Saturday, 29 November 2008


I emailed my agent about something or other the other day and said how I was SO looking forward to starting book 2 but would wait until after the mid-December meeting with my editor (so I could get her feedback first).

"I think you should start writing it anyway," my agent replied, "as they do like the idea."

Great, I thought, I can get started!

So why do I feel like my fingers (and brain) have suddenly frozen? Urrrgh.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On wonderful things...

Sometimes in life you come across a film, book, play or piece of music that really makes you feel alive. Sometimes, if you're very lucky, these things will appear in your life one and another after another until you feel almost breathless from the emotion of it all.

That's how I felt last night - song after song after song - when I went to The Swell Season at the Royal Albert Hall. The Swell Season are Glen Hansard from Irish band The Frames and Marketa Irglova. They both appeared in a film called Once and won an Oscar in the Best Original Song category for 'Falling Slowly'.

I bought the soundtrack to Once not long after seeing the film and when I heard about The Swell Season I snapped that up too. I can't even begin to estimate how many times I've listened to those albums (click here if you want to hear a few Swell Season songs on myspace) and when I heard they were touring I was determined to snap up a ticket, no matter what the cost.

I wasn't disappointed. It was one of the best gigs I've ever been too (and I've been to a lot) and, song after song, the hairs went up on my arms and I felt...well I can't really describe how I felt. Emotional, that's for sure.

And, for a evening, I fell in love with Glen...

...and Mar

(apologies for dodgy youtube quality in both vids. Couldn't find any footage of last night so had to nick borrow what I could!)

Actually I'm still a bit in love with them both...


Anyway, check them out if you like melancholy, folky, singer-songwritey stuff.

Onto other wonderful things...

1) I found out last week when I'll be meeting my editor/publishers. Middle of December. And I've even got something to wear. Result.

2) My book is listed on !!!!!!!! I was utterly flabbergasted when I typed my name into Amazon (even as I was typing it, I was thinking, this is's not going to be there) and there it was - my name and my novel!

Ever since I first discovered Amazon I've SO wanted to have my book listed on it (even before I wrote the thing!) and now it's there, for the whole world to see (which is simultaneously exciting and terrifying).

So yes, there's no cover but there is a title, a description (and you'll see what a bizarre idea for a novel it truly is!) ...and a publication date!

And my real name (you didn't really think my parents were cruel enough to christen me Calistro did you?). Ssssshhh!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Want to write stories for women's magazines?

If there was a Royal Family of women's magazine fiction then Della Galton would undoubtedly be the Queen! Hundreds of her stories have appeared in magazines like Take a Break, Woman's Weekly, My Weekly and The People's Friend and if there's one person who knows what it takes to crack this market it's Della.

Earlier this year I travelled across the country to attend one of Della's workshops and when I heard that she was bringing out a 'how to' book I couldn't WAIT for it to come out.

Last week my copy finally arrived - and I wasn't disappointed. This is the book I wish had been published when I first started subbing to the women's magazine (womag) market back in 2005. If you're a complete beginner and haven't got the first idea:

a) what to write

b) where to submit it

b) how to submit it

then this is the book for you. Della tells you, in no uncertain terms, what types of stories work (and which don't) and how you should format them for the magazine editors. Like most books on short story writing she also covers:

  • finding ideas and inspiration
  • turning your idea into a workable plot line
  • writing effective dialogue
  • creating believable and sympathetic characters
  • settings
  • flashback and time span
  • using a theme
  • structure and pace

but what I particularly enjoyed about this book was the way Della asked (and answered!) questions that we all find ourselves asking at some point like - 'What to do if your plot doesn't work' and 'How much physical description should you use?' She uses examples from her own stories to illustrate her points and also includes extracts of fiction by other authors to show what she admires. Oh, and each chapter ends with 'Tips from the experts' - other published writers - including our very own womagwriter.

Even if you're not a complete beginner when it comes to womag stories there's still lots to learn from Della's book and I've got a feeling mine will become very well thumbed over the next couple of months. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Win a FREE edit/critique of your novel!

Have you written a novel? Want a free critique/edit in time for Christmas? Check out the fantastic competition below (the company running it, Bubblecow, was set up by one of my writer friends Caroline Smailes so I can vouch for the quality of the critique/edit you could win).

