... I'm a writer. But before I was a writer, for many years I was a reader. (Well I still am, but I just don't have so much time as I used to.) And for over twenty years now I've read ebooks, first on a small PDA in MS Reader format, then on a Kindle, then a tablet, a Kindle Fire ... well you get the idea. I've been doing this for a long time now.
Now I know that for some reason traditional publishers don't like ebooks. And indeed some readers don't like e-readers. Me, I think they're wonderful, a whole library in something smaller and lighter than one paperback. My friend and I used to buy our handbags big enough to take a paperback book, and that is no longer necessary. Admittedly my handbags have not grown smaller, but then I've had children and grandchildren who need regular nose-wiping etc. Also I've started writing which requires a notebook and half a dozen pens at least just in case I run out. But you see my point.
One of the main attractions for me was that ebooks were considerably cheaper than dead tree books. It made sense to me; no printing costs, no warehousing costs, low distribution costs. To be fair to the consumer of the book the price should reflect this. And I bought lots of ebooks. I mean, two or three thousand by now.
I still buy lots of ebooks. I know I don't purchase the actual book, just the licence to read it, but that's a subject for a different day. I have lots and lots of ebooks and I read and re-read them. Most of them cost me less than £5.99, even the ones from big publishers, but that adds up to a considerable sum of money that has changed hands over the years.
I keep a wish-list which is very long and check daily for price reductions, and at least once a week I buy a book. But recently I've noticed a trend. A couple of ebooks on my list, and one I didn't even bother putting on the list, cost nearly £10. Or putting it another way, not a lot less than the price of the paperback. Indeed I've spotted one or two that were actually more expensive than the paperback.
At the same time I've read lots of articles about how the day of the ebook is over, the market has reached its peak, that sort of thing. Articles based on the sales figures of traditional publishers.
All I can say is are you really surprised? Really? Are you sure? Because I can tell you, I'm not about to pay three times the average price of an ebook for something that's cheaper to produce and distribute than the physical version. The books are on my list because I want to read them. What I intend doing is waiting till the paper version is on the second-hand market and get a second-hand copy.
To all my friends who are authors I'm sorry. I know you don't get anything out of second-hand sales. To all the publishers who thought this was a cunning strategy, you are getting what you deserve. To all my friends who are indie authors and price their product at a sensible level, well done. Your books will sell. I will buy them. They won't of course appear in the statistics, because these show only traditionally published books. To see a set of statistics which attempt to account for all the indie authors as well, you have to turn to Data Guy and his occasional reports. These seem to give ebooks around half the total market
I'll finish up with a couple of quotes from Arnaud Nourry, Chairman and CEO of the Hachette Live Group since 2003, which typify Big Publishing's attitude to ebooks. Make of them what you will.
"It’s not that we’re against ebooks. People have to pay a price that is about 40% lower than the print price. And it works. The ebook market has gone down a little bit, not much, from say 25% to 20% in some countries. There is still a readership for ebooks but at a price that keeps the ecosystem alive."
"There are two different geographies to look at for this. In the US and UK, the ebook market is about 20% of the total book market, everywhere else it is 5%-7% because in these places the prices never went down to such a level that the ebook market would get significant traction. I think the plateau, or rather slight decline, that we’re seeing in the US and UK is not going to reverse. It’s the limit of the ebook format. The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic.."
About fifteen years ago I read an article somewhere by somebody. It was a somebody from the Big Howevermany it was then publishing houses, and it stated, categorically, that Regency was dead. Nobody wanted to read Regency any more, so they weren't going to publish Regency any more. I was devastated.
Long ago in my early teens I had discovered Georgette Heyer's books in the school library. I thought they were wonderful - funny, romantic, set in a time very different from the Sixties. Interesting. I read every one I could get hold of, and I even spent my pittance of pocket money on the paperbacks. I was hooked.
