The Waiting Game…

The final stages leading up to the printing and publication of my book Dear Tosh seem to be taking forever.

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My little mock-up of the book cover. I like to place myself in good company! 

We went to France in October before lockdown and returned in the middle of March, before France locked down again. I don’t regret spending those five months in the Languedoc, we had warmish weather and not a lot of rain, although it was a tad windy for a great deal of the time. The Tramontane wind gusts through the region bringing with it a chill to the air.

 

le shuttle

Le Shuttle

Returning to England was a bit of a pain with all the documents, Covid tests, etc., that had to be completed, but it was worth it all in the end. 

 

Back in our cottage in Dorset. Jpeg was exhausted after her long journey from France — as were we. 

Although our time in France was spent mostly in confinement (lockdown) I am pleased that we went. I would not have been able to finish the book had we not gone. Dear Tosh is written as twenty-seven letters to him; one for each year that he lived. Being in France enabled me to write in the moment but remembering his life and looking back from the point of view of the tenth anniversary of his death, using the dates of 2020 and 2021 as starting points for each letter. I think it works really well.

I sent the word document through to the typesetters and they have now returned it twice with amendments. I didn’t realise that I would have to watch out for errors that occured when transferring my written word through their typesetting software programme. Apparently, it sometimes picks up underlying formatting from word that is not visible when you just look at the document. There were only a couple of errors, but I’m trying hard not to let anything slip by. I’m hopeful that by the end of next week I will have given it the thumbs up and it will be sitting on the desk of the printers by the middle of April. At which point I’ll be able to do a ‘cover reveal’ and begin to put the wheels in motion for everyone to buy it through local bookshops, online or directly from me.

book printing

Printing My Book

I’m trying hard to record an audio version of the book, and have set myself up at home with all the equipment I need. It’s not as easy as I thought. Getting my head around how to save each chapter as a file,  making sure my voice is the same for each recording session, recording volume, editing, mastering… and so it goes on. I think I’m getting there now — although I have started over about three times. I once got as far as chapter 15 but then realised it just wasn’t quite right. It’s a massive learning curve!

Me in my ‘home studio’ what you can’t see is the window is covered with a bedspread and a duvet and behind me there is usually a clothes airer with a double duvet hung over it. Anything to get some kind of soundproofing…not easy when a tractor thunders by or The Man decides to have a loud telephone conversation with someone downstairs! Check out the slippers…they say you should be comfortable…download

Self Publishing. . . a steep learning curve…

self-publishing

 

I’ve finished the book and now begins the road to publication. I have purposely not chosen to pitch to an agent and go down the traditional route. I realise this will upset a lot of people, but I simply don’t have the time. My book Dear Tosh is a memoir that I have been writing on and off over the last ten years. Last year for one of my MA modules I wrote 5,000 words about losing my son and they were well received by my tutor and by my colleagues. It focused my mind, and with the tenth anniversary of his death coming up in 2021, I pulled everything together and the result was a memoir of twenty-seven letters written to Tosh over the period from November 2020 to February 1st 2021; covering the anniversary, being in France with The Man, living with the lockdown, all these factors contributed to the making of the book. I feel it needs to be published and available before the moment is gone.

It’s a big responsibility, publishing your own book. I do not want to send something out that can be criticised for its lack of professional appearance in any way whatsoever. I was told that one mistake people make is to try and design the cover themselves, so I’ve handed that over to a specialist company. I’ve worked with a mentor to get the structure of the book right and I’ve made sure the text has been proofread by a professional three times. Rather than exporting from my computer onto a PDF to send to the printer, I’m using the typesetters. All this is costing, and I am fully aware of the privileged position I am in to be able to do this but…I am seventy years old now, and I’ve waited a long time for this. I hope the book circulates to thousands of people — but I’ll settle for a few hundred — actually, I suppose I’ll settle for a few friends buying a copy 😂. So far, those who have read the manuscript, have given glowing reviews and endorsements. Fingers crossed for a minor success. 🤞

This is just the beginning. If it’s meant to be, I might be picked up by an agent for future books that I write, and I won’t have to be waking up at 5.30 in the morning, worrying about the next step of the process, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of panicking to do.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress but at the moment I’m aiming for a publication date in April. That’s if I can stop fiddling with the text, worrying about photographs for the cover and put the thing to bed. This week HAS to be the final week of editing and tweaking. By Wednesday, I want it off my desktop and in the hands of those who know what they’re doing at this stage of the game.

