Monthly Archives: October 2012
I don’t know when Halloween got so huge in Slovakia. But with this being Europe, the carved pumpkins, or Jack O’ Lanterns don’t have that comforting Disney feel I’ve seen across the pond. Here are a selection of some truly ugly pumpkin carvings I’ve seen, and it’s only the 28th October…. Happy Halloween!
A Bratislava water fountain dating back from 1900 was re-opened yesterday after a €10,000 restoration, and for one day only the fountain poured out beer! Kindly council officials installed beer barrels underground, and passer-by’s could stop and enjoy limitless beer on tap. For those who were driving there was a even soft drink option.
This is a fine story to start the day with – for once the Slovak bureaucrats have done something great. Their thoughtfulness extended to the fountains re-design. At the top is a basin for birds, the humans can drink at the middle and there is even a little dish at the base for dogs. Awwww.
The only objection I have to this story is that I wasn’t in Bratislava yesterday.
Today was perfect writing weather. I woke to a storm raging outside, splattering rain ferociously against the window. Despite the flood warnings Ján went off on a shopping expedition to Austria with his mum so I had the place to myself. I settled down to begin a new novel with the whole day – and a blank page – stretching out in front of me.
I have been planning this book, the sequel to The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard for some time. In the past few months ideas have been swirling inside my head, the good ones which triumphantly bobbed to the surface were scribbled on paper or tapped into my phone, a story took shape and was collated into the sacred sheets of paper which now form my plan. Then the day arrived to actually begin, and I am not ashamed to admit I was terrified, excited too – but terrified.
I’d literally sat down, a coffee at my elbow, computer on my lap, dog at my feet when the most wonderful distraction occurred. The proof print edition of The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard arrived (the e-book edition has been out since early summer). In the past few weeks we’ve been working to get it ready and it plopped onto the doormat- three days earlier than expected- with a challenging thump as if to say ‘follow this bee-ach!’
After cooing over its gorgeousness, fondling the creamy crisp pages, elegant fonts and inhaling that delicious new book smell – with the added kick of it being my own, I put it to one side and pushed my brain back to its sequel.
Seeing the finished product of one book in all it’s bound glory, hasn’t made it any easy to write another. I had to keep reminding myself of all the advice I’ve heard and doled out.
‘Just write the damn thing, get it down on paper then you’ll know exactly what the story is.’
‘Don’t get it right get it writ!’
‘Writing is rewriting.’
When I started Coco, back in 2008, I got caught in the writers quagmire of trying to make the first draft perfect and spent the first six months going over and over the first chapter. This time around I’ve planned out the whole story, so I need to get my head down and write my way towards its conclusion.
Writing a sequel is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, I have most of the characters – the series regulars I’ll call them – fully formed in my head. There are some newbies I am excited to develop into strong characters. On the downside, I have a hard act to follow. So many people loved the first book and gave me wonderful feedback. The pressure is on.
Therefore, in addition to writing the second book, I have chosen to write about writing the second book. My reasons are a little selfish, documenting the process will spur me on to hit my target. I want to have a strong first draft by Christmas which gives me about nine and a half weeks, to quote a saucy film title. The first draft needs to be around 75,000 words and in good shape. This means writing 1600 words a day, five days a week, which should get me there by 21st December. If anyone has any advice and/or words of encouragement they are welcome to comment. Also let me know if you are starting something new – it would be great to encourage each other!
I set a similar challenge last year when I wrote Bitch Hollywood with Ján. However, we didn’t stay on track and wrote ourselves an awful lot of word count IOU’s which meant we had to knock out 3,000 words a day in the final week.
So here we are, at the beginning. All rather thrilling, and a dash terrifying. Join me along the way as I keep you updated on writing this book. Now I must leave you for now… I’ve 1600 words to write.
