coming,” she said. “Not that I was watching and waiting for you. Unless staring out the window every five minutes counts as watching and waiting.” She looked at each of the others in turn as they stared at her. “What? What is it?” She looked down at herself. “It’s my outfit, isn’t it? It’s too flash.”

She wore a sparkly black knee-length skirt and white blouse. “No,” said Adam. “You look... Fantastic.”

“Yeah,” said Cassie. “You look great. Not too flash at all.”

“But you’ve all got jeans on. Should I go and get changed and put some jeans on too?”

“No way,” said Eddie. “We haven’t got the time. The Mariner will be heaving when we get there as it is. If we wait any longer, we’ll not even get through the door.”

The air was chilly and the sky full of thick clouds, but Eddie insisted on walking into town because by the time a taxi arrived, they could already be in the bar drinking their first pint.

This is an even better example of what I'm trying achieve with this second draft. All four characters are added to here, as well a better description of the setting.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Is it, like, a real place or made up?

In fiction, it’s sometimes easy to work out if the place where the story is set is made up. Take Lord of the Rings, for example. Middle Earth came entirely from Tolkien’s mind. Okay, so it was based on Birmingham and the surrounding areas as Fiona Glass told us on Britwriters, but it still wasn’t a real place.

And it’s a fair bet that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld came from the dark corners of his mind.

The English county of Midsommer, from the novels/TV series Midsommer Murders, is (thankfully given the crime rate) a fictional place.

Yet, all of these places feel real. There are maps of all three locations. The Midsommer DVDs contain an interactive map (How do you know that Marc? You’re not a Midsommer Murders fan are you? Erm… Good question. Let move on.), Tolkien included maps of Middle Earth in his books, and there are maps of the Disc, Ankh-Morpork, Lancre and even Death’s Domain based on Terry’s books.

The Terry Pratchett thing is interesting. He always maintains that he’d never mapped out the disc, or Ankh-Morpork in his head. He just wrote the books and put stuff where it needed to be to tell the story. It was Stephen Briggs who came along and, with an old fashioned card index, mapped the place. Terry jokes that these days he has to refer to the maps to make sure he doesn’t redraw them when he writes a new book.

Why am I talking about this? Well, my work-in-progress, Chloe’s Education, is set in the fictional south-coast town of Westmouth. There is (according to Google) a Westmouth Bay in North Carolina, but you certainly won’t find the town of Westmouth on the English south coast. Same as you won’t find Westmouthshire on any map, or encounter any Westmouthshire Police officers, like my characters do.

But to me, now that I’ve been absorbed in this story for so long, Westmouth is a real place. I know where the best pubs are, how long it takes to get from the town center, up the hill to the university campus. I know what the library smells like, and I can hear the waves crashing on the beach.

And this is something I’m trying to add to the story in this second draft I’m working on. I want the reader to know Westmouth as I do. I want them to smell the sea in the air and hear the gulls when they wake up in the morning.

Westmouth exists – in my head and on my USB drive. And it will continue to exist, because I’ve fallen for the place, just like my hero Adam did when he first visited. And I’m planning to set more stories there in the future.

What's up with Gmail?

Anybody else use Gmail? I find it very easy to use, and with lots of little features that just make it worth while over the likes of Hotmail (which is rubbish) and Yahoo!
But for the past few days, I've had real trouble with it working. Now, It might be our work server, cause Gmail seems to work okay from home, but it's really annoying failing to send e-mails during the day and have people think I'm being rude.
Come on, Google, sort it out. (Or, if the It department at work are reading this, sort out our server. No, wait, I am the It department at work. Shit. It's my fault)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A Thank you and other ramblings

The MySpace version of this blog now has over 120 subscribers and the Blogger version also get a consistent number of hits. I just wanted to take a few words to thank all of you who read it. Hopefully you find it a little entertaining and it brightens up your day every now and then. Particular thanks to those of you that are still with me from when I started blogging in 2006. Putting up with my moaning, ranting and general prattling on must have been hard. I've sent a few messages out to recent MySpace subscribers to say thanks for joining the party, but if I've missed you out, please don't feel offended - it's an oversight on my part, that's all. My brain sometimes fails the longer I stare at the screen.