Note Number 90…Should It End Here?

90 copy

I opened up the programme to write this latest blog post, and I realised that it would be post number 90. As the whole point of this site was to have 90 posts, it appears I may have just come to the end. But, who cares? I think I’ll carry on for now.

The news is that I am forging ahead on the self-publishing route for my memoir with great gusto! It’s a learning curve that’s for sure. Proofreader, ISBNs, typesetters, printers, distribution  — it’s all go. Writing the book was nothing compared to the work I’m having to put in now. I’m sure it will be worth it though.

I’m also setting up a new website where there will be a link  to order the book. You will be able to read reviews — or send them in when you’ve read it! This blog will be published on that website too. There’ll be a cover reveal at the beginning of March and hopefully the book will be available in print and as an ebook from the middle to end of April. As soon as I have an actual date I’ll let you know.

Yes! There will be a launch, online or face to face, depending on the restrictions. I’ll be drinking the fizz either way. I’ll read a few excepts from Dear Tosh (I have settled on that title) and maybe do a Q&A session.

It’s all very exciting. No time to stop now. Better dash…need to just do the millionth read through of the manuscript. Feels like being back at school…

tenor

Note Number 89…It’s all about the writing…

I cannot believe it’s nearly the end of January. I know many people are saying that it’s been a long one, but for me it has flown. Those who know me will understand that January is not a good month for me and this year has been a little more difficult because it’s the 10th anniversary of the loss of my lovely son, Tosh. I have TToshweeted and Instagrammed and Facebooked photos etc., I’m just going to post one photo here, to remind you all what a handsome bloke he was. 

This blog is all about the writing. I have been handwriting and typing my little fingers off all month — well for a couple of years actually — there have been Zoom workshops about memoir writing, poetry writing, how to pitch your book to an agent and how to write a proposal.

I’ve been concentrating on memoir because that is what I’m writing. For the tenth anniversary, I’m completing a memoir about losing Tosh. the book’s working title, (which I think I’ll keep) is Dear Tosh. I’ve written a series of letters to him, telling him how things were from my side, when he had that fatal accident in Portugal. I’ve also brought him up to date with family events, and a few world events, over the last ten years. Obviously a lot has happened: births, deaths, marriages, the usual stuff.

It’s been quite a learning curve when it comes to editing, with so many chapter re-writes and redrafting,  but I think I’m nearly there. It’s been an interesting journey and even though an emotional ride I have to admit that I am also enjoying it. It is like spending time with him for part of each day. I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s finished…perhaps I’ll just carry on.

Writing has become a habit. A good habit. Which is exactly what you have to get into if you want to complete a book of any kind. I now write morning pages each day and a journal in the evening, when I remember. During the day I scribble away creating poetry or editing and redrafting the work in progress. I used to hate the editing side of writing, preferring to just create, but for the memoir, I’m loving the process of reading, checking, changing, cutting, adding, moving sections around, and generally tidying it all up. 

I’ll update you with the progress of the memoir and if I get any publishing deals that I can’t refuse, you will all be the first to know. I hope Tosh would approve of the book.

Stay safe everyone.

 

Note Number 88. . . Advent Calendar Takes Over. . .

Liberty Calendar copy

The Liberty Calendar is HUGE!!

This year my children bought me a Liberty Advent Calendar for my birthday. It is absolutely fabulous. I love it. A big box full of 25 little boxes to open every day from the 1st Decemer until 25th. So far it has revealed: special bath oil, face cream, lipstick, body cream, and a whole load of other things.  I’ve been posting over on Instagram each day. But, just to make the whole thing more fun for the family,  The Man and I shot a video of me opening the box for the first couple of days. This quickly became boring, so we made a little bit more of it, creating a character or a storyline each day and made little movies. I struggled but mastered (to a basic degree) how to use IMovie adding titles, music, speeding up the film and all sorts. Thinking up ideas wasn’t a problem but it began to take up most of my day and I have other important things to do! Like finish writing my memoir and creating more poetry — which I’m very much into at the moment — so today I resolved to stop making the mini series of Opening the Liberty Advent Calendar 2020 (what will she do next?). We haven’t completely abandoned the project, but will film a few random days between now and Christmas Day. I cannot possibly divulge what themes they might be. In the meantime, I thought you might find it mildly amusing to watch a couple of the earlier box openings, so I’ve uploaded number 6 and number 8 here.