Here's what Caroline says on her site:

"In honour of the credit crunching times and to wish those who are often faithful seasonal joy, BubbleCow is offering a free in-depth edit and report to one lucky individual, drawn randomly (but always fairly) from the BubbleCow-Christmas-stocking.

On December 01 2008, one entry will be drawn from the BubbleCow-Christmas-stocking and an in-depth edit of a manuscript (up to 100,000 words) (worth £500) will be completed before Christmas.

This edit and report will be free of charge and is BubbleCow's way of spreading the Christmas love.

To enter the stocking draw for the free edit:

1. Simply email by midnight GMT November 30 2008.

2. To avoid being spam, the subject line of your email should read ‘I love Christmas'.

3. Within the email, confirm your name, your manuscript’s final word count and title.

4. The winner will be announced on December 01 2008 and informed by email.

5. The winner then has five days to email the manuscript to BubbleCow.

6. The in-depth edit and report will be completed before Christmas.

7. The rules and details can be found HERE.

8. It is all rather simple.

And, in case you’re currently making a list of all the things that you’d like for Christmas, check out the BubbleCow Christmas gift ideas for writers."

I so LOVE these badges (and if I ever get to do a book signing I'm so wearing "I'm a writer" and "Please buy my book" because, from what I've read of most book signings, the book browsers just tend to stare at you like you've just beamed down from outer space!)

Further proof that I have no sense of direction...

I went to Barcelona last weekend. It didn't start well. We got lost in the airport.

Yes, the airport.
Getting off the plane was simple enough but when we got to baggage control there was no sign of our flight on the boards. We looked longingly at the suitcases that whirled around the conveyor belts behind us. Where was our luggage?
"You just came from London, yes?" said a German man who could obviously read the confusion on our faces.
"Yes," we chorused.
"Me too, you need to go to Baggage Claim B," he said and sped off.
Briefly registering that we were in Baggage Claim A, we hurried after him, but he was too speedy for us and disappeared into the crowd. So we looked up, we looked down, we looked left and right and when we saw a sign that said "B" we followed it.
"Strange," I thought as we approached what looked a lot like the security check.
"Really strange," I thought as a guard asked me to take off my boots and put my bag and coat in a tray to be X-rayed.
"Really, really strange," I thought as my boarding card and passport were checked and I was waved on. "Who knew the Spanish were so security conscious about letting people into the baggage claim area?"
I turned to check that my friend was following me but she was having what looked like a slightly heated discussion with one of the guards. She'd left her boarding card on the plane and he was refusing to let her step through the x-ray machine. We tried to explain, in English (I know, bad tourists), but he wasn't having any of it. A kind stranger stepped in to say that he spoke English and would translate. So we explained and he talked to the guard, then turned back to us.
"You need to go to BA to get another boarding card for your friend," I said.
We exchanged looks.
"To get our baggage?" my friend said.
"Can't I go and get it?" I said.
"No," the stranger said. "You need to get boarding card to get on the plane."
Which is when we twigged.
I'd just been waved through into the DEPARTURES area (with a boarding pass that had already been used to get to Barcelona, not leave it!) and the security guard and stranger thought we wanted to get our luggage off the plane back to London! What we'd done was confuse 'Baggage Claim Area B' with 'Departure Area B'. Finally, looking a bit fed up with us holding up the queue, the security guard waved us both into the departure area and we walked for what felt like miles back to baggage claim area B.
And found our bags.

We didn't want to risk getting lost again so got a taxi to the hotel instead of negotiating the buses but the scene had been set for the rest of our holiday. We got lost several times a day during our long weekend in Barcelona:

- we ended up in the commercial district instead of Las Ramblas

- we ended up at the cathedral in the Gothic district instead of La Sagrada Familia (Gaudi's church) in a totally different area

- we ended up in a very dodgy Brixton-esque area, instead of the beach

- and to top it all a taxi driver dropped us off god-knows-where instead of at the fairytale bar we'd been looking for (and we had to get another taxi to take us to the correct place!)

But we did end up seeing a lot of Barcelona (most of it unexpected). We went to:
- Park Güell (the park Gaudi designed)

- The Cathedral (absolutely beautiful inside. The view from the roof was pretty spectacular too)

- Montjuïc Castle (quite WHY I suggested we jump in the cable car when I'm terrified of heights I don't know. I spent a good 5 minutes gripping the seat and staring at the floor)

- The beach (we got a taxi there in the end!)

