Friday, 28 December 2007

Old leaves and new shoots

I like the lull between Christmas and New Year - these days of curling up on the sofa to read books and eat Roses, assembling new Lego sets and finding 900 batteries for all the new Christmas games, settling down in front of corny films, and catching up with friends for mulled wine and mince pies. The quietness and stillness is comforting after the shrieks and excitement of the Big Day.

Yesterday, my son and I ventured out to the back garden to rake up all the leaves that were piling up in the flowerbeds. Never had to do that in the old place as the garden was so titchy there, we only had room for one small rowan tree, a few flowers and a scrap of lawn. The new garden isn't what you'd call big either, but we've got a couple of gorgeous cotinuses, a cherry tree and ahem some other large bushy thing so have had loads of lovely leaves to pick up. It was great discovering previously hidden new green shoots that were poking up in the flowerbeds - I'm excited about what secrets this garden will reveal in spring. I've spotted some snowdrops coming through but the others are still a mystery.

It's been quite a year, 2007. Any Way You Want Me published in April, moving house and city in July, and a marriage proposal in August. I'm looking forward to seeing what other green shoots come up in 2008...

PS I nearly forgot to add this brilliant news... Any Way You Want Me has been picked as one of Keris's Top Ten of 2007 over at Trashionista! How fab is that?!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Difficult question

I blame The Polar Express.
I rented it as a Christmassy end-of-term treat and we all five snuggled on the sofa to watch it under a duvet last night. Bloody rubbish it was. Total mish-mash of ideas, weird bunch of characters, and worst of all, it dared to suggest to kids the possibility that not everyone believes in Father Christmas (why do kids' films DO this?)

This morning at breakfast, I was literally just thinking how relieved I was that my three (aged 7, 5 and 3) still believed in FC and the wretched film hadn't been one huge spoiler, when my eldest daughter said, "Sometime I think it's really the parents who put presents in children's stockings and not Father Christmas at all."

Nooooooo!
Nooooooooooo!
Don't think that! Luckily I was making a coffee and had my back to her so she couldn't see the aaarrgggh face I pulled. I turned round and her eyes were upon me, questioning. Shit. I was really stuck for what to say. I didn't want to tell a whopping great lie but at the same time, I didn't want to bludgeon her with the truth, especially as son was listening in.

"Oh, you've got to believe," I said, "otherwise you'll have to go on the Polar Express."
Her eyes brightened. "Oh cool!" she said. "I really want to go on the Polar Express!"

I made an escape with the coffee before we had to talk about it any more. (It was a crap answer, though, wasn't it? What should I have said??)

Ahhh well. Apart from this little blip, life is good, school's finished for Christmas and we are all feeling festive. And on that note, I'm going to sign off for a few days with a big fat Merry Christmas to blog readers everywhere. CHEERS!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Paranoid

Author paranoia is a dreadful thing. I have been waiting for the last few weeks to hear my agent's thoughts on the first half of my new novel. Of course, during that time, I have convinced myself that

1) The new novel is absolute crap
2) Agent can't bring himself to tell me the new novel is absolute crap and is hoping I'll forget about sending it
3) Lucy Diamond is soon to be a washed-up has-been author
4) Who was I trying to kid? My career is over and I might as well give up

etc etc. Soul-destroying, or what?

BUT it turns out that due to missed emails and a malfunctioning Blackberry, my agent never received the ms in the first place, and then, when he finally read it and sent his response, his email never reached me! Bloody technology!!! It has almost driven me to a nervous breakdown of angst and misery. From now on, it's paper and a quill pen and the good old Royal Mail all the way from me. Except when I need to blog things, of course. Ahem.

Anyway, I did get his feedback last night. And...deep breath...he really likes the ms, and said all sorts of fab things about it that I'm far too modest to type up here.
So I think it's going to be a happy Christmas after all. Lucy Diamond lives to write another day!!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

What's in a name?

What with Christmas parties and treats and all the rest of it, there seems to be a high sugar content in the kids' diets at the moment (oh all right, and mine as well) so I have become a bit of a nazi about tooth-brushing.

"But WHY do we need to brush our teeth?" grumbled my three-year-old this morning.

"Because if you don't, they'll go rotten and drop out," I told her.

"Will YOURS drop out?"

"I hope not. Maybe when I'm an old old grandma or something," I said vaguely.

She looked appalled at the thought. "When are YOU going to be a grandma?"

I gave her a hug. "Don't worry, I'll always be your mummy. But when you're all grown-up, if you have a baby one day, that will make me a grandma as well."

She thought about it. "I WILL have a baby," she decided. "And I will call her Anna-Rose."

"Ahh," I said. "That's a lovely name."

She thought about it some more. "No, not Anna-Rose," she said. "I will call her Little Lord Jesus."

Well, there's something to look forward to.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas treats

It's been a strange old week. But it's ended on a high note at least. Went to Birmingham yesterday to meet my mum and dad for a Christmas-treat trip to see Peter Pan at the Rep Theatre. I've got a soft spot for Birmingham. We went there a lot as a child, partly because 1) my mum is a Brummie, 2) my Granny (Birmingham Granny as she was known) lived there and 3) my dad was (still is) a Villa season ticket holder, so quite often he and my brother would go and see a match, while my mum took the girls shopping. (Sometimes I would go and see the match instead of my brother but apparently I would spend most of the first half asking when I was going to get some crisps. And Villa always lost or some important player got crocked whenever I went so in the end my brother decided I was a CURSE who should never darken the gates of Villa Park again. Luckily I knew my place - the shops.)

Anyway, we all had a great day out. Birmingham is so fab, everyone we spoke to there was just so friendly and lovely, and there was a brilliant atmosphere wherever we went. (I am definitely a city girl. Could never do that living in the middle of nowhere thing.) There was a huge German Christmas market with lots of fairy-light-covered stalls offering steaming mulled wine and wooden toys. There was a big helter-skelter and carousel in town, all lit up, and an ice rink near Symphony Hall, ohhhh it just all felt so lovely and Christmassy. Just what we needed, a bit of sparkle.

And Peter Pan was fab, especially all the flying around bits. "How do they DO that?" my son marvelled in the interval. "Are they all magicians?"
"No," said Eldest Daughter wisely. "They've got ropes round their necks or something. Invisible ropes. But why is Peter Pan wearing a SKIRT? That's what I want to know."
I actually found myself getting a bit sniffly at the very end, where the music rose to a crescendo and Peter soared up into the air for one last time, twirling around in mid-air in a very balletic sort of way. There's something about the Not Wanting to Grow Up theme that resonates with me even now. I guess Christmas is the one time of year when you can indulge yourself by feeling like a child again.

Something incredible has happened this morning. I actually managed to read in bed for a whole HOUR. And even then nobody came in crying saying, Mum he hit me!, or Mum I need a drink!, or Mum she opened the advent calendar and it's MY turn. Spooky. The kids have been playing a game where they're scientists on a boat for hours. Meanwhile, I'm still in my dressing gown having just got out of bed, having read hundreds of pages. Now that's what I call a Christmas treat!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Tess

We got her from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in January 2000. “She’ll probably be scared when you first get home with her,” they said as they put her in a cat-carrier. She wasn’t. We opened the box in our living room, and out she jumped. Then she lay on her side to have her tummy stroked. No scaredy-cat, our Tess.

She was the stripiest tabby you’ve ever seen, small and daft, extremely friendly and cheeky. She’d do this cute begging thing where she sat up on her back legs and rubbed her front paws together, as if she was praying. “You could get her in a cat-food advert, doing that,” people said when they saw her.

She was there at the births of all the children, just keeping me company in that instinctive animal way. She knew something special was happening.

Everyone knew her, in our old road in Brighton. She’d be in and out all of their houses, begging for titbits, doing her cute party trick. “She’s too fat,” the vet complained and we had to put a note on her collar: Do Not Feed Me – Greedy, Not Hungry.

I think she liked living here. She liked lying on the sunny patio outside the kitchen, exploring the alley at the back of the house, sleeping under my son’s bed. She liked catching the rats from our next door neighbour’s compost heap and dragging them into our house. (I wasn’t quite so keen on that bit.)

But she went missing on Saturday night. We have been up and down the alley, calling her name, round the neighbouring streets too. Youngest daughter has been especially worried – she sees Tess as her sibling, the only person in the family she gets to boss around.

Today we called the Cats and Dogs Home and the vet to see if she’d been found. She had. She’d been hit by a car and killed.

H-t-b has just buried her in the garden. And I’m sitting here having a bit of a cry. And wondering how we’re going to break it to the kids. They are going to be so upset, I know. I can't bear it.
Goodbye Tess. You were such a sweetheart.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Roots part 2

So, we went on the house-hunt today. It was really exciting, striding off to find actual houses built by an actual ancestor hundreds of years ago! It felt like a really wonderful treasure hunt.
As I said (pay attention), my great-etc grandpa William Osmund built two houses in Bath, not far from the Royal Crescent (la-di-dah!) so off we went to seek them out, A-Z in hand. It was so exciting, thinking about family members walking along those very same pavements, horses and carriages trundling along the cobbles, back when the city was coming to life.

