Monday, 20 July 2009

What's in a name?

I've been musing on the subject of book titles, and how much they contribute to a novel's success. Some titles seem to be very important. 'A Brief History of Tractors in Ukranian', and 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen', for a start. I have read both these books, and quite - only quite - enjoyed them, but it was the titles which attracted me almost as much as the hype. Would they have done as well as they have done if they'd had less interesting titles? It's hard to know. Some books have done very well with uninspiring titles - 'War and Peace' isn't exactly attention-grabbing; neither, come to think of it, is 'Emma'. But obviously publishers do give a lot of attention to titles. I wasn't allowed to have my chosen title for my second novel, and I gather David Isaak wasn't allowed his, either (what was that title, David?). I suppose if you're very well-known, it doesn't much matter what your book is called ('Saturday'? 'The Sea'?). Having said all that, I love fun titles (The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency is another), but maybe there isn't room for too many quirky titles. If quirky became commonplace, it wouldn't be quirky any more, and then I suppose titles like 'The Outcast' (a book which, incidentally, I loved) would be the new exciting.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The agent-hunt looks up

My (very desultory) search for an agent, which had petered out altogether following the rejection of book no. 3, has had a bit of a boost, as I've just sent the opening chapters of my new WIP to an agent someone recommended, and she likes it very much. As the said WIP is in its early stages, and I've no idea how it's going to end/turn out, I'm not getting too excited, but it's good to know that someone likes it. Now maybe I'll stop wasting time on my own and other people's blogs and try to get down to some serious writing...

Saturday, 11 July 2009


The hardback of The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets came out last August, and the paperback was due to be published this November. A bit of a wait, but never mind. It would be worth waiting for. But guess what? W H Smiths and another major outlet don't like the proposed cover for the paperback, so it's going to have to be re-designed, and won't now come out until April 2010. That's 20 months after the initial publication date. This has not been a good year for me novel-wise, and November was going to be the high point. Now there isn't one. I'm trying very hard not to be disappointed. After all, what's another 5 months? Well, it's a lot, that's what. A smaller second print run of the hardback is being produced, which is nice, but it ISN'T THE SAME! (I contemplated posting this on the MNW blog, since it's book-related news, but decided that since self-pity is such an unattractive quality, I'd hide it away here).

Friday, 10 July 2009

A Shakespeare experience

We went to an outdoor production of a Shakespeare play last night (it was meant to be a birthday treat for our neighbour). All very posh. Country house, wonderful gardens, picnics with champagne and everyone being very English and pretending that it was warm when it was absolutely freeeeezing. So far so (fairly) good. But the play (better not say which, in case) was appalling. The actors couldn't act, couldn't speak up, couldn't put any expression into what they said, and we were bored stiff (and still freezing). Half time came. We looked at one another. Shall we go home? we whispered. YES! We gathered up our picnic things and escaped, feeling triumphant and guilty in equal measure, and tore home for a warming cup of tea (we'd run out of whisky). The whole episode leaves me with two unanswered queistons. (1) Was everyone else really enjoying themselves, or was it an emperor's new clothes kind of thing (which I suppose makes us little boys)? And (2) Should amateurs do Shakespeare at all? I think that with Shakespeare plays the plot is a vehicle for the wonderful words, rather than the other way round, and last night the words just weren't wonderful (or audible).

Monday, 6 July 2009

The curious incident of the fish in the chimney

A post of David's (David Isaak's blog - Tomorrowville)in May concerning the problem of birds in the chimney reminded me of something that happened to us. We were in our living room one evening, when there was suddenly a strong smell of fish coming from the chimney. This was uncharted territory, but since chimneys mean fire, and fire means danger, we phoned the fire brigade. Just for advice. To be on the safe side. We didn't want to be a nuisance. After all, fish in the chimney is hardly an emergency. But the fire brigade are very consciencious, and they said they'd send someone round. Well, just one man then, I suggested. On a bicycle, perhaps, to save petrol? But they were having none of it. This was obviously an all or nothing situation, and so we got a fire engine complete with four burly firemen. All with colds. So they coudldn't smell anything. Not fish, not anything at all. Never mind. They took my word for it, and tested the chinmey for gas leaks (not fish) and there weren't any, and kindly fitted us with free fire alarms, which was nice, and had a cup of tea, and left us to it. But the question remains. What happened to the fish?