12 November 2005
These last few days, I've had a couple of thoughts very clearly in my head. One of them is 'I really must stop spending money,' and the other is 'I really should stop drinking a bottle of wine before dinner, because one thing does lead so inexorably to another.'
Both of these are good thoughts, and worth acting on. But days conspire, to sabotage the best of thoughts. Like this:
Three nights ago, I made a decision in the dark hours, and carried it through in the daylight: which was this, that I should approach my old mate John Jarrold about his becoming my literary agent. Any new agency relationship is a plunge into unknown waters, but this was more so than usual, in that I might know John already but his agency is exceedingly new and has no reputation yet. John has his own reputation, which is all good as far as I'm concerned - he's been around a long time, he's deeply invested in the SF/F community, he's run several lists for major publishers, he knows everybody and is widely respected, he still does proper publishing lunches - but whether his undoubted skills are transferrable to agency in the current climate, no one actually knows.
Anyway, I decided to ask him if he'd take me on. Partly this is chicken-heartedness on my part - big businesses scare me, so do strangers, and John is the reverse of both of those - but it could also be a really smart decision. Or a really dumb one. Whichever, I did it in an e-mail, and then couldn't conceivably wait around the house to see whether he replied instantly or later or not today, so I went into town. Not shopping, exactly, because there was nothing I needed to buy; but I came home with a stainless steel citrus juicer and a flexible non-stick pie plate. Neither of these was necessary in any sense - I seldom juice citrus, and seldom bake pies, and could manage perfectly well with what I had on those rare occasions when I do - and I really canít spare the space, let alone the money. But they were bargains, much reduced; and I might suddenly feel an urge to make a dozen margaritas and an apple pie, and if I do, I am now equipped. And anyway, spending money makes me feel better...
So home I came, and checked the e-mail, and John, he had spoken. John, he said yes. Hurrah, and trumpets. And so there followed an afternoon of e-mails whizzing back and forth between us, and it was all very celebratory, and so of course I opened a bottle of wine, why not...?
And that was Wednesday; and on Thursday he sent me an e-mail suggesting a line of fiction that I might like to try, and God, it's so good to have someone sussed and proactive and on my side, when I'd started to feel that my previous agents were actually standing as barriers between me and the marketplace.
As it happens, this particular sideline is something I'd been thinking about anyway, it's a very natural place for me to go ('scuse my being coy, but itís all very early stages just now). So I did some more serious thinking, and then I went off to North Shields for lunch with Kate and a gig by Margaret Murphy. This of course involved both drink and spending money. And Jean and Roger came to the gig, and then I went south with them, to Durham and then Hartlepool, for more drinking and eating and then a gig by Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson. Alcohol, money. And so back to Durham for the night (alcohol) and then home by train in the morning (money). Are you seeing a pattern here?
And so home about midday yesterday, and once I'd fed the cat and given her pills and apologised for absence and so forth, I thought I might sit at the computer and fix the first few paragraphs of this new idea, get the ideas down on paper, that sort of thing.
So I started writing, and didn't really move thereafter till dinner-time, except to open a bottle of wine; and by then I had eight pages, the better part of three thousand words. Whoo, golly. So I ate (black pudding, poached eggs, bubble-and-squeak - I'm starting to sound like a gastropub) and watched a bit of telly, read a book, had a bath - and then went back to the computer and wrote another five pages, to finish the chapter. Less than twelve hours, start to finish. Sheesh, when did I last do that?
So I e-mailed it to John last night and read it through myself this morning, while I was waiting for the computer to warm up. It's very rough, of course, and the significant character changes name halfway through, but hey, I like it anyway, and so does John, who has also read it already; and it was just such fun to write, simple unadulterated pleasure. It would be a joy if we could find a publisher with a commitment to match.
Meantime, I had to go into town this morning for bread and coffee; and being virtuous, I took in a whole load of magazines and junk mail for recycling; and the recycle bin is conveniently close to the Oxfam bookshop, so I nipped in as I do from time to time, and found a Chalet School book as I do from time to time, which is pretty much the sole reason for my nipping in. Not a first edition, but a nice clean copy, with dust-wrapper, twenty quid. Didnít even need thinking about, tho' I think the nice lad behind the till was a little startled. And that was more money, and very likely there will be more wine tonight; and I must stop spending and I really ought not to drink so much, and I can do that, I can cut back on both - but not today...
© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.