We went to find the house where William and Jennie had lived first, with their four children. We'd looked at the map and wondered if it might be a little mews, it was such a small road. As we turned the corner though, it didn't feel right. There was a school there. A modern doctor's surgery. No lovely old houses.

"They've gone and knocked it down!" my dad said. We felt outraged on behalf of William. Cheated. We'd never got to see it!

We all stood and glared at the surgery, really disappointed. It was all very well being there, on the actual spot, but I'd really hoped to see the Osmunds' front door, look up at their windows and imagine them peering out at us. (And what am I going to write in my blog?, I thought. I've gone and told them all now, what a let-down if the search comes to nothing!)

We went to find the second house anyway. It had probably been turned into a burger bar, we joked as we walked. The second house was close to where the first had been built. They had probably backed on to one another, we guessed, looking at the map. We rounded the corner and counted off the house numbers...and there it was. Beautiful.

Built around 1800 my dad reckoned, in the mellow honey-gold Bath stone, with a gorgeous curving doorway and old sash windows. It stood (stands!) on a steep hill, fab views over the city. There must have been a lot of land around the street when it was built, fields or woodland, farmland perhaps. It must have looked even better in its day, no cars, no buses.

We stood there and imagined the Osmunds, William and Jennie (and their son Johnny who went on to run the paper shop nearby according to this old letter my dad had) going about their lives, right there, where we stood. It was fantastic. I could almost smell the old wood smoke lingering in the crisp December air, hear the horses' hooves, see the grand ladies and gentlemen taking the air.

A connection. Roots. It's a good feeling.

Roots

When we moved to Bath a few months ago, I felt very much that it was my h-t-b's neck of the woods. His family all live in Somerset and he grew up not very far from here, whereas I grew up in Nottingham and I have no connection with the West Country. Not My Patch - or so I thought.

My parents are here at the moment and my dad's brought with him a folder containing an old letter and some family trees. It turns out that my family have LOADS of connections with Bath! The letter is from my great-grandma's cousin Lily, who lived here and gives lots of the family history. All sorts of people on my great-grandma's side of the family lived here and were married here back in the 18th and 19th century. And my great-great-great-great-great grandpa (I think it's five greats perhaps four) was a builder and actually built two houses here in Bath in 1790-ish. He lived in one of them with his four kids for years!

My mum and dad are currently watching my eldest two kids perform in the school Christmas show (I had to go yesterday with youngest daughter for the dress rehearsal). And when my parents come back, we are going to walk down the road and see the houses built by a Mr William Osmond, our relative, over 200 years ago. I'm getting shivers down my spine whenever I think about all that history, all those family stories, all the connections. Suddenly I feel like I DO belong here after all.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Jingle bells

I was woken this morning by the sound of singing from the room next door (shared by son and youngest daughter). How sweet, I thought. Bless them!, I thought. What lovely little children I've got.
Then I went in to their room and heard:

Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin flew away
Uncle Billy lost his willy on the motorway...

..with accompanying guffaws of laughter.
Youngest daughter is delighted. Her first rude song! It has been sung ad infinitum ever since. At breakfast, on the way to school, and all through this morning's playgroup session apparently. Like poor old Uncle Billy, I'm now starting to lose the will to live.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

We interrupt this blog to bring you a brief moan

Now, you know me. Sentimental old fool. Lover of Christmas, parties, booze, mince pies and any excuse to buy a huge tin of Roses etc (of course burned off by kitchen jogging shenanigans immediately afterwards ahem). BUT this year, for the first time, I am actually hearing myself say "Roll on January" and even "bloody Christmas!"

This is not usual. I don't like saying these things and being a grump. But I am just really sick of requests every single day for the past month or so for raffle prize donations, tombola donations, home-made cake donations (are they mad?) etc for school and playgroup Crimbo fairs. Christmas show costumes to provide! Christmas dinner money to provide! Forms to sign and cut and hand in saying that yes, son and daughter are allowed to walk down the road with teachers for Christmas carol concert. School-produced Christmas cards to order and pay for! Signing up to guilt rotas saying that yes, I will help set up wretched Crimbo fair and blah-di-blah-di-blah.

Make it STOP!!!!!

I haven't even had time to buy my sodding prezzies yet, with all this palaver to deal with.
BAH HUMBUG!
Roll on January. Bloody Christmas!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Feeling the burn

Okay, so I've started my pre-wedding dress fitness regime. This consists of:

1) running on the spot while I wait for the kettle to boil.
2) running right past the biscuit tin without opening it.

Er...that's it so far.
Paula Radcliffe better watch out!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Cry-y-y-ing

I don't know if you've seen the new Picador blog yet but there was a good feature on it the other week about books that make you cry. I didn't leave a comment because I could only think of two books that have ever made me actually sob in an unattractive tears-streaming-down-face snivelling kind of a way - those being Something Might Happen by Julie Myerson and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. BUT we got out the kids' Christmas books the other day ( saved up in a box for the rest of the year) and I remembered another one - The Little Reindeer by Michael Foreman. I don't know what it is about this book - it's a happy ending, for goodness' sake! - but the last page - oh, every time I read it aloud, I am welling up by that point. It just gets me every time, I really don't know why. There's another children's book too, now that I think of it - Come Back Grandma by Sue Limb - oh, again, I just can't read the last page aloud without blubbing. Funny, isn't it, how a clutch of words on a page can trigger such intense responses. For the Myerson, Faulks, and Grandma books, it's the subject matter that got me. But The Little Reindeer...I am baffled. Maybe there is some faulty wiring in my brain. Maybe I was a flying reindeer in a former life. I dunno.

Anyway. Enough sadness and tears. I have posted off the copy-edit of Over You this morning and feel MUCH better about it. I think I could have gone on tweaking and fiddling for ever, but have drawn a line under it and off it's gone. The copy-editor had actually left a note saying she thought it was "great fun and moved me to tears too" (we like that copy-editor) and now I can't help feeling curious about which bit made her cry. It's not a big weeper of a novel by any means, not like The Little Reindeer, for example, but there you go...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

More slashing and burning (and I don't mean cystitis)

Phew. I am getting there on Over You. I have gone through it twice with the red pen and hacked out loads of stuff that I felt was slowing it down, and I think the story is much better for it. It's been quite helpful, coming back to the manuscript fresh having written it so long ago, it's meant I could be quite dispassionate and objective about the whole thing, chopping out pages and paragraphs quite ruthlessly. Will go through it once more tonight/tomorrow night and then hopefully I can put the red pen away for a while and send the ms back to Mission Control.

Meanwhile, had a boost from lovely friend who read the first chunk of Novel 3 and gave some great feedback (if you are reading this, thank you so much, I have emailed you back (twice) to say your comments were fab and much appreciated - but I don't know if hotmail is still resisting my advances!) So that made me feel a lot better about the world. See - am being much more positive, am not even THINKING about tomorrow...

Friday, 30 November 2007

A change is gonna come...

Okay, deep breaths, I think I'm over my little wobble yesterday. I remember doing exactly the same when I read Any Way You Want Me at this stage. It's that realisation of , Oh my God, this is actually going to be a book. People are going to read it! Aaarrrggghhh! - very scary. There are quite a few sad, introspective bits in this second novel too, and I'm not sure that I do sad and introspective very well, to be frank. Give me a bit of drama any day, or a few laughs.

Mind you, I am feeling a bit sad and introspective myself today as this is the last day of H-t-b's leave. He goes back to work on Monday! I am so gutted. It has been fab, both of us bimbling around at home for the last few months. It is all going to get so so so much harder from next week. He only works three days a week but all the same, it's three long days away in London, horribly early trains etc. He will never see daylight, let alone me and the kids (sniff). And I will almost certainly lose my marbles, trying to do school runs and packed lunches and everything else on my own. *sigh* I feel as if I'm not in control of all those little things that need doing right now - costumes for school play, raffle prize donations for school fair, hoovering, supermarket shopping, kids' homework time, let alone Christmas and WEDDING to sort out. I wish I could freeze time like Hiro and just stop everything else in the world so that I could catch up...

Right. Enough whinging. I'm off to give myself a shake and a pep talk, oh and get the biscuit tin. Then I've got to get myself dolled up for another trip to London this afternoon. Maybe some post-meeting shopping is what I need!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Red pen maniac

I've been going through the copy-edit of Over You this week (inbetween my jaunts to the capital). It's so long since I actually wrote the first draft of this (last September I think) that it's almost like reading someone else's book....and seeing all the things that are wrong with it. Eeeek! I have been slashing my red pen around like a vicious teacher. The beginning feels so slow! Slash, slash, edit, edit. All the bits about my heroines' family are just too mumsy! Slash, slash, edit, edit. It's going to be a two-page pamphlet at this rate - and it's all I can do not to write SEE ME! at the bottom (always fancied myself as a teacher).

I probably shouldn't say this but am worried now that it's rubbish, and so have put it to one side to read through again over the weekend. Heeeellllppp!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Authorial angst

Damn it. Have spent ages today working out plotlines for each of my three storylines for new novel. Storylines one and two develop over a few months. Storyline three seems to be all done and dusted within a matter of days.
Ahh. Why didn't I notice this before?
I hate that bloody drawing board...

