Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Past the finishing post!

Well, City of Secrets made 25 chapters, plus prologue and epilogue, instead of the planned 21. By dint of working till 10.30pm on Bank Holiday Monday (early for me), I got it off to agent and publisher and it has also gone to my US editor. Phew!

Now I have to hope that everyone likes it. But I have the luxury of being able to do some quite important other things like getting my passport renewed and answering fanmail and doing a year's worth of filing! Also to have some quality time with friends and family. Which has a new member! My husband's half-brother (23 years younger) became a father for the first time two days ago, to a little girl, born early at full moon. She is as yet without a name but we spent a lot of yesterday organising presents for her. The family live in Mexico so I suppose she won't be exactly a "kissing cousin" for my daughters but it's nice to know she's there!

And youngest daughter is back from Thailand, briefly, in a flurry of suntan, laundry, jetlag and appointments here before going off to London for three weeks. She has been looking after elephants, trekking, jetskiing, snorkelling, seawater kayaking in caves, white water rafting and waterfall jumping - so I think we can say she is definitively better from her CFS.

The one day off at the weekend was spent visiting old friends in London, a publisher and an artist. The artist gave us (GAVE us!) a painting he had done in 1980 of The Rollright Stones - specifically the Kings' Men - which we had been to visit a week or so ago for the first time. We already have his painting of the Sarsen Stone at Avebury so this will make a handsome partner.

I saw The Bourne Identity and the Bourne Supremacy on TV in case I wanted to go and see the new one in the cinema. Not really my kind of film and [SPOILER} a very bad decision to kill off the girlfriend at the beginning of the second film (though it was a given as soon as we saw her) because it gave the hero no-one to talk to about his situation.

Also saw the film of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in the cinema. Not at all bad considering how poor the book was. But real Potter fans are incensed at so much being left out! It was still two and a half hours so I did not feel short-changed.

I heard the amazingly wonderful Simon Bolivar orchestra at the Proms playing Shostakovitch's 10th symphony. These are street kids without prospects rescued by classical music. And they play with as much accuracy and skill as passion, which they had in bucketloads - electrifying!

I read Nicci Gerrard's Things we Thought we Knew, which has some passing similaritiues to my adult novel. And for sheer pleasure re-read Kate Atkinson's Emotionally Weird, an exceptionally funny book.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Never-ending Story

i finished chapter twenty-one of City of Secrets yesterday, which was supposed to be the last, but there's a whole lot more plot to come so I'm supposed to be spending this weekend writing the extra chapter 22. The last two novels I've written have had twenty-one chapters, which sort of feels right but the last time I ran over that (City of Stars) I ended up having to write THREE more. Hope that doesn't happen this time.

The German edition of The Falconer's Knot came this week - it's called Die Farben des Teufels, which means The Colours of the Devil, and has a completely different sort of cover: just a painting of a very handsome young cowled friar, by candlelight, with a big dagger for the T of Teufels. It's very striking.

Rhiannon's new book Bad Blood was launched on 8th with a nice little party at our agent's in London. The table was covered in black crow feathers and red flower petals - very spooky. Amanda Craig gave it a good review in the Times this morning.

I heard John Adams' new opera A Flowering Tree at the Barbican - great music but the libretto and story diabolically bad. Also Gotterdammerung from the Proms on Radio 3 - orchestra terrific but Siegfried missed his high note on the hunting call. I saw two programmes about Elvis and tried to record a third, which seems to have wrecked the DVD player. One was Young Elvis in Colour, which was an irrestibly accurate title. They might as well have called it Sex on a Stick. How absolutely drop dead gorgeous he was!

I read the last Harry Potter which was much more readable than expected, and two books by mates - Adele Geras' A Hidden Life (Orion), which is her best adult novel yet, I think, and A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma, which was very grim in its subject matter and utterly convincing.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Nature's bounty

Everything back to normal after the floods, at least in this bit of West Oxfordshire - many other people not so lucky, I know. I have been head down, writing away all week or re-reading and plotting. Apart from one trip to London - see below.

But it's hard now that summer has at last arrived; there is a strong pull towards the garden swing seat, which must be resisted. I can't work out of doors because I can't see the screen on my laptop properly. Today, Sunday, it is gloriously hot and we've been harvesting plums from our little orchard. Seventeen pounds of them so far and it's only one tree - help! There are a lot motre to come. So, plum crumble, pie, jam etc. And we have a lot of damsons which look as if they'll be ripe to pick next weekend.

We mustn't hang about as we did with the cherries. We have one tree which we thought was another apple, which surprised us all in July by being hung with dark red, almost black, morello-type cherries. We didn't pick them one weekend, being preoccupied with blackcurrants and raspberries, but by the next weekend, when I was in Florence, they they all gone, every single one. Birds are suspected, which I would rather believe than marauding locals.

I saw Italian paintings of the Renaissance and Baroque at the Queen's Gallery by Buckingham Palace. Actually, the best piece by far and an old friend to greet with cries of delight was the exquisite little wooden triptych, which I saw (twice) at the Duccio exhibition in Siena 2003/2004. So neither renaissance nor Baroque. But it was also good to see the Artemisia Gentilleschi self-portrait while painting and compare it with a piece by her father Orazio, which was quite competent but no more. Apart from these, it was very much the B list, we thought. Still the Duccio is worth the admission price.

I finished reading Rose Tremain's Restoration and really enjoyed it. I didn't really understand the ending, after two reads but it did seem redemptive and her prose was always interesting. It was a bold choice to have a hero who was not at all physically or morally attractive.

I read the prize-winning Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, which has Sigmund Freud involved (marginally) in a murder investigation on his one trip to the US in 1909. It purports to explain why Freud never returned and throws in his realtionship with Jung, the Oedipus complex and Shakespeare scholarship. But what a farrago of far-fetchedness! And all for far-fetchedness' sake, it seemed to me.