Friday, 29 June 2012

This book business

Without a doubt, the best news this week is that Transworld has offered Marcia another two-book contract. For those of you who don't know how all this works I will explain. If you do know, please skip the rest of this section.

The whole cycle takes two years. At the beginning of year one, Marcia starts brooding on a new book. She has no contract for the publication of this one so it a complete act of faith. Having brooded, travelled around finding locations, listened to all the voices, travelled down a number of dead ends, been thrilled when things start coming together and driving her long suffering husband completely mad, she starts writing. That will be in or around month four. The next six months are spent in the actual writing of the book.

The first port of call for the manuscript is Marcia's agent, Dinah Wiener. Dinah may or may not have some suggestions to make which she feels would improve the book. If she does, then Marcia will work right through making alterations as she thinks fit (for she does not always agree with Dinah's ideas). Once Marcia and Dinah are happy, the book is sent to Transworld and we all sit back biting our nails waiting to hear whether or not the manuscript will meet the approval of her editor, Linda Evans. There are a number of options. The first is that the book is turned down flat (although this has yet to happen to Marcia), the second is that Linda wants to see some major alterations to the book before agreeing to accept it. The third (and this happened this year) is that Linda is quite happy to go ahead straight away – but that does not mean that there will be no issues to deal with later.

Once the editor is happy, a presentation is made to the Acquisitions Committee. This will include some people from marketing, sales and accounts as well as the editors and they will have available all Marcia's sales figures as well as the manuscript. Assuming the committee agrees to publish, Transworld will make a two-book offer. We are now probably in month nine or ten.

Shortly afterwards, Marcia will receive Linda's 'editorial notes' which will offer various ideas – again for the betterment of the book. Once more, Marcia will work through the manuscript. She very rarely makes the exact changes that the editors request but she takes each comment as a pointer that something needs to be improved and she will ensure that each point is dealt with.

Once the manuscript is accepted, Marcia can relax and start to allow herself to relax. With any luck there will be a month during which she can chill out and build up her reserves. Meanwhile, the spotlight turns on me. In order to give Marcia a decent break between books, I do the majority of the work on the copy edited manuscript and also the proof reading when the time comes. The job of the copy editor (or line editor as this person is called in the United States) is to ensure that all the punctuation is correct, no grammatical errors, no stylistic errors such as unintentional word repetitions and that there are no mistakes of fact. This last can mean real facts – such as the author mentioning the Statue of Liberty in London – or fictional facts – such as the author talking about a two-year old seven months after the child was born. Yvonne Holland has been Marcia's copy editor for many years now and she is first class. My job is to bring to Marcia's attention and suggestions Yvonne makes which I feel may not be acceptable. There are very few of these, I should add, but the author always has the final say.

Then, at the start of year two, the whole process is repeated. The only difference is that now Marcia is working to a contract – something that she takes very seriously indeed. The last thing she wants is for the 'second book of the contract' to be in any way inferior to the first.

* * * * * *

Another country – another contract.

Marcia wrote four books under the name Willa Marsh. Willa is the spiky, rather cynical and definitely naughty side of Marcia and these books were published by Sceptre. Incidentally, it was as Willa Marsh that Marcia was reviewed in The Times.

Few years ago, a French Publisher – Éditions Autrement Littératures – decided to publish these four books. As of today, three are out and the fourth is in production. One of them, as I mentioned a while back, has caught the attention of a French film company and they have bought the rights and matters appear to be progressing satisfactorily.

If you want to watch a French television presenter talking about Willa in what, I am pleased to report, is a very positive and enthusiastic way then click here. He is, of course, talking in French which may put you off.

Anyway, EAL would have liked Willa to have written more books but she hasn't. So, they have started reading some of the ones Marcia wrote and have picked on The Children's Hour – but only on condition that it is written by Willa. After a lengthy and serious discussion, Marcia and Willa have now agreed that this may be the case.

Marcia's French agent, in an email to Dinah said, "Editions Autrement, part of Flammarion, have had considerable success with her Willa Marsh titles. They want to continue to publish some of Marcia's novels written under her real name, beginning with THE CHILDREN?S HOUR of which they say: They think French readers appreciate the "Willa Marsh qualities" (tight plot, lightly cynical humor, tenderness for her older characters)."

Marcia is especially pleased with the bit about her older characters!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Here is a weather warning

It is said that the major topic of conversation in England is the weather. Well, that is hardly surprising when you think that we have just seen the longest day this summer come and go and still the rain pours down and gales continue to assault the house and do great damage in the garden. It has been so cold that we have turned the central heating on again – in June, for heavens sake.

We have always had one problem: the terrace faces south and the wall of the house is painted white. When the weather is hot, the terrace becomes rather unbearable as the walls act as heat reflectors and there is no shade other than that made by an umbrella. We have had a running battle with Dennis on this subject every since we came here. Dennis is the local painter and decorator and over the years has become a very good friend. Our reaction to this huge slab of white was to grow something up it – wisteria would have been good but then so would a vine or a Virginia creeper – but Dennis would have none of it. Apart from making painting the place very difficult there was the risk of damaging the walls.
Dennis, in Marcia's study.
So, not knowing that we would be leaving here this year, I had a brilliant idea. I would grow tall things in pots. I would stand the pots against the wall during the summer and they could be moved to a more sheltered environment from the winter and, of course, when Dennis came to paint the house (which he does every three years).

It was a very bad mistake.

For example, I have these lovely spindle trees – three of them are quite short bushes of the species Euonymus alatus and three of them are tall spindly affairs: probably Euonymus bungeanus although I am not sure as these were given to me by a friend. Being very invasive, there is merit in keeping them in pots (although that raises problems of feeding and watering) so they were perfect candidates for this going onto the terrace.
Two of the tall spindle trees flanking a Euonymous alatus and some lupins.
One of the other E. alatus. In the autumn the foliage turns a wonderful colour (which is why we bought these). We shall be taking these with us when we leave.