To other matters, I had told myself not to start work on the second draft of Chloe's Education for a couple of weeks. I really ought to knock out a couple of shorts as writing/plotting practice and give something back to the Fishtank in the form of some reviews, but, me being be, I gave in, turned on track changes and attacked the keyboard pretty much as soon as Cassie mailed me back to say she'd finished reading it through and here were her comments (I really should publicly thank Cassie for doing that for me. One or two little prods here and there. She is invaluable to me). I'm weak - sue me.

Interestingly, Cassie asked mid-way though one chapter if I shouldn't start a new chapter because of the 'jump' of subject matter. Now, I've always tried to keep chapter lengths to about 5000 words. Don't ask why, it just seems like a sensible number. Anyway, I looked at the chapter in question and agreed that it should be split up. And now, during my re-write/edit I've found myself splitting up the other chapters too. They gone from around 5000 to around 1000-2000 words. So I've got a lot more chapters, but they are shorter. I don't really know which is best. What do you think? Do you prefer lots of short chapters, or fewer long ones? Interesting question and I don't really know what I think, to be honest.

I'm also surprised at just how easily this edit is flowing at the moment. Normally, I struggle with self-edits, but this one seems to be going well. Let's hope it lasts.

And finally. Can I just say that I'm really, really glad I don't work in a bank. who knows which will be the next one to go under?

200 a Day and she's complaining?

Found this article while surfing. Had to point you in its direction. What is this girl complaining about?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Le Quack Au Mange

Yesterday, like many Sunday mornings this summer, I took Jr to the park to feed the ducks. Or Canards in French. Or Quacks in Jr-ish. It's interesting how Jr is mixing the two languages these days. For example, he'll say, "I'm going in the Maison." or "Le quack au Mange." It's quite sweet really.

Anyway, we've been going to feed the ducks in Abington Park most Sunday's, except that yesterday, we were a little late and they'd already had their fill from everyone else down there. It was sort of frustrating that they didn't all swarm around us after the bread, but at the same time, it felt less intimidating to not have geese jumping out of the water and showing us their impressive wing span in an effort to get more food from us.

Yesterday, I also took my camera with me and got some nice shots of the ducks, and the park. So here they are. Enjoy.

Abington Park in NorthamptonAbington Park in NorthamptonAbington Park in NorthamptonDucks in Abington Park in NorthamptonDucks in Abington Park in NorthamptonDucks in Abington Park in NorthamptonDucks in Abington Park in NorthamptonAbington Park in Northampton

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Excuse me while I rant

Okay, so for the past few days I've been in a really, really shitty mood. I mean, really shitty. I've been the sort of miserable arsehole that even I'd like to punch. And here's the thing, I've no idea why. Really - no idea at all. Mrs Nobbs keeps asking, "What's up?" and then saying "Talk to me," and to be honest, it's just making it worse.

Do you ever get that? Do you get in a shitty mood and you don't know why? And because you don't know why, you mood gets even worse. And people around just make it worse by trying to make you feel better and in the end you just want to run off somewhere and find some field and scream and scream until it's all out of your system?

Well, this is my field. And I'm too much of a bloke to scream. So I'll rant instead. I'll rant about all the shit that has been getting on my nerves this week. The media, the government, the media.

I'm going to start with Harriet Harman. Deputy leader of the Labour party, which she won by ballot of the members, but her won leader didn't trust her enough to make her Deputy Prime Minister. Mind you, her leader is Gordon Brown.

She's minister for Equality and women or something like that. why do we even need a minister for women? Do we have a minister for Men? I think we should. A Minister who understands that sometimes we just need to sit on the loo and shit in piece and so what if we take a book or a newspaper with us. A man's crapper should be his one sanctuary. His one place where he can contemplate the world and fiddle with his willy. And when it's not.... Well, that's why we buy sheds.