Both clips were filmed before we realised it was better to use landscape mode on the iphone.

Operation Box Number 6

Look No Hands…(Box Number 8)

I always wanted to be in a movie…. download

Note Number 87…”We are receiving a high volume of calls at the moment…”

Cue OHM (On Hold Music. . .)

This last week I have been frustrated by at least three companies/organisations when I needed to speak to customer services or even send a simple email to them.

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We all know this feeling…

First Problem. I ordered a corkboard and pins, to be delivered from Leroy Merlin it looks like a reasonable shop, you can see for yourselves if you click on the link. Actually, I don’t think there’s too much wrong with them, it’s the delivery company GEODIS who are at fault. First the pins arrived, no problem there but look at the size of the box in which the 15 pins were packed!

The delivery company sent an email asking me to fix a time for delivery, which I did. I of course assumed that the corkboard would arrive at the same time but no sign of it. Oh, and they also sent a text message — it’s important to remember that.

I waited a WHOLE week before chasing the corkboard. Leroy Merlin were very nice and they said that the company had tried to deliver but there was a problem because they couldn’t accept my phone number. I politely told them that one parcel had already arrived and that the company had emailed and sent me a text on a number they were now saying they couldn’t use. Leroy gave me a phone number to call. Remember this is all in French. A little difficult to understand but the answerphone asked me to  go via their website. Which I tried, but I had no tracking number — hopeless. I went back to Leroy who apologised and said they would contact the courier again. More useless emails backwards and forwards then one that said my parcel would be delivered on the 20th November between the hours of 8 and 18.00. Hoorah! We made sure that someone was here every single second of the day. But…nothing. Having emailed again, I am now waiting to see what Leroy Merlin come back with this time. The delivery company only send no-reply emails.

customer services

Customer Services 

Next problem was I ordered a lead from Apple (France) for my computer. The picture on the front of the box did not match the lead which it contained, (same on the website) so I stupidly ordered the wrong one. I can’t fault apple for this, and the help/chat person gave me lots of information about the correct adapter needed. “Can I return the other lead?” I typed. No problem, call the number **** 046 or go to the website. Phonecalls are difficult in French so I opted for the website which guided me through many pages and eventually confirmed the purchase, and “click here” if you want to return the item. I did that very thing, was guided through pages again, only to end up back at the confirmation page. You are supposed to be able to download a returns label, but no…nothing! Then I saw, if you want to return it call this number ****046. I tried, honestly I did, many times and combinations of prefix, but all I received were three pips, meaning the number was unobtainable.  I’m still struggling with what to do with the unwanted lead, although it does say I have until January 2021 to return any item.

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It’s all very confusing

Number 3. I have changed a subscription to The Week so that we only recieve a digital one. But we couldn’t access the digital version because I could find no way of logging on or even getting a login code. I emailed but they were tardy in their response so I phoned. Here’s where the “for digital, press 1, for subscriptions press 2 for renewels press 3, to speak to customer services please press 4,” and so it went on. I waited while the music played and then re-dialed. This time I pressed 5 for, “if you are thinking of leaving us” guess what? Yep, straight through to a person. Problem sorted in just a few moments. Incidentally when I did receive a reply to my email, it just told me to login with subscriber number…right. The problem was we didn’t have a number, at least all the numbers/codes we did have were not the correct ones,which was why I emailed in the first place…grrr…

The Week

Last Contact problem was the bank…oh my, oh my the bank. First of all the, “We are receiving…bla bla bla” . There is constant music streaming into your ear, which is appalling, and there are constant adverts for this that and the other facility, that you can sign up for at the bank. Then the usual press key number whatever, then when you DO get through, they want you to answer a million security questions. I must remember next time I have to call the bank (which I hope won’t be for a very long time) to have all the numbers, passwords etc., quickly to hand. You have to key them in, and I don’t know about you, but I panic when I have to do that, and my fingers become like over ripe bananas.