London calling

Feel a bit like a commuter at the moment, have been to work-y meetings in London twice in the last five days, and have another one to go to on Friday. All very nice actually - long train journeys (more reading time), seeing the Crimbo decos on Oxford Street (they look suspiciously Disney-sponsored unfortunately), window shopping, and sneaking extra non-work-y meetings with lovely brother and lovely author friend in the West End. Ahhh, I'm a city girl at heart...

The writing has taken rather a back seat with all this jaunting around, though, so had better crack on. I've reached 40,000 words on the new novel so I'm going to polish that up a bit this week and send it off to my agent for some feedback...fingers crossed...

Friday, 23 November 2007

Shoes OFF!

Have become new-carpet-nazi - shouting at people who dare to wear shoes on it or bring coffee anywhere near it...

Oh dear. Fear I am turning into Hyacinth Bouquet or someone equally tragic. No photos yet of cave either, sorry, still not sorted out.

Snotty ill-at-home child wailing in background and demanding I play Maisy so had better go...

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Cave sweet cave

Okay, so let's not talk about the football. Gaaaagghhh. Oooh, actually, just seen on the BBC News website that Maclaren is about to be sacked any minute. There's a bit of cold comfort anyway.

So. Other stuff. Oh yes, exciting developments in the home. When we first looked around this house, we went down to the basement and found what I can only describe as a cave. I think it must have been the old coal cellar, back in the 1850s when the house was built. It was very damp anyway, extremely smelly - and at the time it was filled with bin-bags of dirty studenty washing. This was a hot day too, when we looked round, so we literally backed straight out of the cave again, holding our noses.

We got the survey done and of course, it came back saying that the cave was very damp and needed the walls tanking and blah blah, for the price of a few grand. Husband-to-be of course scoffed at such claims. A few grand? Sod that, I'll do it myself, he said.

And he has. He scraped out all the damp brickwork and... oh, look, I'm not going to go into the full Handy Andy stuff here. But anyway. It doesn't smell any more. It's not damp. It's all been freshly painted (apple white - tres soothing). It's got double doors that open out onto the garden, so is lovely and light. And today a man from the carpet shop up the road is coming to put down a new carpet.

And then... I'm moving in. It's going to be my new office! I am soooo excited. A proper office, just for me. A room of my own, with just my stuff in it. Obviously, I have got a bit carried away and have bought some new pictures for the walls and a lovely old clock and oh, just nice pretty stuff that I need to inspire my writing (!!) I am going to treat myself to an armchair and everything. Well, I need to sit somewhere comfortable to read, don't I? Reading books counts as work when you're an author, doesn't it?!

I'll report back tomorrow, once I've moved in. I might even...gasp....try to post a photo. But don't hold your breath...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

I am the eggman

Scene: kitchen table, yesterday evening, eldest daughter and son finishing tea.

Daughter (moodily pushing piece of fish around her plate): Who decided that I was going to be a meat-eater, anyway?

Me (taken aback): Well, you did.

Daughter (dropping fork dramatically): No, I didn't!

Me: Yes, you did. You don't have to eat meat. If you want to be a vegetarian like Dad, that's fine. But that means you have to eat extra things like eggs, nuts and cheese, for protein. (*wicked smile on face*) And lots of vegetables.

Daughter (pulling face): Yuck. I don't want to be a vegetarian. I'm going to be an omelette.

Me (even more taken-aback): You're going to be an omelette?

Daughter: Yep. We learned about it at school. It's like an in-between thing. Where you don't eat meat and you don't eat vegetable stuff either.

Son (ears pricking up): I want to be an omelette too.

Me (mystified): An omelette? (realisation dawning): Ahhhh. Do you mean an omnivore?

Daughter: That's what I said!

Me (trying not to laugh): Ahh. Well, I think it means something slightly different actually...

PS I am so happy to have raised two little omelettes. Does that make me Mother Hen, do you think?

Monday, 19 November 2007

The weekend according to my daughter

My eldest daughter's class take it in turns to bring home the class 'pets' which are toy rabbits and a dog every Friday afternoon. Then they have to write up all the things they did with their 'pet' over the weekend in a special book and read it out to the rest of the class on Monday morning. We had Rocky the rabbit spending the weekend with us, and I had a peek at my daughter's effort last night. This is (roughly) what she wrote:

"On Friday, Rocky and I went to B's house for tea. We had a disco. Rocky was a little bit naughty and had some wine.
On Saturday we went to see T and J in Cheddar. We went to Cheddar Gorge. Rocky had to say, boy, that was boring. Then we went back to T's and played Zoo Tycoon on his computer. It was GREAT.
On Sunday, G and L came to visit. It was GREAT."
[illustration of two faces in a square with caption: "Me and L in a box watching Harry Potter"]

Not sure what her teacher will have made of all this; I'm half-expecting that call from social services any minute... Discos, alcohol, boring day trips, being shut in a box... Please explain the meaning of this weekend report immediately!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Everybody needs good neighbours...

Early evening, yesterday. Ding-a-ling! (That’s my doorbell, not a bike bell if you were confused – it’s the original bell on a curly-wurly thing attached to a bit of string – one of my fave things about this house.)

Anyway – I’ll start again. Ding-a-ling!
H-t-b goes to answer the door. Neighbour is standing there looking rather shifty. (NB For those of you with excellent memories, the Polish backpackers next door moved out in Sept. We’ve got mature students that side now.)

Hello.
Hello.
Just letting you know that we’re having some friends round tonight and setting off a few fireworks. Hope it doesn’t disturb your kids.
Thanks for letting us know. I’m sure a few fireworks won’t disturb them.
Well… Actually, it’s a bit more than ‘a few’. We’ve got about…um…seventy rockets…

Seventy rockets! And these are terraced houses with small gardens, and houses backing onto ours. Loads and loads of kids in this particular bit of the terrace, too. We’re not exactly talking an ideal venue for a huge pyrotechnic display.

Oh well, we think. They are very quiet, considerate neighbours. They are nice. Maybe he was exaggerating about the seventy rockets?

He was not exaggerating. At eight o’clock, Armageddon begins. Bang, bang, flash, crash, Ooooooh!
Eldest daughter comes downstairs grumbling that she can’t sleep. Meanwhile, the bedroom that the other two share is lit up like a disco, and the cat is quaking under the kitchen table, ears pricked, eyes wide in alarm.

At nine o’clock, it is still going on. Bang, crash, sparkle, Oooooh!
Eldest daughter still awake, coming downstairs approx every ten minutes to say that she still can’t sleep. Youngest daughter wakes up frightened and crying.

At ten o’clock, it is still going on. (How long does it take to set off seventy bloody rockets anyway?)
Eldest still awake. Youngest awake again too, sobbing and saying she hates fireworks. I am now agreeing wholeheartedly, and starting to hate the neighbours and all.
Son, bless him, has slept through the whole thing.

Ten-fifteen – it’s all over. Youngest gives a sigh of relief and falls back to sleep. Eldest finally retires to bed muttering darkly. H-t-b and I practise our stern looks ready to scare the neighbours with next time we see them.
Bring back the Polish backpackers, I say! Okay, so they had terrible taste in music but at least they didn’t have enough cash for more than a few sparklers.

Bah humbug.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Hello everyone. My name is...

It's a weird thing, being an author. For days and days, weeks and weeks, you're expected to sit in your box typing furiously* and conjuring up beautiful worlds and exciting adventures from mere words. A quiet, solitary occupation.

Then, once you and your book emerge blinking into the daylight, you are expected to do the complete opposite - and whore it around the magazines, newspapers, TV programmes etc, trying your damnedest to get some of that elusive publicity. You are even expected to TALK to audiences! In PUBLIC!!

For a long time, I had this huuuuuuuge fear of public speaking. In fact, I wrote a little thing about it here if you want to read about my dread of it. (Ahem just realised I never got round to writing Part 2, oops.) And then I took a deep, deep breath, bit the bullet and went for it, back in September with two school visits to promote my new children's books and a Lucy Diamond event in Dublin, where I had to speak to over 150 people, on a stage, with a microphone and everyything!

I didn't sleep properly for weeks beforehand and kept hoping I'd break my leg or something so that I didn't have to do it. I seriously considered wimping out of the whole thing and hiding under my duvet instead.

But I didn't. And do you know what? Once I actually got there each time, I bloody loved it. The school visits were great - really lovely speaking to all the kids and making them laugh (and selling them loads of books, yay!). And then in Dublin, my God, I just so loved being on that stage, speaking to a huge room full of people. I felt cool as a cucumber, really calm - no blushing or stammering or wetting myself with The Fear. I actually ENJOYED myself! (Honestly, if you had told me I'd feel that way, I would never have believe it, in a million years.) And best of all, I got to meet loads of great authors like Niamh Greene and Katie Fforde and Sinead Moriarty, and talk to loads of lovely Irish women who had come along for the day. It was fab.

So my next big event takes place this morning. Wait for it.... I'm going to talk to the Year 3s at my kids' school about 'my job'. Just let me at 'em....