Time passed, and I was unfaithful to the Regency. I spent time with science fiction and fantasy, with gritty thrillers and whodunnits. There just weren't enough Heyers to keep me fed. By the turn of the millennium though I had acquired a PDA - remember those? And I used it almost entirely for reading. Science fiction, fantasy, whodunnits. I read whilst being driven to work by my old man, an hour each way every day. At lunch. In the evening. And one day my dealer, the late lamented Fictionwise, gave away a whole shelf-full of ebooks. Hey, they were free. I downloaded the lot.
Some of them were a little bit of a surprise to me, and broadened my horizons no end. But amongst the thirty or so books there was one Regency romance. I read it, and was taken back to my teens, reminded of how much I had loved Heyer. I can even tell you the plot of the book, though the title and author escape me -
And I realised that while I had been absent, people had been writing new Regencies. I was re-hooked. I bought every one I could find on the Fictionwise site. I discovered Mary Balogh and Stephanie Laurens. Regencies had discovered Sex!
And at the back of my mind an idea started forming. What if ...
And then this article. No more Regency. And this was before Indie Publishing was a thing. What the big publishing houses said was what happened, and they had decided that Regency was no more. My idea for a plot, for a Regency romance, withered. But I couldn't kill it completely, it kept coming back and bothering me. What if ... ?
I achieved a lifetime's ambition, early retirement. One part of my retirement gift was a big notepad and a packet of pens, given with the instruction to go and write that book I had been talking about all this time.
And I was still reading Regency, and contrary to what Big Publishing had said, people were still writing it, and they were in fact still publishing it. Pants on fire!
And then I found out about NaNoWriMo, and Indie publishing, and I realised that it didn't matter what Big Publishing said anyway, so I did write that book. And several others. They are sitting on my computer in various states of editing, and by golly I am going to publish them. And we'll see then if Regency is dead or not.
Picture by Ted Eytan MD via Wikimedia Commons.I
I watched the NaNoPrep webinar a couple of days ago. Late as usual - being in a different time zone to most NaNites makes the recording a much more attractive proposition than the live event. And as a throw-away at the end the two authors were asked what was the worst writing advice they had ever been given. And they both came up with the same thing:
Write what you know.
On first sight it seems an attractive slogan. If you're an expert in something, surely it makes sense. And we all do loads of research, writers of historical fiction especially. Who hasn't lost an entire afternoon or more following threads around Google and Wikipedia, ending up bleary-eyed and knowing far more about historical sanitation than they really wanted to know.
And if you get it wrong, there will be plenty of people out there who will let you know all about it. Including me, I'm afraid. I've been known to email authors pointing out embarrassing bloopers in their novels. All in the interest of getting it right, of course.
But I write a lot of the time from my hero's point of view. I am female, straight, white, middle-aged (I insist on not being old) and educated. Does that mean I can't write from the point of view of say a black male who has been a slave on a plantation in the Caribbean, as I intend to do this November in the shape of my hero's sidekick?
Does that mean that writers may not write about little green men from the planet Zog, far far away in another galaxy? Or witches and wizards, fairies and goblins, demons and angels?
I maintain not. If it did mean that, there would be far fewer books written. And I like reading about aliens, elves and fairies, and so on.
The Published Writers, and I when I thought about it, were not saying don't do your research. But broaden the subject out a bit. Of course there's a place for writing what you know. For example if I wrote a book about electrical engineering it could be a bit of a disaster - be reassured that I have no such ambitions, for the general good of mankind.
I think the answer is to put yourself in the place of your ex-slave, green alien, or fairy. Close your eyes and imagine what it feels like. What's it like to have dangly bits, or wings? How does it feel? How does it affect your thinking? Get into your character's skin and know them deep down, as a person and not a character in your writing. When you know how they, not you, would react in a given situation, then you know them well enough to write their story.
So is this writing what you know, or not? I will never really know what it's like to be male. I will always be seeing men from the outside. But I hope I have enough imagination to feel something of how it is, and I hope that any man reading what I've written will not be emailing me to say that that's not what it's like at all.
... and now I face the final curtain. Said curtain being for my new writing shed in France. Or perhaps a blind.