- Sarriá (the guide book said we'd be charmed by its bustling atmosphere. It was deserted. Well, it was a Sunday afternoon)

- Various sites including Barcelona football club from the top of the tourist bus (red route)

- Los Carecoles (a restaurant recommended to us by an older English lady we met in Sarriá. She'd lived in Spain for a good part of her life and told us the restaurant was popular with locals and celebrities so how could we not go. The hour-long wait to get a seat wasn't much fun, although the food was gorgeous)

- El Bosc de las Fades (a bar decorated like a fairy tale forest)
- La Sagrada Familia (Bizarrely Darth Vadar and some Storm Troopers were posing outside)

Despite the fact we seemed to get lost every five minutes it was a wonderful break - if utterly exhausting because of the amount of site seeing we crammed into two days! Barcelona was really lovely and there are tons of places still to visit if I ever go back (like the Miro museum - we turned up on the only day of the week that it's closed!) but Paris still remains my favourite city in Europe. Mind you, I still have Rome, Venice and Prague on my 'must see' list so that crown could still be lost...

Breaking news...

Yesterday I came back from a long weekend in Barcelona (more on that soon) but just wanted to share the news that... novel has been sold to Germany! My German publisher has also published Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding and I am utterly, utterly delighted!

My agent rang me to tell me the news while I was on the train back from London last night and it was all I could do not to squeal (I always talk very, very quietly when talking on my mobile on the train but it's VERY hard to do that when you're very excited!). I nearly nearly shared my news with the guy sitting next to me but he seemed very engrossed in his novel and besides, I'm far too British to do something like that!

I still feel like I'm living in a dream.

There's a part of me that feels like, at any second, someone is going to shake me hard, pop a pill in my mouth and tell me that I'm actually sitting in a psychiatric hospital having delusions about becoming a published author!

"Now don't be so silly, Miss Calistro," they'd say. "None of it is real. It's all in your head."

But it's not.

In other news I finally got to speak to my UK editor! It was a really, really short phone call (under 2 minutes) as she was on her way to a meeting but she said lots of lovely things - like how she was very happy to be my editor and that she was very much looking to meeting me! A couple of hours later she sent me an email saying more lovely things and now it's official...later this month, we (my agent and I) are going to my publisher's offices to meeting the team, drink champagne (!!!), have a quick meeting and then we'll be taken out to lunch.

I'm scared and excited. I'm nervous and delighted. I'm definitely more than a bit wobbly. But the one thing that's playing on my mind more than anything else is...

...what the hell do I wear?!

Friday, 7 November 2008


How was your November 5th? I wrapped up warm, dragged my lazy bum out of the flat and went to the rainy crowd-fest that was Lewes bonfire night.

As always it was a brilliant night and the procession was as noisy and magical as ever (though I didn't really understand the Health and Safety effigy. Anyone who lives in East Sussex care to explain?).

Talking of fire - my guardian angel is most definitely looking out for me. After saving me from a melting computer a year or so ago it protected me from a smouldering set top box last night!

I'd been out of the flat for a few hours and tried to get 'Strictly Come Dancing - It Take Two' to play on the On Demand service when I returned. It didn't work so I unplugged the set top box, counted to ten, then plugged it back in. I was just about to leave the room to let it boot up when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a plume of grey smoke snaking out of the top of the set top box and a chemical burning smell filled the room. Aaagggggh! I unplugged the set top box, tapped it tentatively to see if it was hot, then hauled it up off my TV, carried it across the hallway and chucked it onto my balcony.

At first I was miffed that I had an evening of no TV and, more importantly, no broadband in front of me but gradually realised how lucky I'd been. If the set top box had started to smoulder while I was out of the house the entire flat might have burned down by the time I got home!

I rang Virgin Media and when the Indian call worker asked me, "What is the nature of the problem?" I amused myself by replying "My set top box is on fire". I could actually hear his sharp intake of breath. "Have you unplugged it madam?" he asked. Good job I had - during the 5 minutes or so it took to listen to the squillion options and press 100 different buttons my living room curtains would have been up in flames!

Anyway, good ol' Virgin. They had 2 engineers out first thing this morning to replace the set top box and I have broadband again. Hoorah!

Here are some photos I took in Lewes with my mobile phone (click on them to see a bigger version):