At last, I sit down to my oeuvre, clutching a mug of steaming coffee, having just finished the day's work displacement activities, which have yielded gratifying results in the form of a leaf-free back garden and a clean kitchen floor (involving actually getting down on my hands and knees and scrubbing it after an epic fail with Sophia's string mop... now there's a device crying out to be reinvented!).
Now, where was I? Oh yes, having to rewrite the whole story, thanks to my new style adviser.
Speak of the devil! My iPhone has just leapt into action, flashing 'Franny mob'.
'I've remembered what it was about the Alsatian!' She sounds breathless.
I take a sip of coffee and wait in trepidation.
'It wasn't you. I think you must have told the story while we were in India. It was one of those urban myths about a girl whose friends had arranged a surprise birthday party for her, don't you remember?'
'They were all hiding in the sitting room waiting for her, but when she came home, she went straight into the kitchen. They waited for ages for her to come out, so they could leap up and shout, 'Surpri-ise!' but she never appeared. So finally they crept into the kitchen and there she was, lying on the floor, naked, covered in ice cream with an Alsatian licking it off.'
'Oh ye-es!' What a relief to discover it wasn't me! 'I could adapt that for my bestseller, couldn't I? Especially if it were a nice brand of ice cream...'
'Maybe you could look into Heston Blumenthal's new range ... except they're weird flavours like mustard...'
'Ooh no, that could be very painful. I think it needs to be something like...'
'Eugh. No, Haagen-Dazs Pralines and Cream, topped with that squirty frothy cream, or whipped product as Dan calls it.'
'You could add some mini marshmallows,' muses Franny. 'The children love those...'
'Except they won't actually be my target audience. But yes, marshmallows, especially if they could be toasted and oozing... and lashings of hot chocolate sauce...'
'No, you can't have that,' Franny warns. 'You don't want to give the dog chocolate poisoning. That would ruin the evening - just as she's getting all excited, she'd have to race off to the emergency all-night vet.'
'OK, hot butterscotchy fudge sauce... mmmm.'
'And a sprinkling of crushed nuts.'
'No, that'll put my male readers off.' I must say, though, this writing partnership is marvellous for crystallising one's ideas. I think we're really pushing the envelope and digging deep here. 'Now,' I say in my businesslike editor's voice, 'I have a problem with the Alsatian. I feel there's too much jeopardy involved ... I think the dog's got to be cuter and less likely to take a chunk out of her. A spaniel puppy, maybe?'
'No,' dismisses Franny. 'It's got to be masculine and intelligent and lean and beautiful.'
There's a pause while I go through masculine dogs in my mind's eye. A Great Dane? No. Would be almost like Catherine the Great. 'What about an Old English Sheepdog? It would go with the man in the fisherman's jumper, all friendly and woolly.'
'No.' Franny's sounding quite severe. 'It's got to be something like a Weimarana or a pointer, very handsome and sleek.'
'I'm surprised. I'd have thought the Weimarana and the pointer go with the rakish man in the leather jacket. They're all a bit close-cropped and macho.'
Franny sticks to her guns. 'I want my man with the woolly jumper to have masses of dark hair, but I want my dog handsome and sleek, not a shaggy dog story.'
'What about a wolfhound - the sort people have in pairs?'
'Yes,' she concedes. 'That would be OK. A very handsome wolfhound.'
Now we're getting somewhere. A pair of wolfhounds! Yes, it's all coming together. Eliza Gray, artist, breaking down social taboos! And boundless merchandising opportunities for the more mature reader - dog collars, recipes,