We went to our French house this summer for six weeks, the longest we've ever spent there. And it was wonderful! The indoor plumbing! The electricity supply that didn't bite! The new kitchen!
Just one little thing, or maybe two. We still had the impenetrable jungle outside the back door, True, we no longer had to hack our way through it with a machete in order to reach the outside lavvy. And the perennial sweet peas were colourful, though sadly unscented. But it had to go.
Our builder met up with us in the town where he lived. His instructions "by the anchor roundabout" were surprisingly quite easy to follow. We went to his builder's merchant and spent a vast amount of money on paving slabs, gravel, cement, and semipermeable membrane. The things one learns when having renovations done.
We also took a trip to another builder's merchant to look at sheds. The old man still kept insisting that my writing shed was a low priority. He isn't a writer, of course. But the builder's merchant was having a sale, which trumped his objections. And in the sale was the biggest, bestest shed you've ever seen. It had double doors. It had a little window. It was big enough to get a double bed in, never mind a desk and chair. It was less than half price!
It had also been sitting in their open hangar for a considerable time, but we only found this out later, of course.
So all was set. Our man called in his son-in-law to help with the heavy lifting. The deliveries were timed to perfection.
Well the son-in-law arrived as planned, on the early ferry, and they came straight to us to make a start. Catching us still in bed. Well, I expect my cup of tea in bed in the morning, and the old man is reluctant to get up, especially as he tends to run on English time still, refusing to have anything to do with nasty foreign time which is one hour in advance. I think this has cured him now, at least temporarily. So while we hastily threw on clothes and breakfast and the essential cup of tea all round (I did say our builder and his son-in-law are English, didn't I?) they went and communed with the old shed.
Within a day the old shed was down - well, you've seen the photo. A hard push was about all it took. That and half a dozen trips to the tip with the remains. A cement mixer was borrowed. The weather was set fair.
No delivery. No slabs, gravel, cement, semipermeable membrane. It was only one day late. I love the French in general, but I have to say they can be a bit nonchalant when it comes to things like that.
And the shed. Well it was supposed to arrive in the afternoon, but the guy at the builder's merchants happens to live not far away, and he thought it would be a good idea to deliver it on his way home after work. We sat, and waited. And waited. Our man looked at his watch and phoned his other half. She was not amused. French working hours last an hour longer in the evening because of the longer lunch break. It came eventually. I just hope our man managed to make it up to his lady.
So the next morning I was presented with a pot of wood stain and a set of brushes. You thought because we were paying to have it done we could get away with sitting in the shade watching? Not hardly. I set up the garden umbrella - it was hot and I burn easily. (Sorry everybody in the UK who had a miserable wet summer. The Jet Stream moved. France was south of it, and you were north.)
I started off doing every plank lovingly and artistically. After two days I was slapping woodstain on as fast as I could. The slabs were criticized - not properly square and even. The wooden planks for the shed had warped and weathered in the builder's merchant's store. Roots had to be hacked out. More slabs and gravel had to be bought. There was exactly enough roofing felt for the roof and not a centimetre more. The second shed had to be done - that's the Man Shed as opposed to the Woman Shed. (Not in the sale. It cost twice as much as the Woman Shed in spite of being half the size. I hesitate to draw a conclusion - well, no I don't.) The sheds had to be fixed down to the slabs, and the fittings sold with them were inadequate. Much eye-rolling and harrumphing.
The slabs went down in the end, some of them twice over. The sheds went up. I moved in my flatpack desk, a garden chair, and my computer, and started writing.
The editing proceeded at an amazing pace, after weeks of slow progress - there's something about that special place just for writing that I can't quite explain. Terry Pratchett would call it headology
There is a heater, so we'll have to wait and see how it works out in November.
And now by popular request, Susana,
I'm thinking of putting Astroturf on the floor.
You can't catch anything over the internet, honest.
I've had some sort of virus, which is why I've not written anything for a bit. All I can say is thank goodness it was half term over here.