So, I thought would a container of sweet peas and a few lupins. These were also brought on in a sheltered part of the garden.

Of course, what I had not taken into consideration was the fact that we would be buffeted by so much wind. The taller spindle trees are now showing all the signs of suffering from damage to their roots thanks to wind rock (and that despite being staked), the poor sweet peas were wrenched and battered and we though we had lost them although they are now showing signs of recovery and the lupins have had chunks torn off as the gales howled.

Sweet peas, battered but bearing up bravely.
Meanwhile, Colin – he who helps me keep the garden from becoming a wilderness – has had very few days here because there is no point in coming over when the rain is pouring from the sky. Suddenly, about two weeks ago, we had three very hot days one after the other. He seized one of these to weed the lavender hedge that we planted last year and it was so hot he had to wear a hat to protect himself from the sun.

No wonder we talk about the weather!


As I expected, the last of the froglets have now gone, returned to the margins of the upper pond which, being horribly overgrown, makes a perfect sanctuary for them.

Will there be any tadpoles to care for after we move? Tell you next year.

Friday, 15 June 2012

On the move

After a good deal of thought, Marcia and I have decided that the time has come to downsize and move a bit closer to civilisation (using that word in the loosest of definitions). The problem is that buying and selling property is right up there with divorce and bereavement when it comes to stress. And then, right out of the blue, some long standing friends of ours (we have known them for about twenty-five years) on hearing of our thoughts told us that the tenant in a property they own had just left. The property was about to be completely redecorated and would we like to rent it while we sorted ourselves out?

There is only one sensible answer to such a question and so we put this place on the market. Whether or not we shall sell it I have no idea (it is not the best of times to be selling property) but it went on the market on Wednesday and we have had two couples come to view it: fingers crossed. Then we can draw breath and decide on what we want to do.

Yesterday a parcel of books arrived: five copies of The Summer House as published in the US by Tom Dunne Books (an imprint of St Martin's Press). They are truly beautiful. Once again the Americans have used a painting by Vitali Komarov on the cover. Marcia likes his work so much that we bought one of his originals. If you want to check out his work he has a web site:


Last week I said that 'things are on the move'. It turns out that was a vast understatement. Once these fellows started to grow legs and turn into proper little froglets, there seems to be no holding them. Most have now been released back in the top pond and about a hundred are still with us – including the tiniest of all.

I have no real idea why it should be but we do seem to have had more fatalities this year than is usual. Even so, I reckon the exercise was well worth doing as at least eighty per cent have survived and that is far, far more than would be case had they been left in the pond.

I suspect this will be the last tadpole times for this year – the others will have gone within the week. As to whether we shall be talking about them again next year I have no idea: it will depend entirely on where we are when the time comes.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Getting better, getting wet, getting bigger

Marcia's readers are really lovely people. A huge thank you to all of you who have sent in emails – or commented on this site. I am only sorry that it has been impossible to answer all of them. This is very unusual as in normal circumstances Marcia insists that the only emails that are ignored are the ones that contain foul language or rant on in an extremist way about Marcia's sympathy with people who, finding life difficult, do things of which the ranter disapproves. These are in a tiny minority – over the years the count is less than twenty – and are, in my opinion, written by people who have fashioned their own god in their own image.

However, these are not normal circumstances and I fear that a few emails have remained unanswered simply because we couldn't keep up. Must do better!

Just to keep you up to date: Marcia sees the surgeon again on Monday and he should have the result of the latest biopsy. The wounds are healing well and so there doesn't seem to be a problem with them. Next week I shall let you know what the consultant has to say.

So, what have we been up to this week? The answer, as you would expect, is not a lot, really. The weather has been generally dreadful which has meant that what we had planned to do – which was to go to various places where I need photographs for the Marcia Willett's West Country book that I am writing – had to be shelved. The forecast isn't that good for next week either so . . . Nevertheless, I did take one picture on the way to the surgery. If you have read The Way We Were you will remember that the slogan TO THE WEST. You get some good views right into Cornwall from the old main road through the west of Devon but it seems we are never there when the visibility is really good. It was not good when this was taken.

Meanwhile, of course, we weren't the only ones affected by the weather. It was, to say the least, impressive to watch on television the Queen's Diamond Jubilee being celebrated throughout the country and to be able to watch her and the Duke of Edinburgh on the River Thames during the River Pageant. For two people of their ages to stand for so long in such conditions was truly incredible. How sad, then, that the Queen did not have her 'rock' (as she describes the Duke) beside her when she attended the truly magnificent Jubilee Service in St Paul's Cathedral.

It is interesting when I look through the photo files that there are some photographs that I am absolutely certain that I took that I just can't find. Obviously with a photo collection with (literally) thousands of pictures in it, there has to be some method but clearly some images fall through the net. Yesterday I spent over an hour and a half not finding one such. I have given up and that now appears on the 'photo needs' list.


Things are on the move. After weeks when all that happened was that the small little critters gradually turned into bigger little critters, the last few days has seen changes which I am sure have taken place far faster than in usual years. Now something like a quarter have developed both back legs (which come first) and front legs – at which point they are moved into senior school which includes rocks and things so that they can climb out of the water when they want to, rather less water (to discourage them from climbing out over the school wall) and virtually no food as they give up eating while they are absorbing their tails: already one or two now have half tails. As soon as the tails go, they are put back in the pond on top of pond weed near the side so they can decide whether they want to stay in the water or not. Here are some of sitting on one of the stones - look away now, Tracey!

Meanwhile, the really tiny one is still with us although I have no idea what will happen to him. Oh, well, yes. You are quite right. It could be a her.