On the good side this week is that the weather is amazing, the correct lead from apple did arrive (even though I still have the old one) and on the whole I am a very lucky woman to be spending lockdown in the South of France.

 

Note Number 86. . . Je ne comprends pas les règles. . .

Blog - 1Waiting for my takeaway…Facecover – not allowed in France

We are now entering our third week of lockdown in the Languedoc region of France. The weather has been pretty good up to now, and things aren’t too bad. There’s been a plethora of Zoom events to attend and this week I have managed, two poetry sessions and a Royal Ballet live streaming. We are not allowed to walk more than a kilometre from the house but we can go 5km to the supermarket. I prefer to walk or bike it to the local shops whenever possible.

On Friday, I walked into the village to collect a takeaway, Pot au feu au 3 viandes, basically a French stew.

french stewIt was delicious, I forgot to take a photo but here’s one courtesey of The Hungary Bluebird. (I’ve never been here so can’t recommend it). Anyway, on the way there I met the village policwoman who informed me that my “facecovering” was not allowed and that I had to sport a proper mask. She didn’t arrest me or anything, in fact, when I said I was on my way to The Rex to collect lunch she raised her eyebrows and let me carry on (there might have been a smile under her mask). I wanted to point out that the two workman she was speaking to wore no masks at all, but didn’t chance my luck. My French isn’t good enough and it spoils the flow when you have to keep looking on your phone for the translation.

I’d arranged via FaceBook messenger, to collect the food at 14.00 – I could not have been more exact, but of course when I got there the whole place was shuttered up. I managed to contact them again by messenger, and he happily replied, “J’arrive dans 15 minutes”  I’m guessing he thought I wouldn’t turn up. I sat outside the closed café, pushing myself as far back to the wall as possible, now aware of my illegal face covering, I hoped nobody would spot it.

The stew was delicious, lasted us two meals and cost us 20€ which was a bargin as far as I was concerned. No cooking for me. It was worth all the aggro to be honest.

Caux Garden 2 - 1

Next day, I went on my bike into the village to do a spot of “essential” shopping. I put on my “proper mask” which actually was a lot more comfortable to breathe in than my face covering so I’ll be happy to wear it in future. I bought some batteries, which I now know are called les piles in French. I thought it was just batterie, but the very lovely man in the tabac didn’t know the word. Must be a dialect thing, or my pronounciation more likely.

I love the butcher…probably not a politically correct to say that, and what I really mean is, I love the butcher’s shop. It reminds me of when I was a young girl. Nothing is prepacked and they freshly mince the beef while you wait. I bought a chicken, and the butcher kindly chopped off it’s head and feet and removed the innards, hmm. The point I’m making is that it’s all a lot more organic here.

Blog - 4Check out that sausage!

I’m sure many of you will tell me that there are plenty of butchers in the UK like this, and I know there are at least two in Bridport, it’s just a different experience here. I’ll get over it I’m sure. By the way, even in the supermarkets there is not a single “out of season” piece of fruit or veg. No strawberries, peaches, or soft fruit. There are apples, pears and oranges. There are bags of mixed salad so I suppose it won’t be long before there are boxes of raspberries and nectarines available in the winter. Talking of supermarkets, I went to do our big shop during the week and I needed to buy a cake tin and a mixing bowl. Cake tin no problem, the isle was open but the mixing bowl arround the corner with the plastics was cordoned off with the red and white tape. I just didn’t get it, but, I asked at the help desk and all I had to do was fill in my name, phone number and email address on a form (they love forms here). I was then allowed to buy the bowl after I had finished and paid for the rest of my shopping. They converted the purchase into a click and collect transaction which made it legal. Needless to say, I still got in a muddle and had to re-enter the shop via a different route. I swear the security guard said, ‘Les anglais sont fous ils ne savent rien”. You can get the gist.

Left: shelf open for shopping. Right: shelf closed, non-essential ???