Anyway, I was moaning about Harriet Harman. At the TUC conference yesterday, she came out with the most left-wing, old-skool-labour crap I've ever heard. She said that the labour government have solved all the equality problems in terms of race, gender and disability (which they haven't, but that's a different point) and now it was time to tackle 'Wealth equality'.

"Wealth Equality"?? That sounds a like like "Wealth redistribution" to me. Take it of those who've got it and give to those who haven't. Well as someone who had nothing, and has worked damned hard to get something, I don't want it taken off me and given to someone who hasn't worked as hard as I have, thank you very much. I'm from very much a working class background. I don't have 'family money' behind me. But through working hard at school and university, I'm much better off now. Yes, there are people who're even better off - very very better off, truth be told, but they've worked for what they've got too and I don't begrudge them.

But actually, Harman was talking about "Equality of opportunity". Apparently, a less able child from a "rich" background will overtake a more able child from a "poor" background (she'd class anyone not on benefits as rich, and on benefits as poor) by the age of 6. Now, could this be because the parents of the 'rich' child value education more than those of the 'poor' child and so actually help to educate him. You know, things like talking to the child, reading books with him, drawing, writing, painting etc.

I was from a 'poor' background, but my parents wanted me to work hard - they valued my education and I had just as many opportunities as I wanted. It's all about making the best of what you've got and not making excuses - which far too many people in this country do. one excuse after another.

Take fuel bills. All the left wingers want the energy companies to suffer a windfall tax to help 'poor' people pay the bills. When actually, if they went out and worked a few hours overtime, they'd be able to pay them. It's what I have to do. Why should the couple down the road who don't realise that condoms are cheaper than children be any different? Oh, yes, I forgot, they are disadvantaged. The fact that their disadvantage is that they are too stupid to not re-produce and don't want to work hard enough for anyone to want to give them a job is neither here nor there.

If she wants to "tackle" this "travesty" and make sure everyone gets the same opportunities, why don't they make sure the damn kids turn up to school in the first place. And then when they're there, it'd help if they got on with studying instead of trying to disrupt everyone else because they are 'bored'. School isn't an entertainment venue. You're there to work. So bloody well work. Even if it is boring.

I could go on, but I think you get the jist. You can expect more of this over the next few weeks. It's party conference season. The LibDems are always good for a laugh, and watching Gordon suffer at the hands of his own party should be fun. But you can bet that most of the policies they come out with are going to annoy the shit out of me. And if they do, I'll rant. It's what I do. It makes me feel better.

On a different note, I've opened a twitter account. So now I'll be able to rant a lot more often.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Russell Brand Shocks the MTV awards - Big deal, he's been shocking (and annoying) us Brits for years

Russell Brand, the strangest comedian this country has produced in years, shocked great swathes of the US when he hosted the MTV awards last night. Now, this is a guy who, when he preformed in Northampton this spring, had to make a public apology after calling the Police live on stage and claiming to know who the local man was who had attacked and raped two women just the week before. So you can imagine just how much fun he had in the States, live on National television.

He started out by saying

"I'm famous in the United Kingdom. My persona don't really work without fame. Without fame, this haircut could be mistaken for mental illness."

And if you've seen his hair, you'd know he was right. He followed that up by saying

"Please, America, elect Barack Obama. On behalf of the world. I know some people, I think they're called Racists, say that America isn't ready to elect a Black man. But I know you're a forward thinking county because you allowed a retarded Cowboy be President for last 8 years. In Britain, that man wouldn't be trusted with a pair of scissors."

On Sarah Palin's daughter and the young man who knocked her up he said,

"That is the safe sex message of all time. Use a condom or become a Republican!"