I managed to drag myself to my two classes earlier this week, so we're still on track for that Certificate in Creative Writing. I managed a short peer review for one of them, and now I have a couple of days to get a beta read done for one of my regulars. I've done some thinking, of dubious quality I have to admit, and had several brilliant insights about the manuscripts I'm not currently editing - thank you, brain. But actual work? Nah.
I have come to one conclusion though. I've heard from several different, unconnected directions that people recommend putting their work up on Wattpad. And as my already-published little book has flatlined, and I"m almost ready to put out a second one, I thought I might just try it for myself.
What do you all think? Leave a comment or drop me a line and tell me.
But not so fast, gentle reader. The inside of the house is done, barring one or two little details, some new doors, redecorating where cupboards have been taken out, the damp patch on the ceiling upstairs, new carpet - well, you get the picture. You're never completely finished with a house.
There remains the outside. I told you last time about looking at paving stones for the patio. That is, I hope, to be put in hand some time over the summer. And would we like a fancy lamp-post thingy to light us if we have an evening meal outside? Why not - he's already put in the basic wiring, after all. And those street lamps are so, well, yellow. I must say I rather fancy sitting out in the cool evening, as long as we can keep the insects away.
The big thing though is my Woman Shed. I want my Woman Shed. The Old Man says it's low down on the list of priorities - well, he would, wouldn't he? He said the same thing about the kitchen, if you remember, and look what happened there. The Old Man has short arms and deep pockets; which comes I have to admit from having been hard up for a lot of our married life. The Old Man also has a tougher skin than I do, and can sit out in the sun without needing to bother with a shed.
I want my Woman Shed. I want a nice big one with room for a desk, electricity for my computer, enough space for the old put-you-up so that it can serve as the overflow bedroom if ever anybody comes to visit. There's an outside tap nearby so I can get water for tea or coffee. There's the outside lavvy, just handy to the side of the shed. The birds will sing, the sun will shine, and I will get so much writing done you won't believe it. I've already bought the booster so that I can get wifi out there. I shall even be able to procrastinate, with Facebook and that new game I discovered.
And I know there are sheds out there just perfect for me. Had it not been for The Kidney Stone Problem we would have been out looking at one recommended by Rod the Electrician and his mate,the Outdoors Man, which even has a little lean-to attached to it, where you can keep your mowers and spades. Which will lock, because some toe-rag nicked our garden fork some time over the winter. It wasn't even a particularly good one. People coming in on the big road and making a clean sweep of everybody's garden shed, according to our neighbour. But I digress.
It's not as if there's anything wonderful there at the moment anyway. A shed constructed of rotting timber, breeze blocks, and internal bricks - those French ones that crumble when exposed to wet, frost, and time. A dirt floor. A wooden extension at one end that the previous owner used to house his chickens. The look of the garden would be so much improved by a nice summer house, I'm sure you would agree.
We've got the money: the work that's been done, although not exactly cheap, has still not quite used up the funds we had earmarked for the improvements, so I'm not accepting that as an excuse. Rod the Electrician and his mate the Outdoors Man are poised. Are you with me? All together, "We want the Woman Shed!"
... or perhaps not. Not if we were lucky. But there were only certain shapes and sizes available to us.
We had to accept that the existing carcasses of the cupboards would all have to be replaced. Not only that, but we would probably have to have glazed doors rather than solid wooden ones. We had, of course, asked whether we could purchase the display units from the showroom, but had been told that they had already been sold.
Anyway, after several phone calls to the Granville store and waiting until the weekly deliveries arrived, we managed to assemble enough cupboards, doors and other bits and pieces to construct a whole kitchen's worth of nice, wood-fronted units. Now I personally am not a fan of glazed doors on cupboards. As far as I am concerned, doors are there to stop other people seeing what an untidy state the inside of the cupboard is. Putting glass in defeats the object of having a door in the first place. But it is what it is, and it is glass doors. I'm thinking perhaps I can get some transfers to put on the glass, or in the very French style, some gingham material to make little curtains with to cover the inside of the glass.