Dog walking is done every morning before breakfast with The Man, and it’s been great so far. This morning, Sunday, was a bit of a miserable one so we didn’t go far. The Man managed to find some useless pieces of stuff in the fields and on the footpaths. Honestly, it’s like walking with a child. Everything he finds is a treasure in his eyes. He’ll never change, he always thinks that a stone might come in handy; a piece of metal could fix that door. A wooden stick as big as a shepherd’s crook was brought home last week. He’ll never use it though, it will just sit outside the front door waiting for that golden opportunity when he’ll use it and say, “I told you…”

Left: Reflector light from a tractor, I admit he did leave this on a fence post for the farmer, but it was a hard decision, he so wanted to bring it home along with a big stone. Right: Our two sticks. Mine is used everyday…the shepherd’s stick well…

 

Miserable Day Today

Off to enjoy roast chicken now before a catch up Zoom with a few friends later this evening. I’m trying to only drink on a Saturday and Sunday which has been fine (only done it for one week!

wine

Trying out the local red. 

 

 

Note Number 85… MA…”Confinement” Lockdown…Zooming (again)…

poppies

Sunday, 8th November 2020. It’s remembrance Sunday in the UK but not in France. Here, they remember on the 11th November each year, which is, of course, the correct date to be remembering. I took a moment or two just now to think about those lost in the two world wars and those who die everyday in some distant war and will pause again next Wednesday.

What a week it’s been! I now have my MA in Creative Writing…pat on the back for me. Ninette Hartley BA (Hons) MA. Sounds and looks good. My mum and dad would be really proud, and I know Geoff, and the rest of our family are delighted. Just wondering if I might be able to add any more letters after my name. . . hmm . . . perhaps not.

Celebrating my MA with a glass of Crémant and my Portfolio of Poems — of which I am very proud. 

COLLABORATION

Dance and Poetry

I learnt so much during the year, but the most impressive thing was the number of books I read, many of them I would not have chosen for myself from a bookshop. I have broadened my reading.  There was a lot to cover in just one year, and part of me wishes I had taken two years and given myself more time for each module. However, as it has turned out with the Coronavirus, after Easter it was taught mostly online anyway. I feel so sorry for my friends and colleagues who are missing out on the face to face teaching and mixing with others to discuss/argue various points brought up during the term. Coffee and lunch breaks in the Post Graduate Common Room were always the highlight of the week.

Last week I took part in an intense memoir writing course organised by Hamish and Rebecca from The Garsdale Retreat . They made sure our timetable was full, with workshops in the mornings, a chat room open in the afternoons and evening entertainment including readings and music recitals. At the end of the week the course participants read from their own work. Cathy Rentzenbrink was the tutor. A famous memoirist herself, with three books already published (which I can highly recommend) and a novel due out in 2021. You can read all about her here . Cathy gave us many useful prompts to help dig deep inside ourselves and to bring all those memories to life on the page, in a structured, interesting and engaging way. I have the tools now, but can I do it? We shall see.

my study

My writing room here in France. Jpeg loves to sit with me in here. Back in Dorset my writing area is on the landing, and she’s never allowed up the stairs. I might have to change that when we get back. Only while I’m writing though. Otherwise she can stay downstairs.

zoom meeting

Happy Zooming Faces

This week was also the second session leading my own Creative Writing Workshop for a cancer support group back in Dorset. They are a great bunch of people, and as we get to know each other, the creative writing juices are flowing (nice cliche for you!). I was nervous the first week, but now I can’t wait for the next session. I consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher.

view today

View of the valley during our 1hour walk with the dog today (Sun 8th Nov)

The weather has held up this week and we’ve been on some wonderful walks with the dog. She loves it here and we are settling in well for the winter despite the Confinement France’s lockdown, which is pretty tough. We can only go out for one hour a day for exercise and for essential shopping and we must complete an Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire a certificate of travel. You must write down the time you leave your home, sign it and carry it with you. We also have to carry our passports with us to prove who we are. Today is the tenth day of lockdown and we have been careful to obey the rules, so far we have not been stopped – but then again we are on the edge of a small town and mostly walk in the seclusion of the vineyards.

