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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tuesday already. Tempus fugit. I didn’t mean to leave a five-day gap, but I am adjusting to life as a Grandad - on which subject more later.

It’s getting to that time of year when I really am goal-oriented. 1,000 words, day after day, rain or shine. It’s the only way to make sure you meet your deadlines. The first four of the Mike Pannett books came out at 90-100,000 words and in each case we delivered to the publisher for Christmas. This year, knowing that I’d be away for six months, I asked to extend that to late January. Rupert, our editor, said it wasn’t a problem as my manuscripts need less work than just about anybody else he deals with. (I should hope so too.) I am about to embark on the 11th of 12 (but possibly 13) chapters of the as yet untitled fifth volume. Our hero has gone to the factory where the guy cut his arm off, seen him into the ambulance, then raced across the river to capture two youths who were stripping lead off a roof, and is now driving home to his rural retreat for a well-earned supper, probably a brace of pheasants. I’d like to say they’re casseroled in red wine, the way I prefer to cook them, but I’m not sure that’s his style. He’s more of a roasting guy - which is fine: I just hope he remembers to put some strips of fat bacon over the breasts, and throw a parsnip into the tray; plus a few shallots.

Yesterday’s excitement was reading through my year-end accounts as prepared by the accountant I hired last year. For ten years I did my own, but in this new era of comparative prosperity (for me, not the nation - and in any case it would be more accurate to say ‘solvency’) - in this new era I decided to get professional help, and become an employee of my own company, Injury-Time Ltd. I like being M.D. and C.E.O. of my own company - and admitting, like Thomas Mitchell in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance that I ‘also sweep the place out’- but I do not like having to put “employed” on forms I fill in. Anyway, the good news is that I have enough in the bank to met the demand when it arrives. Trouble is, it’ll clean me out; but that’s just further incentive to finish this book as soon as possible: we get a substantial payment upon delivery (and acceptance) of the manuscript.  One by one, as I complete them, I am passing the chapters over to Mike. He and his wife will go through them all and insert bits and pieces of police procedural matter, correct errors, suggest additional material, and whizz them back to me. I do a final re-write, they do a final check, I polish once more, and off the whole thing goes to Rupert.

While this is going on we are all currently on tenterhooks. A week or two ago our agent sent off a great package of material to a US publisher, trying to persuade them that this series will sell Stateside, pretty much as the James Herriot books did in the 1970s. I am convinced that they would go down well, especially at a time of economic hardship and uncertainty. Our stories are set in the same part of the world (rural North Yorkshire) and, I understand, are similar in tone. Nothing too ghastly happens, and as a counterpoint to the police work we often follow the main characters back to Keepers Cottage, a little old place tucked away in the woods; or to the local pub, the Jolly Farmers at Leavening. So yes, watch out America: the Brits are coming!  (Probably.) If an American deal is clinched - how much of my life as a writer has been overshadowed by that infamous two-letter word? - I will celebrate loud and long and treat myself to… I’m not sure what, but I dare say I’ll get something expensive and unnecessary - most likely with a cork at one end.

So, grandfatherhood. It is doubly wonderful. Not only is there the delight of seeing, and holding, a new baby - and a most adorable one at that, with a very soft, fuzzy head of hair and a wonderfully expressive face - but there’s the huge pleasure of seeing my daughter and her husband absolutely head-over-heels in love with him. They are in raptures, so I suspect the little fellow is off to a good start in life.
I don’t like the look of the weather out there: it’s very grey, very windy and starting to get quite cold. I’m off to York in a few hours to watch my team take on an outfit from another cathedral city, Lincoln. Yet again it’ll be tense; and yet again, we need  the win after three successive draws. I’ll report on that in my next posting - unless we lose, in which case I may sulk.