There were one or two other problems. Firstly, the power supply for the dishwasher meant that the top drawer of the set of three wouldn't fit. Rod got round that by combining the top two drawers. This is actually a Good Thing, because the saucepans can now be stacked in the extra-deep drawer. First win.
Secondly, the special linen bag that niftily fits into a pull-out unit at the end, specially made to hold baguettes of French bread ... is just too short for a whole baguette to fit into it. Perhaps we shouldn't have had the little drawer above, but it's a very useful little drawer and I'm keeping it. As things stand you have to break the end off the loaf. And once it has been broken off, it would be a pity not to eat it. Don't you think?
Thirdly, the taps. We got some nice wooden worktops from Ikea (yes, they have reached rural France) and inset the sink, to find that the original taps didn't stick out far enough from the wall for the water they provided to fall into the sink. The modern way is for the taps to be fed from below, but if you look at last time's picture, you will see that these taps, which had probably been installed when everything else was done, back in the nineteen seventies, are fed from behind. And the wall is two-foot-thick stone. Not the sort of thing you want to be drilling through if you can possibly avoid it. "Leave it with me," Rod said. So we did, and in the meantime used jugs to transport the water to where it was needed. Eventually he found a way round it, with a bit of banging and hammering no doubt.
In another flash of inspiration I had decided to have another work surface on the other side of the kitchen, with a gap underneath. We currently have a tallish fridge/freezer blocking the way round the foot of the table, but as we got it second hand in the year 2000, we have to accept that it may not last for ever. The space under the work surface would be the ideal place to put a small fridge and a small freezer, We have the power points there (as well as everywhere else). The work surface rests on the chair rail. The chair rail is 83 centimetres above the floor.
Standard fridges and freezers have a height of 84 centimetres.
Back to the drawing board. Luckily the legs supporting the work surface at the front are telescopic and can be wound up a bit further. The chair rail will now sport an extra inch of wood above it. "Leave it with me," said Rod when we were there this March.
And he did find a cooker hood slim-line enough that we can still open up the cover that fits over the cooker hob. What a guy!
As a post script to our first trip to the DIY emporium last September, we were asked to follow Rod back. He had a call to make at the Lidl - great, I bought paella, and other irresistible delicacies - and then he wanted to show us the paving slabs his mate could lay outside the lavvy, so the old man wouldn't have to spend his time hacking through sweet peas when we arrived for our holidays.
It was a hot day, and the middle of the afternoon when we parted at the paving slab supplier's depot. Theoretically our car had air conditioning, but the coolant had needed topping up. "We won't need air conditioning in September," said the Old Man. Top-ups can be quite expensive. The outside temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius that afternoon. We were hot. More importantly, so was the satnav. "Too hot!" it told us. "Cannot function! Aaaaargh." We were driving along a road previously unknown to us, through the middle of the empty French countryside.
If you were in northern France last September and came across an English car with the front passenger window wound down, an arm stuck out, waving a satnav in the breeze to try and cool it down enough that it would tell us where we were and how to get where we wanted to go, that would have been us.
Oh, the display kitchen? They offered to sell it to Rod when he went back, after we had returned to Wales. After we had managed to put together enough units to fill the space available. Apparently it hadn't already been sold, after all.
So, my little chickadees, we are approaching the present day and the current situation with our house in France. It's been a long journey, and there are still things to do, but the end is in sight.
When last we left our intrepid Francophiles, the satellite tv and broadband dishes had been installed, and work was proceeding with the electrification of the house.
Now I have to admit I had gone a little overboard on the electrical sockets. My belief has always been that you can't have too many; so I had some here, some there, and ooh, some more over there, and why not ... anyway, there were plenty. Then we changed our minds about which side to put the tv and broadband hub, so let's have a couple more by the window. Why not? We had an electrician almost permanently at the house.
The house had originally had oil-fired central heating, but in all the years we had been there, we had never managed to get it to work. I had read the instructions, and proceeded as they said, but the sands of time had gathered in the nooks and crannies of the boiler and solidified. The plumber had removed the old fitments, the space had been given to a dishwasher, so now we needed the electric radiators we had decided were the most sensible solution for a house that would not be occupied in the coldest part of the year in any case.
