Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Temporary Adieu

And so, Gentle Reader, we part company for a while. This week I'm at the Edinburgh Book Festival and then the Islay Book Festival and THEN, from the next Monday till 2nd October ... Hawthornden Writers' Retreat. I have high hopes and a fair degree of nervousness about it all, so wish me luck! I will be posting again in October so please PLEASE come back then!

Cheers, Joan.

P.S. I didn't get the job mentioned in the last post. Poop. Double poop, in fact. Oh well, never mind. At least I didn't dribble or fall over during the interview.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Thanks to the BBC Weather site for the photo. Though to be an accurate picture of my life just now, the willow tree should be flailing wildly and a good number of slates starting to lift ...

I didn't plan for there to be so much going on in the last weeks of the summer - all I did was say Yes to stuff. Between now and the day I go to Hawthornden for the writer's retreat, I have committed myself to 5 Wickit Chronicles events, 3 Tales from the Keep events, 1 Questors/Seventh Tide event, a Summer Reading Challenge medal ceremony, 6 train trips, 2 flights and a job interview (about which I am saying nothing, for fear of jinxing it). I have just finished the editing for Night of the Kelpies for Barrington Stoke and The Case of the London Dragonfish for Catnip Books. I'm almost finished the final draft of The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul. And the Teachers' Notes for the Wickit books need to be finalised and got up on the website ...

Am I telling you this so that you can go "Oooo - she's so busy - she must be really important and popular!"? No. The moral of this story should probably be closer to "Oooo - she's so busy - why can't she plan her life better? She must be really dumb!" On the other hand, which of the things I'm going to do would I want to lose? And there's the problem - there isn't anything I wish I'd said No to.

So wish me luck and good health (this would be a REALLY bad time to get Swine Flu - as opposed to all those other GOOD times to get it.)

Cheers, Joan.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

She Came, She Saw, She Ebayed


You might not call it by the name "propelling pencil" or "mechanical pencil" but you're sure to have seen them. They've been around since Victorian times - those pencils where, as you use the lead, more is pushed forward by a slider or a switch or a turny knob. Saves you having to sharpen them. When I was a kid there was a phase of your auntie from Mississauga sending you one for Christmas. They were made of plastic and had three nibs - red, green and blue - that you could choose between with the shove of a switch. Until you accidentally pushed two at once, the thing jammed, and you couldn't even use it to write your thank you letters on Boxing Day. So much promise, so little delivery. (So like presents from aunties generally, in my sad experience. If you have an auntie who gives
good presents, cherish her - she's not the norm!)

You can't really see it very well from the seller's picture but THIS is a beautiful silver propelling pencil from 1876, with a screw top to push the lead forward, and a gorgeous swirling pattern incised all over - AND IT'S MINE! The feisty main character in The Slightly Jones Mysteries has just such a mechanical pencil - the Victorians loved gadgets almost as much as my boys - and I had idly thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to get hold of one myself?" A thought followed immediately by "I expect they're REALLY expensive!"

Normally, they are.

And then I braved Ebay! I dipped my toes more than once, but the dealers aren't stupid, and my cautious bids kept getting blown out of the water by people who knew exactly how much profit there would be for them through their bijou antique shop markup. (Yes, there are people out there who collect pencils ...) And then I got my lucky break. The seller put the closing time at 8pm on a Sunday evening, and most of the dealers must have been out having a life somewhere, because there were only 7 bids all told - and I got it for £10.! YAHOO! (As in YIPPEE, not as in computer search thing.)

My Victorian pencil still has working Victorian lead in it, but I won't be using it to write thank you letters or anything else. I just like to look at it. It'll be good as a prop for school events too, of course, but I won't be putting it down as an allowable expense come income tax time. Really, I just bought it for me.

Cheers, Joan.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Apologies and Cats

Well, I didn't manage to post in Canada - or the day I got back either - but here's an ABBA post to keep you going, and I'll do one for this blog this Saturday ... promise!

Joan (Home Again, and Resolving to be more Reliable in Future)