“A dark, gut-busting comedy about the trials of life and love in the city where dreams are supposed to come true.” (Cynthia Shepp Book Reviews & Editing)
“Bitch Hollywood has got to be one of the funniest books I have read, but amongst the humour there is some very touching scenes that have my tears of laughter becoming tears of a different kind.” (Lisa M Wood Writing, Stuff & Nonsense)
A short extract of Bitch Hollywood from Chapter 25 – The Oscars
Hollywood is transformed for the Oscars Ceremony. A week beforehand, the roads around Hollywood & Highland and The Kodak Theatre are closed off. Tourists are banned. The buskers, the costume characters, and the homeless are removed, losing their only source of income.
In a warped way, the homeless aren’t the only ones who starve during this time. Most actresses do too, albeit voluntarily.
Ten days before the Oscars Veronica had stooped eating solid food and was following the Maple Syrup Diet.
The Maple Syrup Diet is also known as the ‘Beyoncé Diet’ because Beyoncé allegedly followed this to lose 10 kg (20lb) for her movie Dreamgirls. You can’t eat but you can drink up to twenty glasses a day of a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup, grated ginger and cayenne pepper.
Veronica was convinced she too could lose 10 kg and had insisted I exchange the size 18 Oscar gown I had bought her for the same design in a size 14. She had done well, following the diet strictly for the past nine days.
Her road was closed off for the Oscars, so to save her climbing over a barrier in her Oscar gown we were invited to use a house in Bel Air to prepare for the ceremony.
The house belonged to Hank Bellagio, a mega TV producer and his partner Edgar.
I got the impression Veronica was more friends with Edgar than Hank. She had met Edgar at a Charity benefit for endangered frogs, and kept the friendship going so she could have access to Hank.
It was the grandest house I had ever seen, and I’d seen a few in the last few months.
“I’m sorry Hank’s not here,” drawled Edgar opening the door. “He’s out screwing male prostitutes.”
His conversational tone made it sound like Hank had just popped out to the Library.
Edgar was around fifty years old and rather creepy, with ghostly pale skin and jet-black hair. I got the impression he was the long-suffering homemaker in the relationship with Hank. From pictures around the house, Edgar was once a hot young thing, but he hinted that it would cost Hank dear if he ever tried to get rid of him.
Veronica had told me Hank had a personal fortune of two hundred million dollars and counting.
The walls were covered in expensive artworks. Edgar showed us round pointing out two Picasso’s. The first was worth a million dollars, the second – four million!
I thought back to mine and David’s flat in London. We had spent hours debating whether to buy a huge expensive mirror for the living room wall. The Mirror had cost two hundred pounds.
Edgar took us into a bar, which was a feat of engineering in itself. The back wall and the floor were made entirely from glass and completely see through. Looking down at the mountainside falling away below was as if we were suspended in mid air.
“Ooh,” said Veronica. “I feel sick.”
Kevin took off his baseball cap for her to throw up in.
“No,” she said batting it away. “I think I’m a little light headed.”
“You want more Beyoncé juice?” said Kevin unclipping a flask hanging from his belt.
“No,” said Veronica “Ugh! Just the thought of it swinging next to your crotch and getting warm,” she dry heaved. “I haven’t eaten in nine days.”
“Why don’t I get our Private Chef Ying to rustle you up something Oscar friendly?” said Edgar.
We moved through to an enormous kitchen. It could have served a restaurant. Along one wall were glass refrigerators like the ones you see in a supermarket aisle. Along the other were gas hobs, several sinks, and copper pans hung from a giant frame. In the centre, a slab of inky black marble stood as an island.
Ying, a little Korean man in spotless chef whites bowed and handed over a menu.
“My Zero Calorie Oscar Menu,” he said proudly.
“We had Diane Lane over yesterday,” said Edgar. “She stuffed her face with the no butter steamed egg white omelette and gently seasoned fish stock.”
Veronica lifted a glass cake cover.
“Oooh…” she said inhaling the sweet smell of muscavado sugar dusted raspberry jam pancakes. She tore off a piece and shoved it in her mouth.