Certificate

Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire,

Has anything else significant happened this week? I can’t remember. . .

american election

Note Number 84…La Belle France…

Despite, not because of, Covid, The Man and I have departed our home shores to spend the winter in warmer climes. I’m going to write and The Man is going to cycle. We’ve been here nearly a week and to begin with we experienced gale force winds, torrential rain, it was overcast, and not that pleasant but…on the 23rd October, which just happened to be my ‘big’ birthday, the blue skies showed up and I was able to have my breakfast of croissant and Crémant sitting in the garden.  Since then, it’s been pretty warm and sunny, with more sun promised for the end of October and November.

Our Village

The Café and The Patisserie

We’re on the outskirts of a village in the South of France, not far from the larger, better known town of Pézenas. On Saturday we drove to Pézenas to investigate the famous market but we could not find a parking space anywhere…the town was totally crammed. We needed to collect some birthday flowers sent to me by family, from the florist. I parked rather precariously — hazard warning lights on — while The Man ran across the road to collect. We then made a hasty retreat to our little town where we bought cakes and other delicious naughty things in the Patisserie, had a quick coffee and came on home.

flowers

Birthday Flowers

We decided to explore Pézenas on Sunday. The weather was lovely and it was time to get on the bikes. It’s pretty much flat all around here which suits me, even though I do have a battery. I cycled with head up and smiling — it was a great feeling to be out in the warm fresh air. I am not a cyclist but The Man is and he told me I kept up a very good pace and he could sit on my wheel —  just like they do in the peloton — and I would pull him along. So I was given full marks for my cycling. I did beat him up the final hill though!

Pézenas

We toured a little bit around the town which has a beautiful medieval centre and many small streets and alleyways, some cobbled and some not. We couldn’t find anywhere for coffee so pedaled home cutting through the  centre ville to reach home. Here, disaster struck as I tried to wait on the side of the road for The Man while he made a short detour to look for the bins to recyle the glass. I somehow missed my footing and gracefully (I hope) met the pavement with my head, shoulder, arm and knee. What an idiot I felt but it was also bloody painful! My knight appeared quickly to haul me (not so gracefully) up and get me back on the bike. I love my electric bike but it is heavy and if it starts to fall over I cannot hold it. I have a bit of a bruise on my cheek and shoulder but the real pain was the feeling of embarrassment.

smiles

Smiles before the Crash

I’m sure you’re all wondering about Jpeg the dog. Well, she’s just loving it here. Only a few minutes walk from the house and we’re amongst the vineyards. They are beautiful laid out with many tracks or small roads running through them. I’m not sure what the rules are about the public walking on all these tracks but there’s nobody about and they go for miles. I will be able to explore different routes all the time. Jpeg is and Italian dog and has lived in England for five years so she is already bi-lingual dog. By the time we leave here, she should have mastered a bit of French too. Probably better than me!

 

Note Number 83…And It’s All Over Now…

Station Kitchen

Celebrating at The Station Kitchen in West Bay

Well I submitted. Twenty-seven  poems in a portfolio with the title, “Collaboration – Dance & Poetry. Only The Man has read the final collection before submission.  It was hard work for four months, but I very much enjoyed it, and I learnt so much on the journey. I had to read and study many different styles of poetry and I think I have finally ended up with a “voice” of my own. I hope so, because finding your own voice, I have discovered, is an important part of writing poetry.

Firebird Kisses Final© Ninette Hartley Aug 2020

The poem above is from “the collection”. I gave it a last edit just before the final submission. I’ve included it here because a few people have “liked” it — I thought it would be a good one to share. It was inspired by the ballet The Firebird first performed in 1910 with The Ballet Russses.

I now want to finish my memoir about the loss of my son Tosh, and of course I want to write a lot more poetry. I’ve already entered a couple of competitions and looking around for more. I’m one of those people who needs a deadline! In the middle of September I’m going to do a Wild Writing weekend in Yorkshire. Watch this space….

I am now in Bristol to collect my two lovely granddaughters to take home with me to Dorset. It will be a break for their mum (my daugther) but now the pressure is off me, I can enjoy playing with them and spoiling them for a few days.

Girls on the Beach

The last time they visited we went the the beach at Charmouth — I don’t think the weather will be good enough this time.