Yes, I’m finally doing something with the novels. I’ve written four and a bit, currently writing my sixth for NaNoWriMo 2012. The ‘bit’ by the way is a conversion of a 102-page script I wrote for the now-defunct Script Frenzy back in April 2010.
The first one which has now gone live is my 101K chick lit, The Serial Dater’s Shopping List. Here’s the tagline and synopsis:
- 31 men in 31 days – what could possibly go wrong?
- Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month. Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong. Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleague and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s non-too-healthy African Grey parrot.
Below is the beginning of Chapter 1…
They say it takes less than ten seconds to make a first impression.
“How’s it going, Izzy?”
I look up and there, looming, is William, my boss. My boss-for-not-very-much-longer-if-I-don’t-get-this-article-right boss.
“Good thanks,” I reply. “Have it done in no time,” I lie.
“Excellent. First copy on my desk by two, okay?”
Every time he says it, I think about how much easier it would be to email it to him, or let him get it off the server, but he’s a rather old-fashioned editor and to him, paper is king. I just nod, smile and say, “Sure.”
My readers know me as Isobel MacFarlane; but I’m Izzy Mac to my friends. The only people to call me Isobel are my mother and my boss; especially when I was little and being naughty (to my mother, that is). My boss, William Stamp, calls me Izzy when he wants something, which is most of the time, but if things aren’t going his way… you get the idea.
Being one of the few single girls in the office, and because I write a technology column, he’s instructed me to set up a profile on NorthantsDating.co.uk. So armed as ‘tallgirlnn2’, I’m to line up a date a night for the next thirty-one days and write about it, because it’s never been done at this paper before. I can see why.
I should count myself lucky; colleague Donna’s latest task on her ‘Health & Beauty’ section is yo-yo dieting. She has to find a new angle as it’s been written about to death, but then so has dating, I suppose.
With my profile containing the barest of loosely-based facts (okay, no facts yet other than my first name), up and running, I already have one message from ‘DBvet’: ‘Hi. I see you’ve just joined. Me too! I’m local and not really sure what to write, so will just let you check me out.’ Short and sweet.
Clicking on the ‘view his profile’ button, I learn that Duncan is forty-two with his own vet’s practice. I assume he’s six-feet as his profile says five-feet-twelve which makes me laugh. A good start. There’s no photo, but I can’t complain as I haven’t uploaded one either. I’d come to the conclusion that if this were truly going to be a blind-date project then seeing photos would rather defeat the object. I work for a local rag and although my smiling portrait appears above my column six days a week, it’s old enough and black & white enough to look nothing like me, and I figure the town’s big enough to get away with it. Besides, people are only ever interested in what the article says, not who writes it, aren’t they?
I send a rather forward ‘you sound nice, let’s meet’ message, and then read on. Duncan’s interests include ‘animals’ (no surprise there), ‘reading’ (I’m a big fan too), and ‘cinema’ (who doesn’t?). There’s no mention of the other cliché, ‘eating out’, but unless he’s a couch potato, that’s going to be a tick.
He replies suggesting ‘The Picturedrome’, which does lovely food, so no couch potato. We’re just meeting for a drink or two… the paper’s budget only stretches so far and with thirty-one dates on the menu, it may end up being a drink or one.
I reply to his message and hit the ‘send’ button.
So, back to the article or what there is of it.
They say it takes less than ten seconds to make a first impression.
I had hoped reading it again would open the floodgates, but sadly it doesn’t do the trick. I sit and stare at the screen. The cursor flashes encouragingly, but like the page before me, I’m pretty much blank.
I remember a friend from years ago; Sarah, and her list of things she ‘didn’t do’.
“Shopping list. I need a shopping list,” I mutter, but sense someone hovering over my desk. Surprise, surprise, it’s William.
“Aren’t you a bit too busy to be thinking about food? That’s Donna’s department.”
I grin and pretend to type. He’s not usually fooled, but I smile as he walks back to his office with the cup of coffee he’s just made himself. His PA, Janine, has called in sick, which has made him even more miserable than usual. Not that I blame her.
I open a Word document of notes I’ve ingeniously called ‘Notes’ (to go with ‘31 dates art. 0105’ for the article itself). Remembering what Sarah did and didn’t ‘do’, I create a table with such neatness that it could be classed as inane (I did say I’m a techie). A journalist or secretary would understand, and for the next thirty-one days, I’m both; journalist by day and ‘secretary’, when quizzed about my profile, by night.
I start typing the list, but soon run out of lines, so add a few… then a few more. Twenty-five lines later, I’m done. I stare at the screen. The ‘don’t’ column dominates the ‘do’, so I fill in the missing ‘do’s.
Don’t do (in no particular order)
- Trainers with smart suit
- Greasy hair / dirty fingernails
- Too young or too old
- Too short
- No arse
- Boring conversation (accountant)
- Couch potato
- Nauseatingly smooth
- Geek or train-spotter
- Old-fashioned (pipe / slippers)
- Addiction of any kind
- Wants kids
- Moustache or beard, unless goatee
- Too feminine
- No hard drugs
- Too ugly or self-indulgent pretty boys
- Orange sun tans / leathery skin
- Never left Northampton
- Beer bottle glasses
- Slurps his drink
- Sweats like a pig
Do (in a very particular order)
- Funny / good conversation (binman)
- Smart appearance (clean hair etc.)
- Some ambition (i.e. not a layabout)
- Keeps up-to-date with current events
- Likes similar music / interests etc.
- Well-travelled / interesting
- Likes animals
- Rugby physique
- Pays his way
- Oh, and did I say tall?
I look at the reference to the binman and laugh. It’s reminded me of a conversation I’d once had with Sarah where she wanted someone with money and I’d said I’d rather date a humorous binman than a tedious accountant. Being an accounts assistant, I don’t think she found that very funny which just went to prove my point.