“Oh my god,” she said picking at them with her bare hands. “Ying, these are heaven.”
“They’re for the gardeners,” said Ying in a panic. He went to grab the cake stand, but Edgar motioned him to leave it.
“Oh, yes, oh, god,” said Veronica, mouth full and unable to control herself.
Kevin began to fret and unclipped the thermos flask,
“Veronica, you’ve done so well.”
“Shut up! Please. I just need something to line my stomach, or I’ll pass out.”
Ying timidly handed her a fork and she wiped her fingers on Kevin’s Star Wars T-Shirt.
“This is vintage,” he said, upset to see R2-D2 now covered in jam, but Veronica was deaf to him as she attacked the pile of pancakes.
I looked at my watch, it was 9.45 am.
The day had been planned with military precision. The car would pick us up at 1.30pm. The hundreds of Limousines are given time slots to drive up to the Oscars red carpet, unload the movie stars, so they can walk past all the TV cameras and into the ceremony.
Bradley had been booked for hair and makeup at 10am. He could only spare thirty minutes as most of Hollywood had requested him.
I asked Edgar if I could use the bathroom, he showed me to a door downstairs, next to a painting I recognised as one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. It was an original, worth eleven million dollars.
I was tempted to shove it in my coat and run. Who would notice it had gone? It was by the toilet!
Inside it was dark. I looked for a switch and beside the door were a glowing panel of lights with buttons reading ‘Breakfast Time’ ‘Brunch’ and ‘Dinner Guests.’
I pressed ‘Breakfast Time’ as Veronica was out there eating pancakes for all of us.
Bright lights came on with the sound of bird song. The room looked like a cave of seamless rock. A waterfall activated, ran down one of the bulging walls, and disappeared into the floor. The toilet itself was sat in the corner and thankfully looked like a toilet.
As I moved closer, I jumped. The lid automatically lifted with a soft electric whoomph. Cautiously I looked inside. It was just a toilet bowl with water.
When I went to flush, I noticed I had options, a row of buttons.
‘Front cleaning’ ‘Rear Cleaning’ ‘Hot Air Dry’ ‘Warm Air Dry’ and ‘Heat seat.’
I wished I had needed more than a pee.
When I came out Veronica was shouting into her phone and Kevin was eating Ying’s no-fat steamed egg white omelette. It looked like one of those mats the elderly suction onto the bottom of the baths to stop them from slipping over.
“I don’t fucking believe it!” said Veronica coming off the phone. “Donald is an asshole!”
She crammed another jam pancake into her mouth.
“Is he okay?” I said.
“No,” she said, her mouth full. “He was made a member of the Academy this morning.”
“That was, quick.”
“Yeah, well, now he doesn’t need me he’s taking his boyfriend. Damn him! I have no date for the Oscars. Again.”
“You could take me, but I’m Hank’s plus one,” said Edgar.
Kevin went out to the car and returned carrying a tuxedo wrapped in plastic.
“I bought this. In case you needed me,” he said excitedly.
Veronica raised her eyebrow.
“It’s a really good tux. I paid a twelve hundred dollars for it.” Veronica looked at Kevin’s excited face.
“No,” she said.
“Why not? I’ve attended industry stuff.”
“We’d look like some weird couple.”
“Please,” said Kevin.
“No.” said Veronica heartlessly. I couldn’t believe Kevin had spent all that money on the off chance she might take him. Twelve hundred dollars what was she paid him a month to be her assistant.
“Would that fit Filip?” said Veronica. Kevin shot me daggers.
“We have a load of Tuxes upstairs,” said Edgar. “I think Kevin’s legs are a little…”
“Stumpy!” said Veronica eating more pancake. They both laughed.
“I’ll take Filip,” said Veronica. “Yes?”
I wasn’t thrilled about being told I was going with her, it would have been nice to be asked, but hey, I was going to the Oscars!