PS Lovely new review of Any Way You Want Me here by the way!


* Or, of course, eating biscuits, playing Tetris and whinging about plot problems

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I'm a Saddo, get me out of here

So....hands up who watched I'm A Celebrity? Oooooh I love that programme. I must confess I got a bit excited and went and bought some wine and chocolate especially for the occasion. (Yes, it's sad. No, I don't care.)
What a rabble they've got this year though. Blimey. Cerys Matthews, what are you doing there??? Mind you, you'd want to be in Cerys' s team wouldn't you, and not shrieking-banshee Janice's team. Can you imagine being stuck with her for a couple of weeks? I think I would feed her to the crocs.

Anyway, trash-telly aside for now, and onto serious work stuff. I have been very busy with the children's books this month - deadlines for three first drafts for different series and different publishers to deliver, which is not the best timing and has been stressing me out quite a lot. However....trumpet fanfare - I sent the first one off last week (mermaid story), the second one off yesterday (Oliver Moon and the Monster Mystery) and the third story is almost done, with just a bit of final 'polishing' needed before I have to send it off next week. But now I have a bit of space in my schedules to work on my new novel this week and next - hoorah. Just over 32,000 words in now - am trying to hit 50,000 by Christmas. And on that note...

Thursday, 8 November 2007

It's all about the romaaaaaance

I’ve been a judge for a famous book award recently. Yes, me!

What’s that? Which one? Oh, right. Have you heard of the Booker Prize?
Well….not that one. It’s the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, run by the Romantic Novelists Association. Don’t be too impressed with my judgery (great word) – anyone can apply to do it, they didn’t seek me out and beg me to take part (not this year anyway).

So, getting on with the story (finally), I applied and got five books to score. I had six weeks to read them, and had to mark each book on all sorts of elements, such as Romance, Plot, Characters, Dialogue etc. Really interesting experience, all in all. It was v exciting getting my five books – I opened up the parcel to find two saga-y type books, two contemporary novels and one… Hmmm. I guess it’s contemporary too but there was something very oddball about the cover that set it on its own.

As I am incredibly professional about this sort of thing (ahem) I’d better not say much else about what I thought of the books themselves apart from this: I quite enjoyed the books I’d never in a million years have bought/borrowed myself. And to my huge surprise, the book I kept putting off reading because I really didn’t fancy the look of it (the oddball book) was the one I enjoyed the most. It just goes to show, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Which is a shame, as that’s what I asked you to do in my last post. NEVER MIND.

Still, it was quite a useful exercise seeing how the award scoring works, and imagining my own books coming under such scrutiny. Any Way You Want Me would have failed at the first hurdle as it was not exactly romantic – more lust-driven I’d say – but Over You (second novel) is a bit more of your traditional feel-good story, with a splendidly cheese-tastic romantic ending which I am hoping will provoke much teary sniffling and sighing from my more tender readers. (Gawd, rein me in will you, someone, I’m starting to sound like Babs Cartland.)

So there you go…my dalliance with the Romantic Novelists. Now I’m back to reading all my usual gritty cutting-edge fiction which at the moment is…Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. Oh.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Over You


This is the cover for my second novel, Over You. What do you think? I am dead chuffed with it - I love it. And just look at all that shopping!!! I want to be that woman in the red dress, just for a day, pleeeease...
Anyway, here's a little blurb to whet your appetites...
The story is about three women Josie, Nell and Lisa who were best mates back when they were twenty-somethings. Now they're all in their thirties and have gone their separate ways - Josie's a mum and housewife in deepest suburbia, free-spirited Nell has travelled the world, and Lisa has gone for career gold (and the salary premiership). Josie organises a weekend reunion, and the three of them revisit their old haunts in London. All goes well at first, but then skeletons start tumbling out of closets and secrets are uncovered, which change Josie's life for ever...
It's not coming out for aaages - August next year (boo). But every time I look at this cover (quite often actually) I get a little firework of excitement going off inside me!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

True story

“What’s the point of getting married?” he said. “It’s just so…conventional. It’s state interference. It ritualises what’s supposed to be personal, signing official documents and formalising everything. What’s the point?”
“Well, I think it’s dead romantic,” she said. “Making those vows to each other in front of friends and family, celebrating your relationship, saying you want to spend the rest of your lives together. Who cares about signing things, and the state? It’s not about that.”
“It is in my opinion,” he said, and thus a deadlock was reached.
“You can’t tell a Pisces which way to swim,” wise friends told her.
She knew it was true. There was no point arguing the toss. His mind was made up.

The years passed. They had three children and were very happy together. Still she hankered after a wedding, though. Not because she wanted to be a Mrs, not because of the dress, ring, any of the trappings. She just thought it was romantic. She thought they had something worth celebrating.

By now their eldest daughter was old enough to ask questions. “Oh, Mum, why doesn’t Dad want to marry you?” she asked in a pitying way, more than once. “Doesn’t he love you?”
The questions made her wince. “It’s not that,” she’d reply, floundering for the right words. “It’s just… He thinks it’s old-fashioned. Kind of.” But it sounded feeble, even to her. “Ask your dad,” she said in the end. Let him do his own explaining, she thought.

After ten years together and still no sign of a backtrack, she had given up on the idea. It didn’t really matter, did it, at the end of the day? They were happy together, they were committed to staying together. A ring and a bit of paper weren’t going to change the way they felt about each other, were they? But still a tiny bit of her felt sad, as if she'd missed out on something special.

Then, that summer, they were on holiday in Devon. He surprised her after the first week by announcing that he’d arranged for them to have a night on their own, away from the kids. His mum and sister were in on the plot, arranged as baby-sitters.
They went to Lyme Regis together, just the two of them. The sun was shining, and they wandered along the sea front and around the shops, hand in hand, enjoying each other’s company. As afternoon turned to evening, they walked to the harbour. “Let’s go and sit down there,” he said, pointing to the furthest bench, right at the end of the harbour wall.

They sat down together. The last families on the beach were packing up their things, a few swimmers still braving the sea. They felt far away from the rest of the town out there, just the two of them.

He produced a bottle of champagne and two glasses. “Fancy a drink?” he asked.
She laughed. She loved it that he surprised her after all this time. “Go on, then,” she said. “Trying to get me drunk already?”
“Something like that,” he said.
He poured them a glass each, and handed her hers. “Cheers,” he said.
“Cheers,” she said.
“Will you marry me?” he said.

She stared at him, so shocked she almost toppled into the sea. Somehow she managed a good comedy pause before replying. Well, he’d made her wait this long, hadn’t he? She’d let him sweat a few moments in return. “Yes,” she said.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Dina Rabinovitch

I've just seen in the Guardian that Dina Rabinovitch has died. I used to read her column in the Guardian, where she wrote about her battle against breast cancer with such dignity, humour and bravery, it never failed to move me. She was only 44.

You can read her blog here or contribute to her appeal here.

Is Mummy working AGAIN?

"Is Mummy working AGAIN?" I heard my youngest ask, as Husband-to-Be ushered her and her siblings out of the house on the school run this morning. "But she worked yesterday!"

Afraid so, sweetpea. Mummy is the only breadwinner at the moment - lovely H-t-B has taken three months' unpaid parental leave to do the house up a bit and look after the kids on the 3 days that I'm (supposedly) working now. This 3 months off started in September and so far has been blissful... both of us sharing school runs, cooking, washing - and he has also done loads to the house. Result. However, I haven't managed a single week where I've actually worked three full days yet as I've been helping out in my kids' classes, and sorting out the fruit and veg at school some mornings and generally being a bit keen. It was actually very nice to get to know all the kids, and it really helped settle in my eldest two, but it did mean I wasn't getting a whole lot done. That was why I didn't even DARE go near Blogger for a while.

However, it's a new half-term and I've had to stop being such a keeno and drop out of all the school help for now. I'm going to work REALLY hard for this last month of domestic harmony, before H-t-B goes back to work in Dec and life suddenly gets a whole lot harder. Oliver Moon Book 12 to finish (still haven't cracked it) and other children's things, plus I want to get a big chunk of the new novel under my belt too. So that's the plan.

Anyway. Why did I tell you all that? Maybe I'm procrastinating... Clare Sudbery has just written a great article on author procrastination over at Bookarazzi, by the way, if you fancy a look - it's well worth a read. I'm going to take her advice, I think, and Just Do It with the writing today. No excuses!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Beat your deadline the luxury way

Now here's a thought for all you writers out there... I was at a rather swanky spa place with my mum and sisters on Saturday and was just flicking through the spa magazine when I saw this article about two authors who have been inspired by stays there. One of them, JoJo Moyes, wrote that she'd been struggling to meet a deadline whilst contending with the many demands of her three young children/life, so she booked herself in for a three-day stay...and wrote 18,000 words of her novel - and managed a few luxury treatments at the same time. Result!

I have to say, it was very persuasive. VERY persuasive.