Oh, said Rod the Electric, you need to go to a place in Flers for that, and he rattled off the directions, ending with "You can't miss it". We arranged to meet him at the DIY place the next morning.
Well, we did find the place in the end, after driving through Flers twice and stopping to ask a very helpful lady who was washing the windows of her apartment, and we were only ten minutes or so late. We had allowed for a certain amount of errantry, you see, having had experience of French road signs previously. What can you say of a nation that has road signs indicating the way to "Toutes Directions"? At least the British are more selective, indicating the way to "The North" or "The South".
So we got to the DIY emporium, as I said, snagged a large trolley, and went around practiacally stripping the shelves. Light fittings, more sockets, a pile of electric radiators, undercupboard lighting strips - why not get a few more? - outside lights, inside lights, lights for the staircase and the lavvy, we would have lights everywhere.
Then there was the kitchen section. Now the Old Man had insisted that a new kitchen was way down the list as far as he was concerned. As far as I was concerned, we still had money in the French account, so I took him on a tour around the kitchen units.
It seems the French have a weakness still for Formica. Personally I have a weakness for natural wood, and there was just one kitchen on display with natural wood doors. Look, it's quite cheap! We collared a sales assistant We had worked out on the back of an envelope what units we needed, if we could get doors to fit the existing units on the opposite side to the sink. Could we buy those units?
Non. The kitchen she is discontinued. There is only what there is in store. But perhaps we can get some units from the other shop in Granville.
All is well, Granville has more units, we can get them next week. Doors of such and such a size? Non.
We go to lunch in a restaurant with a WWII aircraft theme, eat les frites au fromage, and lick our wounds.
To be continued.
Yes, I'm just back from a month in France.
And why, when I have all mod cons, inside plumbing and wi-fi, did I not post anything about my wonderful new kitchen?
Well, It wasn't the worst holiday ever; I've already blogged about that, after all. But it was up there.
We always stop over at our sons' place Down South on the way to the ferry. It means we can get the early ferry without driving all night, or the afternoon ferry without getting up at stupid o'clock. Although on this occasion the Old Man decided he didn't want to drive to our French house in the dark so we were on the early ferry. Stupid o'clock it was.
Except that when we stumbled out of the house at 5:30 am, the car wouldn't start. Now I have to say in its defence that it had hiccuped a bit the previous week, but seemed to have recovered. Anyway, we got one of the sons out of bed, and he said not to worry, he could give us a start from his car. And when he finally got the bonnet open (he hasn't had it very long, and obviously hadn't had occasion to top up the screenwash yet) he found the negative terminal on his battery is just too close to something or other (I didn't inquire) to get a crocodile clip on it.
Not to worry, he said, he would call his mate who lives next door. Everything is done by phone now. I'm surprised he didn't send him an email. But in all fairness, his mate next door got out of bed and came to try to get our car going for us, which shows what a stand-up guy he is - thanks, Carl, you're a toff and a gent. Unfortunately it still didn't work. So we called first the ferry company, then the RAC.
The RAC man turned up at 8:30, coincidentally the exact time our ferry was sailing. He sold us an extremely expensive new battery, and off we went. We had to pay to have our booking transferred, and more because they didn't have any inside cabins left, but we did at least get going, on the ferry we would normally have caught anyway. Complete with night-time drive in France, our headlights adjusted for driving on the Continent by having gaffa tape stuck over part of the glass.
We had not been in the house for a week when the Old Man got a pain in his belly. He likened it to being kicked in a delicate part of his anatomy, but it didn't go away. Unless he lay flat on his back. For a few days he even had to eat reclining on the bed like a Roman patrician. We did a check-list of symptoms, and eventually came to the conclusion that he had a kidney stone. Which gave me the opportunity to point out that I always said he doesn't drink enough, but otherwise was not a happy conclusion.