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- Oscar Worthy Looks Straight Off the Runway (cameoblog.com)
I started Slovak lessons last week. I’ve been teaching myself slowly for the past few months and decided I needed a kick up the arse to make some real headway with the language. So every Monday and Wednesday for the near future, I will be taking private lessons with Jáns Slovak schoolteacher, who will guide me through the maze of Slovak grammar. It’s got to the point where I feel I’m missing out on fun and friendships, wonderful books and films and next February I’ve got my book coming out in Slovakia and I am determined to do most of the publicity and not leave it all to Ján.
I often feel glad I don’t have to attend school anymore or enter any learning institutions. Both of my parents were teachers, and we lived our years academically. September always felt like the true start of a new year and the horrible Sunday night/back-to-school feelings were always amplified in our house with Mum and Dad feeling it too.
In the days before I started my Slovak lessons, I thought back to all my learning experiences and quite a few made me laugh- although at the time it was hell.
Learning French. I spent years struggling to learn the language hampered by the fact I wasn’t interested, and that our school decided to award us with a teacher from Lancashire with dubious knowledge of French. By the time the fragrant Parisienne Madame Adams came along it was too late. We were all saying Bonjour with a Peter Kay accent.
Cub Scouts. I was a Cub for one week and then I quit. Much to my parents dismay after they’d forked out for the uniform and cap. My Diva Cub behaviour came from being shouted at during inspection for not having the correct length piece of string in my pocket, and then being sent outside to the Church hall car park in December – in shorts- to learn survival techniques which involved cooking frankfurters over a calor gas hob.
Piano Lessons. I had six years of piano lessons, and today I cannot play a note. I’m not sure why I took piano lessons. I never had that eureka moment with a yearning to tickle the ivory. I think it’s what all middle class kids did, before Blue Peter was on. My piano teacher was perfectly nice and patient even though I never practised. I’m sure she realised there was a rich seam of money to be mined from guiding children tunelessly through Grades 1-8, only for most of them go off to University and forget everything they learnt in favour of getting drunk.
Learning To Drive. This was sheer torture! Although I thank my parents for bearing the cost of my umpteen lessons, so I can now drive.
Me and my friend Amy took lessons with BSM. Our instructor John would probably be fired these days for all kind of Health and Safety violations, but back in 1996, he was what my mother termed ‘a card’.
He chain smoked roll-ups throughout our lessons, frequently groped my friend Amy, and spent the whole time slagging off BSM Driving School. I dreaded each and every lesson where I would lurch around and always stall halfway across a busy junction. He was very strict, but had a generous habit of winding down the window and telling the person I had nearly run over to look where they were going. Our driving lessons often involved a trip to to the betting shop or bank, and our lessons would include having a 99p breakfast at Tesco – which John would always spring for so I couldn’t moan.
Around my thirtieth lesson, John staged a coup at BSM and started up his own school, “John’s’” taking Amy and me with him. Amy passed her test first time. I passed on my third attempt, early in the morning on a Bank Holiday when the roads were empty. We waved goodbye to John with a strong knowledge of Lowestoft’s betting shops and mild emphysema.
Fast forward back to now, and during my second Slovak lesson this morning, I had a revelation. I was really enjoying learning, a feeling I never used to get. I think now I’m a lot more mature. In the past, I was nearly always made to learn and now I really want to be there. It’s odd because I read far more widely and voraciously than I used to. Maybe I’m a late bloomer!
It also helps that my teacher Martuska is brilliant. She was Jáns teacher at school when he was ten years old, and she was our grammar expert for the Slovak version of The Not So Secret Emails Of Coco Pinchard.
I don’t think learning to speak Slovak is going to be easy, but I am so excited and determined to make it happen, I know I won’t fail.
What’s this? Book trailers? Yes – for those of you (me included until a short time ago) who’ve never heard of making a video trailer for a book- many fine authors are doing just that. I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed making it. Bitch Hollywood is available now as an e-book by clicking on Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com Amazon Prime members can download and enjoy the book for FREE! Lucky buggers…