I was reading it, my brain whirring, my eyes widening with excitement, thinking what a fantastic idea! Yes, JoJo, you are absolutely right, you're a genius! I have three children and a busy life and deadlines too - I NEED to go! yes! Get me my fluffy towelling robe and private room immediately!
Now I just have to think up my excuses to convince my husband-to-be (do love saying that) why I really must finish my novel in Champneys luxury. Although I'm wondering, do you think three nights is enough? I've got quite a lot left to write, after all. Maybe I should book myself in for a month?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Ear We Go

Well, I TRIED to care about the rugby yesterday, honest – but sadly, I was more gutted about Kimberley being knocked out of X Factor than I was about England losing. Sorry. Not my cup of Tetleys. But I can’t BELIEVE Kimberley was out, when those cheesers stayed in. Can’t remember what they’re called but you know who I mean. The white-grinned vaguely sinister brother/sister combo. Pass the bucket!!

Enough bitching. It’s half term here – hoorah!! – which we are all chuffed about. This has been the first weekend since we moved that we haven’t had people visiting/staying, so it has been tres relaxing just slobbing around not doing very much. Fantastic. We were meant to be going to Brighton yesterday for a few days but eldest daughter has had some ear trouble which means we have to go to the hospital tomorrow. She’s so selfish that girl, mucking up our holiday plans… (JOKE, please don’t grass me up to social services.) She’s had to have drops put in three times a day for the last two weeks – Gordon Bennett, the melodramas this has caused, I can hardly begin to describe them. I have to chase her upstairs each time, wrestle her to the floor and contend with much screaming, anguish and general hamming up. Aaargh. Really hope the consultant gives her the all-clear tomorrow. Neither of us can face that bottle of ear-drops any more.

So, anyway. Read any good books lately? I have just finished Extreme Motherhood: The Triplet Diaries by Jackie Clune which was brilliant. Talk about a hardcore mum – she already had a one-year-old, then found out she was pregnant with triplets. Eeeek. She writes a very funny, frank, moving account of the pregnancy, births and the first few months of having four children under two. Like I say, hardcore. Respect to the Triplet Lady!

That's all for now – and perhaps the rest of the week. Ears permitting, we'll be back beside the seaside asap. In the meantime, have a good week, one and all!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Dr Caroline and me

OOOOOOOOOH. Just heard some vair vair exciting news.

Do you remember ages ago, I talked about this book of mine being read on Jackanory Junior? I've just heard who actually did the reading. Tamsin Greig!!!! As in Green Wing! And Black Books! One of my favourite actresses. I am so blimmin chuffed, you wouldn't believe it. The producers say it'll be on CBeebies in January. Set the SkyPlus immediately!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Return of the Diamond

Hello again,

Is anybody out there?
Sorry for the recent quietness. I haven't been the best blogger lately, have I? Somehow or other the months just kept rolling by, and still I didn't get near the old Blogger Dashboard. And now I'm out of the habit, and it's been so long there's way too much to say in a single post. (phew, nice one, that's got me out of a lengthy catch-up session.)

But anyway, shameful slackness aside, I have been busy.

We moved house three months ago - eek, I can't believe it's that long. Quarter of a year! (And have we finished unpacking? Have we buggery. And have we all settled in? Well, kind of. We're getting there.)

It's strange, upping sticks and moving to a different part of the country where you don't know anybody.
"Ooh, you are BRAVE," people kept saying to me before we moved.
"Oh, it'll be FINE!" I kept replying breezily. (I think that's what they call 'denial'. Or perhaps 'kidding myself'.)
And the day before we moved, I actually thought, What's all the fuss about? It's not like we're moving to a different country and saying goodbye to our friends forever! In fact, I even started wishing we were making a bigger move, all going travelling round the world for a few years or something fun like that.

I have moved around a lot before, living in lots of different British cities and travelling to lots of different parts of the world. It was always really easy in the past, packing up and moving on. Exciting to have a new address, make new friends, explore a new area. But leaving Brighton was definitely the biggest wrench so far. Saying goodbye to all our friends...I cried. Saying goodbye to all the school mums...I cried. I even cried on two of the teachers at school, what a saddo.

And then, wandering round the old house the day we moved, saying goodbye to all the different rooms made me AND the two eldest cry - especially when it came to saying goodbye to mine and partner's bedroom where the two youngest had been born. I still get a shiver down my spine thinking about that. I can't believe I won't be in that room again. It holds so many memories.

So. Anyway. Nine hundred and eighty-seven boxes later (slight exaggeration but that's what it felt like) we were packed. We loaded up and drove away, nearly all of us boo-hooing in the car.
I felt like we were leaving behind so many good friends and memories. (oh Gawd, don't start me off, I'm starting to get all tearful again, just thinking about it.)

We did all the unloading, found the kettle, bought in pizza, drank (lots of) wine. And then we realised we had about ten 18-year-old Polish backpackers living next door to us, playing that bloody Umbrella song at top volume all day and night long. More boo-hooing.
We've really done it now, I thought.

(to be continued)
(Yeah, I know, just like a soap opera, innit?)
(Coming in the next instalment: the school appeal, wot I dun on my holidays and a proposal)
(That's yer lot for now, though.)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Ooooh....look!

Sorry for the blogging hiatus. Busy, busy, lots going on. I'll be back soon, honest.

In the meantime, have a look at this. Isn't it just fabulous?!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Don't read this, read that!

Right...this really is it now. There are piles of boxes all around me, the pictures are down from the walls, we have turfed out all the Use By 2004 food items... We really are going. And later today, I'm going to dismantle this desk and pack up the pc, ready to take to our new home. I'll miss working up here in the loft. I've written two, nearly three, novels while we've been here and over fifty children's books. This space was where I clawed back some sanity, climbed up the metal ladder to come and write while my partner looked after the kids. It's where I've met you fellow bloggers and swapped stories. It's where I've built up my career.

I don't feel so sad about moving any more. Now that the house is looking so stripped and bare, it's not our home any longer. I'm excited now - ooh, a new start, what's going to happen in this new chapter?? I wonder what I'll write in my new office. I wonder who we'll meet and make friends with. I wonder how we'll fit in to our new community. I wonder how we'll look back on this summer. It's exciting, being on the very edge of something different. And our new house is empty and silent, just waiting for us to fill it with laughs and shrieks and pounding footsteps...

So, this is my last post for a time. But don't worry, there's a brand new website that will keep you entertained while I'm away. It's called Bookarazzi, and it's a collective effort, written and run by a group of bloggers-with-book-deals. You can have a look here.

See you soon!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Pond life

"Mum, when we move house, can we take the pond with us?" my son asked a few weeks ago.

I can see why he wants to. We've spent a lot of time crouching at the edge of that pond over the last few months, gazing into the murky water and charting the progress of the jelly frogspawn lumps as they become tadpoles, and then fattening them up with dried cat food (a fiercely fought-over job it's been, getting to chuck in the cat food and watch the sleek black taddies swarming all over it). Now the water is teeming with tiny baby froglets, and we have all oohed and aahed at their cuteness as they try to scramble up the side of the pond and into the big wide world. Youngest daughter has put herself in charge of froglet welfare and has had some stern words with the cat whenever she comes padding over for a look at the new babies. And while the pond itself is titchy - barely deserving of the word 'pond' being ooh, all of two feet in diameter - I sense that digging it up and transporting it, plants, froglets, water snails and all is not a goer.

(My most embarrassing moment during the trying-to-sell-our-house period came when a family from Devon arrived to look round the house. I was chatting to the parents in the kitchen and noticed their son (aged 8 or so) looked a bit bored and was scuffing his foot up and down the floor. "Do you want to go outside to see the pond?" I asked. "There's loads of frogspawn in it."
He shrugged, not seeming interested. "We had loads of it in one of our ponds," he said dismissively.
"Yes, till the heron got it all!" his mum put in.
I was really glad then that he hadn't wanted to go out and look. If they had more than one pond AND a heron to boast of, then all of a sudden I didn't want them to see our titchy twenty-foot garden and puddle of a pond. Still, it's always been good enough for us...)

Anyway, so no, we won't we be taking the pond with us. We will definitely be digging one in to our new garden, when we get there, though. I'm looking forward to it already...

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Whirling

I feel in a bit of a whirl at the moment. Keep forgetting important things (best friend's birthday present being the worst) but also not feeling on top of emails, bills, letters, blogging... I need a day to go through paperwork, filing, all that sort of stuff that makes you feel in control. No time for that now, sadly, I am just going to have to get through the move and hope to mop it all up afterwards, famous last words...

It's my son's 5th birthday tomorrow. Of course, being a sentimental old fool, I am thinking a lot about the day he was born, in 2002. It was the most perfect birth, quick and easy, right in the middle of our bed. I was listening to Moon Safari by Air (yes - just like Sadie in Any Way You Want Me) and every time I hear that album now, I get the shivers. I felt so in control the whole time, really primitive and powerful, if that doesn't sound too loopy. And then there he was, my son, all eight and a half pounds of him, so gorgeous and perfect and... Sorry. Getting carried away. But ooh, I'm dead proud of him.