And he ripped into The Jonas Brothers, a band I'll confess I'd never heard of until today. They wear "promise rings" to signify they don't want in engage in pre-marital sex. Russell Brand is a self-confessed former sex addict who still gets more than his fair share, so you can imagine the sort of things he said about them. Yet, strangely enough, his piss-taking of these 'Fine Christian Boys' is the one thing he was made to apologise for. I wonder what that says about the host country?

Now, don't get me wrong, I think that promising not to 'do it' before you get married is all well and good if that's what you want to do. And let's be honest, in Britain we have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in western Europe so we are hardly in a position to judge. But what I find strange the need to ram the fact that that's what you're doing down everyone's throat.  I mean, the phrase "He doth protest too much" comes to mind. After all, Britney Spears spent years telling us she was a virgin, but some would say she was just trying to hide the fact that she was nothing more than a trailer-park slut.

And another thing. If you're going to promise to stay a virgin no matter what, isn't 'pop-star' an odd career choice. They're not exactly renowned for their celibate ways, are they? It must be really hard for those boys to keep it in their pants when sexy young women (and some not so sexy) are pelting them with their pants every-night on stage.

You know, the Take That boys were said to be virginal and waiting for the right woman at the height of their fame. Turns out later that they confessed to having girls sneaked into their rooms after shows and were basically shagging everything that moved. I'm not saying that these Jonas Brothers are doing the same - but I do wonder when we'll get the first paternity claim.

As for Russell Brand. Quite honestly, you can keep him. I hope he builds a big career in the States. 'Cause at least then he'll be kept off our screens and radiowaves over here. I've never really liked the bloke to be honest.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Stick a fork in me - I'm done!

Great expression that, don't you think? It refers of course to roasting meat. A chicken for example. Stick a fork in the leg and if the juices run clear (instead of bloody - yuk) then it's cooked.

I suppose though that in this case it would be more accurate to say "Stick a fork in Chloe's Education - it's done." Or at least, the first tentative draft is. Last night, I typed what I hope is the last scene. And it felt like a weight lifting.

What I want to do now is print the thing out (it runs to 79000 words and 145 pages - good job we have a duplex printer at work) and give it a good reading with a red pen in my hand. Hopefully, I'll spot things better on paper than staring at the screen. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading from screen and with other people's work I can edit just fine on screen - but my own words? I need to study them on paper. Don't ask me why. Perhaps they don't feel like my words when they are printed so I see them with fresh eyes.

The story is also out with my wonderful Phaze editor, who's agreed to give me an opinion before I prep it for submission, and a very close friend who is always ready to tell me when I've gone wrong and, equally important, where I've gone right. I wouldn't mind getting the opinions of one or two other "beta-readers" too, but I worry that too many cooks and all that. Still, if anyone wants to volunteer...

I think I need to re-look at the ending, and there are bound to be areas I add to or cut, but I'm pretty happy with it so far. I think it hits the right notes and has good pace. But then, I wrote it, so what do I know.

I guess now I have to turn my attention to other things. Try and clear my head before I look at working on a second draft. I think I might try and knock out a couple of shorts. They are always fun to write and will certainly clear away any cobwebs.

But for now, I'm going to bask in my own self-satisfaction of having completed a near 80000 word draft. After all, it's only taken me over a year.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A Bumper Crop

Regular readers might remember that this year, Mrs Nobbs and I have taken on an allotment to grow our own veg. I posted some pictures of the plot when it first got up and running. Well, it's harvest time and we've had a damn good crop considering it's our first year. I spent most of Saturday digging up potatoes - and now the backs of my legs ache.

Still, it's worth it when you see four large cardboard boxes sitting in the shed in our back garden, waiting to be eaten. With any luck, we won't have to buy any spuds for the rest of the winter.

There's something very satisfying about your own spuds, fresh out of the ground and still covered with earth. Something 'primal' about having to wash that dirt off before you can peel and cook them. And they taste better than the washed and sterilised things you get in Tesco.

Anyway, here are some pics of my efforts.


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