So he spent the rest of the month doing very little, though he gradually improved and was able to come grocery shopping and mow the lawn once. And as I became responsible for the catering, at least we didn't spend the entire time eating sausages.
He was just about well enough by the time we came to depart that he could drive us to the ferry port. Except that we got a message from the ferry company, 36 hours before we were due to sail, to say that the ferry had been cancelled because of "electrical problems". Once again we had to re-book, and once again we ended up paying extra. It was a bit late to go for the next morning's early ferry, we had the final shopping to do and the house to close up for a couple of months, so we ended up on the (more expensive) Saturday overnight ferry. We missed our sons' birthday, and only just got in all the things we needed to do Down South, like taking our French clock, the one with the eccentric Big Ben chimes, to the clock repairer, and having a meal out with the boys. We got back just in time for my first Creative Writing class of the new term on the Wednesday.
Oh, and one more thing. When we were about to disembark at Portsmouth, the car wouldn't start.
So, the decision is made.
Ever since 2002 I have attended the biennial Discworld Convention. I signed up again for this year's festival of madness, together with my oldest and best friend, who always accompanies me. But yesterday evening I phoned her and said how would she feel if I said I didn't want to go, and she said she was going mostly because I wanted to. But now I don't any more.
I don't know why this is, really. I still love Terry and his books just as much as ever. I know he won't be there physically this time, but then he wasn't last time either - he sent his hat to represent him, and it was accorded as much honour as if he were wearing it. Or perhaps more.
Of course there will be a certain amount of sadness that he won't ever be able to attend again in his physical person. But I defy anything to keep the spirits of the conventioneers down for long. And that's not it, anyway.
The thing is, it's just not so much fun any more. Maybe it's got too big: yet again, and in spite of signing up as soon as booking opened, I couldn't get into the convention hotel. There is an overspill hotel (last time I missed out on that too and had to sleep in the overspill overspill hotel). This time there is to be a bus service from the overspill hotel, but of course you then have to take with you everywhere you go whatever you will need during the day, and there won't be anywhere private to rest and make yourself a cup of tea, unless you find a friendly fellow-conventioneer. Of course we could have taken a tent and camped in the official campsite ... no. Really. I don't do camping, and my friend says she doesn't fancy it much any more either.
Maybe I'm just getting older. I don't feel old. I still enjoy a good giggle as much as ever. And the conventions are jolly places. Many years ago at the renowned Hangover Hotel, someone asked the hotel staff if they found us, well, a little weird. Because honestly, we find ourselves a bit weird at times, what with the hall costumes and everything. Anyway, this member of the hotel staff said no, they enjoy having the Discworlders there, because although they had actually drunk the bar dry of Hobgoblin that time, they never started fights, threw up over the premises, or imported ladies of negotiable affection into the hotel. It's always been family-friendly, with activities laid on for children old enough to enjoy them. That was the year we had breakfast with Terry on the final morning. Not that there was anything special about our party; he just had meals with different groups of fans every day, and we were amongst the few who'd stayed an extra night before the journey home. That was the sort of man he was.
And the lectures, games and all the other stuff are never exactly the same from convention to convention. It's all run by volunteers, which is why it happens biennially: there's just too much work for it to be an annual event. New people come and give talks on whatever their thing is - I remember with particular fondness the year there was a chocolate-tasting event.
But for whatever reason the fun has gone out of it. So this year I'll be spending the summer in our house in France, going before the ferries get expensive and returning when they get cheaper again. The old man, who has never got the joke as far as Terry Pratchett is concerned, has agreed to a long stay now that the renovations are so nearly finished (more about that in Sunday's post). And my friend and her husband can come and stay with us for a week or two, so we can spend some time together. Perhaps we can listen to a Discworld audio book, or re-read one of the old ones. But this time someone else can have our places - there are always far more people wanting to attend than there is space for them. Two people on the waiting list are going to be lucky.
I hope too that by the summer I'll have my writing shed set up, and can spend the summer peacefully therein. Maybe even do some actual writing. If I do, I'll be thinking of you. Terry.
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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