In between packing boxes and writing our school appeal letter (gaahhhh) I am reading this - Home by Julie Myerson. It's about her house in Clapham, and her researching everyone who ever lived there. It is absolutely perfect reading for me right now - tuning into all those home-feelings I'm having. It starts with her coming back from the library and telling her daughter how she's just found out the names of the people who first lived in the house. There's this great scene where her daughter ponders about how long it's been since anyone called their names in the house - "Florence! Tea!" etc - and the two of them stand in the house calling out the original residents' names. I just love that idea. She also writes about how the way that an old house has echoes of all those who have lived in it. She describes pacing up and down with a baby, "knees caving in with exhaustion", trying to soothe it back to sleep - and thinking about the countless other people who have done the same thing within those walls, paced the same rooms, murmured the same things to grizzling babies, how everything you do in a house like that has been done before... Oh, I'm just drinking it in, I love thinking about that!

Friday, 29 June 2007

Doubly bubbly

Oooh, have a look at the Novel Racers blog immediately! How cool is that? Thanks JJ for posting it. I *LOVE* Kinokuniya. What a good start to a gloomy Friday!

Chaos down at the school run just now, cagouled mothers trying to herd their bedraggled kids through the lashing rain, lots of shouting and bad tempers. It is POURING here, with a wild, umbrella-snatching wind. And tomorrow - my birthday - is meant to be even worse! I was hoping for a history-repeats-itself day too but that's gone for a burton now. On my birthday five years ago, we'd just moved to Brighton and I was very heavily pregnant with my son (he was born on the 4th). It was really sunny that day so we went out to Littlehampton and had a picnic on the beach, then stopped at Arundel too for a little nosey around. We've got these lovely photos of little one-year-old eldest daughter with her mad dandelion-fluff hair dipping her toes in the sea and looking astonished. So this year, I thought, ooh, I know, we'll do that again as a good full-circle kind of thing to do before buggering off out of Sussex but... Well, clearly that's not going to happen now that full-scale downpours are predicted tomorrow.

Yesterday felt very decadent. I got to dress up in smart clothes (very rare occurrence, sadly) and get the train on my own to London (bliss) and try not to get too pissed with my new editor (I think I held back okay). The lunch was fab - any meal that starts with the words "Do you fancy a drink of something bubbly?" is always going to be a winner for me. Did a bit of drunken shopping afterwards, excellent fun, then back to Brighton to say goodnight to the kids and get ready for another slap-up feast in town to celebrate ten years of Lovely Partner and I being together.

Today - not so decadent. Hangover, wet hair, and work to be done. Back down to earth with a bump.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Cake on the horizon

I've got a mad few weeks coming up. Tomorrow - meeting in London with a new editor (including LUNCH excellent), then out to celebrate 10 years of Being Togevver with my lovely partner (ie DINNER excellent). Saturday - it's my birthday (CAKE excellent). Next Wednesday - son's birthday (more CAKE excellent). Sunday after that - son's party. In our house. (Yes, four days before we move - great timing.) And then the 12th - move house! (and hopefully burn off all the cake calories from box-lugging ahem...)

As if that wasn't enough to be going on with, we've heard that the school admission appeal should be taking place before the end of term...arrrgghhh. It's good in one way - ie we'll get it over with pretty soon - but the stress is keeping me up at night; my brain is just buzzing with all these facts and statistics we'll have to remember. The more I read up on it, the more terrified I am. I keep imagining this huge echoing courtroom, with me and lovely partner huddled together all frightened on one side of the room and this vast stage of panellists glaring down at us from the other, bellowing "Speak up!" at us and banging one of those gavel thingymabobs. Gawd. I am totally bricking it.

I'm so tired at the moment I can't write, feel like all my creativity has been sapped by everything else, so I'm about to go back to bed and read this morning while youngest daughter pootles about at playgroup. I've just read two good-but-harrowing novels - In Search of Adam by the lovely Caroline which was very moving - unbearably so at some points, I had to stop reading because the events of the story are so awful, I just didn't want to go on. It's amazingly written though - very original and innovative, with a very powerful voice. I am in awe and will never let Caroline read anything else I've written now!
And last night I finished A Farewell to Arms - the first book I've ever read by Hemingway which I thought was brilliant - the ending is just absolutely devastating. I am still thinking about it.

Anyway, I feel the need for some comfort reading today, so I'm going to curl up with Hens Dancing by Raffaella Barker which I first read a few years ago and absolutely loved. There's something very comforting about returning to an old favourite when everything else in life is changing.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Go and vote for Clare here. Because she's worth it.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Inbetween Days

I feel as if I'm between lives at the moment. It's a very odd sensation. We've got our moving date now - Thursday 12th (I put my foot down about moving on Friday 13th) so we've just got two and a half weeks left of the Brighton era. I can't quite believe it. I have moved around a lot since I left Nottingham at 18 - Leeds, London, Sydney, Perth, London again, Oxford, London again, Brighton... and on to Bath next month. That feels like a lot of cities and house moves to me. I am looking forward to putting down new roots now and settling for a long, long time.

It's that end-of-era thing that gets me all sentimental. The Brighton years have been fantastic. I will look back on them very fondly as a time of motherhood, family life, friendship and making a go of it as a writer. Two of my children were born in this house, in our bedroom. I love the fact that their births have added to the 'history' of our house, along with all the other people who have been born or died within these walls. It might sound mad but that is actually what I'm finding one of the hardest things about leaving, saying goodbye to that room where my son and youngest daughter first came into the world. When we moved out of our flat in London, where our eldest was born (also in the bedroom), I felt like I was leaving a major memory behind. I'll be sobbing in that removal van when we go, I can tell you now.

So, we've started packing up. Partner went out and got a 'moving kit' of boxes supposedly for a 3 or 4 bedroom house, although whoever thought that you only needed 10 small, 8 medium and 5 large boxes for a house move clearly had no books and no children. And it's something of a wrench, piling up all the things for the charity shops - old baby stuff that's been right at the back of the eaves in the loft, old toys that won't get played with, old clothes...

I'd better go and do some work and stop wallowing in all of this. I'm welling up here!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Come in, number four

I don't know what ambitious planet I was on last week when I said I'd finish this third novel by the end of July - but I'm back on planet earth again now and can safely say there is no way that's going to happen. What was I thinking??! There's way too much other stuff going on in the rest of my life - and besides, I've reached a tricky stage in the story where everything's got to crisis point and is very intense. I just can't do intense at the moment. I need some laughs and cheerfulness. Which is why I've started a new novel in the meantime!

I have been thinking about this one for a while, and yesterday afternoon I just started writing. The words came out so easily, before I knew it, there were 2,000 of them. And I'm pleased with it, too - I've got my characters set up and each of their plotlines running. I really enjoyed working on something more light-hearted and funny, that feels very 'Lucy Diamond' ish to me. I've got a good feeling about this!


***UPDATE***
We've just exchanged!! We're moving house!! It's all on!!
Hoorayy!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Hanging on the telephone

The phone rings at 9 this morning. It's Useless Solicitor. "Sorry to call so early," she trills. "I haven't woken you up, have I?"
I give a hollow laugh. That'll be the day. "I have three children," I reply. "No, you haven't woken me up."
"We're all set to exchange contracts," she says. "Just a last query from your buyer..."
Oh, here we go. I answer the last query. I seem to remember having answered it about three weeks ago, but I don't quibble.
"Right, that should do it," she says. "I'll get back to you within the hour."

For a brief moment, I allow myself to get excited. Oh my God. We might actually be moving house! After all this time of not allowing myself to get my hopes up about the house JUST IN CASE the sale goes pear-shaped, we might actually be getting somewhere now. I might actually need to start packing, and telling people my change of address and arranging a removal van and everything!

An hour passes. Then two. It's now three and a half hours later, and there's stil no word. I have chased Useless Solicitor by email (don't want to tie up her phone line, obviously) but she has just replied to say our buyers and our sellers are just waiting for last documents.
I think this is going to be a long, long day...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Not very appealing

So. Big talks last night. What should we do? (apart from cry and drink wine.)
I've been looking into the appeal system. I thought it would just be a case of having to write a letter saying, Look, this is going to be really impractical and all the rest of it, and then some independent bod saying, you're right, okay, of course your children can go to the same school. But no. Actually you have to go through a formal tribunal where there's a panel of 3 adjudicators and first of all the LA/school present a case as to why they don't want your child to go to their school (the fools! she's lovely! Just let her in, for crying out loud!) and then we would have to present our case for why we think she should get a place there. So that all sounds very scary and official. Not very appealing at all. Grrrreat.

Obviously we are not letting slip to the kids that there's anything wrong at all (so if you're reading this and you know me and you know my kids, then please ssssshhhh! keep it to yourself). We are pretending that everything's going to be great and they won't be able to start school until September now after all because...well, we can't get the new uniform in time, but not to worry, you get an extra-long summer holiday, aren't you lucky?? Ooh, let's go to Legoland before the school holidays start, eh?!
I hate lying about it though, it makes me feel sick inside but I don't think there's any point telling them the facts right now. I think my daughter's head might spin off with worry.

Having said all that, I am oddly comforted by my choice of reading at the moment - my classic novel for the month is A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway. It's brilliant - and a stark reminder of how much worse life could be - I could be an ambulance driver on the frontline in Italy in the First World War, after all...

Someone else who's having a nightmare is the lovely author Milly Johnson, who also has a battle on her hands. You can read all about what she's going through here. She's single-handedly taking on a giant corporation, so if you know anything about industrial tribunals or are able to offer any support or advice, she would really appreciate it. Cheers.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Update

I've just spoken to the school admissions person. Bad news. The local school have said my son can have a place there but there's no room for my daughter. I am so gutted, I can't even write about it. I don't want to move house any more. I just don't know what to do.

Some news is good news

Huge envelopes thumped down onto the doormat on Saturday. First to be opened was one containing the roughs for Oliver Moon's Fangtastic Sleepover, out in November. If you didn't know, this is where the text has been laid out on the page, and the artist puts in her 'roughs' - rough sketches of what she's going to illustrate. It's always exciting to get these, especially because the illustrator, Jan McCafferty is such a fab artist, and always has brilliant and very funny ideas about interpreting the text. This book's about a school sleepover in a haunted museum, and she's gone to town on all the ghosts and vampires. Hooray for Jan!

Next big fat envelope was one from my editor at Orchard with two of my Prince Jake stories marked up for final tweaks. And a copy of this which Virgin Trains have done a special printing of - they're going to put a copy of it in every one of their Kids' Summer Bags on the trains this summer. How cool is that?! And if that wasn't exciting enough, the same story is *hopefully* (haven't actually signed anything yet) going to be on THIS! But mustn't count chickens etc, have probably doomed it all to failure now I've even mentioned it...

Final big envelope was a contract for a new series with Working Partners who I've written a lot of books for in the past. So all good stuff which made me feel very business-like and author-ish - always a pleasant feeling (if quite rare)!

Funnily enough (actually not very funny at all), the envelope from our hapless solicitor sending missing form we need for the exchange DIDN'T arrive. Nor did anything about our school application. So the waiting game goes on. Scuse me while I beat my head against my author-ish desk...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Any news?

Another morning, another school run, another round of fifty questions of "Any news? Got your moving date yet? Have you heard anything from the school?" Nay, nay and thrice nay. Fifty times nay, more like. (I'm not bitching, they are all nice people. I am just sick of saying that there's no bloody news, again and again, arrrrrrggh.)

So no. No news. Contract arrived yesterday along with fifty pages of stuff related to the searches which is taking ages to plough through, and various forms we have to fill in. Guess what. We won't be exchanging this week after all. I feel like running up and down screaming, to be honest, but will hold back, due to napping two-year-old in close proximity.

Bizarrely, I am being comforted by my 1996 diary that I mentioned the other day. I am really enjoying reading it, remembering all those places I went to and all the people I met. I've got up to Java now, having survived a dog bite, motorbike crash, mashed-up Full Moon Party, a tit-grabbing perv, temples, mountains, sunrises on beaches, new friends, weirdos, drunken snogs and the shits. I have made it through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and have just been to see a volcano in Java. If I lived to tell the tale(s) of the south-east Asia experience, surely I can get through this moving house malarkey. Can't I?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Romeo, Romeo

I'm going to have to have a quiet word with my son. He has been very busy lately writing lots of little love notes for this girl in his class. Ahh, how sweet, bless, I thought. (He is only 4.) But then last night, I saw him writing a love note to ANOTHER girl in his class. A different girl! And we all know, girls don't like a two-timer.

I need to choose my words carefully. For the good of all those young women who are sure to fall in love with him when he's out of short trousers, I need to drum it into him, once and for all. One girlfriend at a time, all right? You can not tell two girls that you love them in the space of two days. You just can't, okay?

I think this is a key part of raising a son. That, and teaching them to cook, wash up and pick up their own pants and socks from the bedroom floor. I will let you know how I get on.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Sunny side up

Ouch. My shoulders are still throbbing from yesterday's sun. They are red and shiny and still so hot you could probably fry eggs on them. Of course, on the beach yesterday, I plastered all three kids with factor 50, spent ages doing it as soon as we got on the sand but completely forgot to put any on myself, and am now suffering. I can't help feeling that's a metaphor for my life - or motherhood, at least...

Still, can't complain, apparently at the breakfast table yesterday morning, youngest daughter sat there thoughtfully before declaring to my other half, "My favourite is Mummy". I've been smiling every time I thought about that today, despite shoulders. A bit of appreciation is a wonderful thing, especially when it's from your own offspring!

I started clearing out the boxes in the loft today. Obviously there are some there that have remained unpacked and untouched since we last moved (5 years ago) and all sorts of other distracting delights like old letters and diaries. I was really pleased to find the diaries I kept while I was travelling, eighteen months between 1996 and 1997 while I backpacked around the world on my own. The first entry in the 1996 diary begins like this:

Shocking hangover and vague memories of behaving dreadfully - stock New Year's Day feelings really. Feel a bit guilty about all my snogging and cheekiness - ahh well. I've decided to try and be a bit nicer this year and less of an old bitch - maybe that's too optimistic...

Oh, those were the days, snogging and cheekiness... I'm going to read the whole thing and reminisce indulgently, anything to put off the bloody box-sorting!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Beside the seaside

Lovely weekend. Lovely lovely. Spent yesterday at a kid's party which was held on a farm amidst beautiful rolling hills of Sussex countryside. Gorgeous sunny day, bunnies to stroke and chickens to feed, children all bouncing around sweaty and excited, plus lots of the lovely school mums for me to gossip with. I will miss them all, they are fab.

Today we went to West Wittering beach, which is a vast sandy beach a few miles south of Chichester. I was woken this morning by lovely partner saying the following: "Here's a cup of tea, I've packed a picnic and the swimming stuff, let's go to the beach asap". Brilliant way to start the day, all five of us dead excited. There is something so wonderful about going to the beach with young children, that revisiting of one's childhood. Digging trenches, paddling, making sandcastles, sandy sandwiches, harassing crabs in pools... Bliss. I even wore my bikini - well, all right, tankini, but I have been eating too many biscuits lately to get my belly out (I am not one of those people who lose weight when stressed, I am a comfort eater and drinker, unfortunately...)

Anyway, I have burnt shoulders to show for it and still feel a bit sandy in the wrong places but feel very happy. Just what I needed before we head into crunch week of contracts and schools admissions...

Friday, 8 June 2007

Ahem.

Hello.
I’m sneaking back. I still haven’t moved house, and am not likely to for at least another month, due to certain incompetent morons faffing around at the end of the chain.
But if I’m honest, I didn’t stop blogging just because of the moving-house thing. Apparently, sales of Any Way You Want Me haven’t lived up to expectations, so that made me feel really crap and miserable for a while, like I had failed. It was horrible, I hit a real what’s-the-point-of-writing-another-novel? low.

BUT I have bounced back. I don’t feel like that any more. I am proud of AWYWM, and it did just fine in my eyes. And Novel 3 is meaty and dark and sexy, with lots of juicy storylines tangled together, and – most importantly – I think it is worth finishing. Phew. Besides, I’m 75,000 words into it now, there’s no way I’m abandoning it without getting to the final sentence. AND I’ve got a great title and synopsis for a fourth book. So I’m not giving up being Lucy Diamond just yet.

So…how are you all? That’s a bit of a daft question, I’ve still been popping in to the novel racers’ blogs, even if I felt a bit quiet and didn’t leave a comment. I am…tense, mostly. We are about to hit crunch week on the moving front… hoping to exchange contracts next week, even if we can’t actually complete for a while. Also will be finding out which school my children have been put in. Or which schools, plural, if we get worst case scenario and they can't go together. It is keeping me awake at night, believe me, but I will try not to witter on too much about that…

I’ve read lots of good books lately in the pre-move limbo world:
The Self-Preservation Society by Kate, which I absolutely loved – very funny and original, with lots of brilliant characters.
Young Wives Tales by Adele Parks – fantastic, she writes like a dream, couldn’t tear myself away from it.
The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Milly Johnson – just loved it, great one-liners galore, fantastic characters and premise and lovely warm, down-to-earth writing style.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – a repeat read and a real treat, didn’t disappoint, Mrs Danvers still as terrifying as she was when I last read it
And finally… The Insider by Piers Morgan – oh my God, gossip riches or what? Unputdownable and hilarious. I just wolfed it down.

Next I’ve got the new Maggie O’Farrell or the new Julie Myerson to choose from. Yum. Two of my favourite authors. I will almost be sorry when we move and my evenings are full of wallpaper-stripping and painting once again, instead of reading. Actually, that’s not true. I will be so bloody relieved to get this whole process over with I will be happy to strip every wall of the house!

Right. Enough from me. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Friday, 25 May 2007

TTFN

This is my last post for a while. I'm going to have a break from blogging while we move house and get used to our new life...

Have a good summer everyone.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

What to do?

So, here's my dilemma. Tonight, a load of mums from eldest daughter's class are going to the pub. Normally, I would go too - they are all lovely, and I know it will be a good laugh with lots of gossip, and will probably all get a bit loud and messy. Perfect.
BUT also meeting in the same pub tonight (and it's not a big pub) is my friend J and her book group. And because friend J is such a superstar, she picked MY book for them to buy and talk about this month (and it's a big book group - eight or nine of them. How I love J, thank you, thank you!) So they will all be discussing my book in there tonight... and obviously I'm dying to know what they all think of it, good and bad. But if I'm in there, it will totally inhibit them from talking about it - especially if I start flicking them the Vs, glaring or throwing peanuts at them for every negative comment. (I don't normally behave like this in public but you know, when I'm pushed, I just might...) Maybe I could plant a bug on my friend J? Or go in disguise and spy on them? Or... am I just getting a bit carried away, perhaps? Hmmm.

My mum made me laugh on the phone last night. She has become my East Midlands PR person, by the sound of it - she said, They know me in the Beeston Smiths, oh, and the Burton-on-Trent Smiths and I was in the Ashby Smiths the other day, asking why the Lucy Diamonds didn't have the 'Buy One Get One Half Price' stickers on any more. There was a bloke putting said stickers on some other books so I went over and said to him, can I have a few of those stickers to put on these Lucy Diamonds, please? - and she stickered them all up herself!
Brilliant. Thanks, Mum. Now maybe you could do me a viral campaign to bump up my Amazon sales? I have slid down to 25,000 this morning. Bummer.

Right. Back to new project. I need to send the first bit of it off to my editor tomorrow morning, so really must crack on. And I guess that's another reason why I shouldn't go out on the lash tonight, too...

PS Nichola, haven't forgotten the meme, will do it soon!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Well, I don't love you

My two-year-old is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Scary, I believe the word is. We had a full-on barney the other evening about who was going to put the 'Shopping List' game away.
I said she had to, because she'd got it out of the cupboard and tipped it all over the floor.

She said, no, not fancying it, and no doubt assuming that Muggins would tidy it up as usual.

I dug my heels in and said she had to do it. Went through the whole rigmarole of "I'm going to count to three...", and threats of having to go straight to bed without a story, the works.

She said, no.

So off I took her to bed, screaming and thrashing around (her, not me, although I did feel like joining in, to be honest). She then went on to bellow and rage for another five minutes, by which point I was fearing for the lining of her throat.

I went in and said goodnight, gave her a cuddle, and said, "I still love you".
She said, no.
I said, what do you mean 'no'?
She said (deadpan, looking me full in the face), I don't love you.

It took my breath away, to be honest. "Well, I love YOU," I said again, giving her another chance.
"Well, I DON'T love YOU," she replied firmly, little nose in the air.

She's only two. I know already the teenage years are going to be hell.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Being a princess

Hello.
Anyone around today?
I don't usually blog at the weekend but I'm up here at the pc this morning trying to do a new work thing, while my partner takes the kids to the park. Not sure how successful it will be, but it's worth a punt, I reckon.

How's your weekend going, then? We took the train to Lewes yesterday for a day out which was v nice. Went to the castle which son and eldest daughter were VERY excited about (youngest daughter slept through the entire experience). It was great, I enjoyed it too, climbing up all the twisty spiral staircases to the top of the highest tower, putting the kids in the old wooden stocks etc. They also had this room full of dressing up clothes, which was brilliant. Son dressed up as a knight and daughter in a medieval dress - and I got a bit over-excited and tried on this fab dress myself, complete with enormous drapey sleeves and plunging velvet neckline. Took it off quickly before anyone else came in and made me feel embarrassed, but for about two minutes I felt a bit of a princess. (I recommend it.)

Went to a pub for tea and got the train home, the kids all going berserk after having lemonade with their tea. Quite scary, actually, seeing them go so loopy on a bit of sugar. Well, that's banned, then. They were like miniature lager louts bellowing and charging around in the street.

I've had the schedule for my new project I mentioned the other day...it is really full-on, quite scary actually. Not sure how I'm going to be able to fit in any new work on the novel, when I've already got eight other children's books contracted to write this year. Hmmm. Partner and I are having big talks about our work arrangements at the moment, currently I work two days a week (plus two short mornings when youngest is as nursery) and he works three days, but this may have to change. God, that work-life balance is a tricky thing!

Anyway, better get on with this new thing....

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Men and their fridges. And tra la la

895 in Amazon this morning... That's good. Got down (or up, rather) to 420 yesterday which was dead exciting. It gave me such a boost, I found myself turning a blind eye to all sorts of things that would usually have had me ratty and shouting, ie children's duvets being thrown down the stairs, all cushions off sofa to make a 'bear cave', games tipped all over the floor... I just smiled gaily, thinking oh, sod it, it's not important tra la la...

I am having a bit of time off today for good behaviour. I got a voucher for a massage as one of my Christmas presents and I'm booked in for this morning. Oh, joy. Then, I'm going to buy some new clothes. And maybe shoes. Oh joy, joy, joy, joy.

Still no word on the school situation. Am braced for the end of tra la la and joy, joy, joy feelings as soon as that miserable letter of refusal comes through the door. Still, I'm hoping the fact that I'm a writer and my partner is a political campaigner means that between us we will be able to cobble together a bloody good letter of appeal (if I don't smudge the ink by weeping all over it, of course.) What a mad and stressful year this is turning out to be.

Will try and do some more work on the novel this afternoon if I am not too blissed out - this morning it struck me that now that Sexy Goody-Two-Shoes Will has become Dark, Mysterious Will with Hidden Past, he hasn't got the right stuff in his fridge. I originally wrote him as having salad and skimmed milk but now that he's not such a goody-goody, I think I should bung in some thick slabs of steak and his own bodyweight in booze. Hmmm. I like thinking about this kind of detail. Does that make me a bit sad?!

Anyway, enough about imaginary characters and their fridges, I'm off to get my shoulders and unknotted and give my credit card a severe bashing. See you later.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Limbo, limbo, limbo

I feel a bit in limbo work-wise at the moment. I've got a huge new project coming my way, and the editors who have commissioned it have been saying, We need her to get onto this as soon as possible! to my agent... but I still haven't got a full brief, so can't actually do anything yet. However, as I know it's imminent, I feel like I can't get too stuck into anything else either. Does that make sense? Am I wibbling? Anyway, what I am building up to saying, is that I've made bugger all progress on the new novel. Yesterday, I decided to have a bit of a half-time match analysis if you like, and printed out the whole lot to go through with my red pen.
Hmmm. A few problems have arisen, namely that one of my male characters, known as Sexy Will, is coming out too bloody good to be true. So I spent a while making Sexy Will more like Edgy, Mysterious Will With Dark Secrets yesterday. Quite fun, actually.
Also, the whole thing has become just too boom-boom-boom action-wise. My poor heroine, I'm surprised she hasn't had a nervous breakdown with all the drama I've been throwing her way. I am putting in some quieter scenes, to break up all the big stuff - still moving the plot along, these aren't just fillers - but the story needs its interludes so everyone can get their breath back a little. So even though I'm not that much further into the word count, it was good to start rethinking these sections. I'm going to carry on with them today.

PS Does anyone understand Amazon's chart rankings? Any Way You Want Me started the day yesterday at a dismal 64,000 or something in the chart, flew suddenly to about 3,000 in the afternoon and then hit my highest point EVER last night at 666 (spooky! Do you think this means something?). Not that I'm checking all the time, of course... (And yes, I know 666 doesn't sound very high but the Amazon chart is its own beast, and not like the official Booktrack one.) Anyway, I don't get it. Does anyone know how they work it out, or is it a totally random exercise?

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

A large helping of stress

"I am going to make friendship bracelets to give to all my new friends," eldest daughter announced this morning, busy with threads and beads.
Don't you just love that? So brave and resilient. We haven't even moved yet and she's looking ahead, envisaging these new friends she's going to make (I wish I could be half so confident).

It did give me a huge pang of sadness though because unfortunately, I can't even tell her with any certainty where she'll be going to school. The local school (local to our new house) has space for my son but not for her, so there's every chance the LA could see fit to put them in two different schools. We will have to go through an appeal at the very least to try and get them together, on the 'sibling link' grounds, as well as the fact that we want to walk to school, to be part of the local community, and for her to have friends in the same street/local area.

God. I am more stressed about this than any aspect of the move so far. It will be physically impossible for me to get them to two different schools every day - they're only 6 and 4, I can't exactly send them off on their own. It will mean one of them always being late, or having to fork out for breakfast clubs etc which I have never done and don't want to either, I think the school day is long enough for them already.
Obviously I haven't told them this, am pretending all is rosey and fine, but inside I am having a nightmare.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

All you need is love (and Handy Andy)

I love the house. Phew. I do love it.
I was worried we'd go back this weekend and walk in and think...OH MY GOD, we are mad, there's no way I want to live here, aaarrgggh, etc.
Luckily, we walked in and I just wanted to lean my head against the wall and say *hello*. (Hmmm. Does that make me sound a bit mad?) I didn't do that, obviously, because the vendor's grown up son was there offering to make me a cup of tea, and I didn't want to give the wrong impresion, but I'm telling you, the day we move in, there will be a big happy hello. (Definitely do sound a bit mad. Moving swiftly on...)
The kids liked it too, lots of running around fiddling with stuff and making plans for who was going to sleep where and what colour their bedrooms would be painted (one day. Maybe 2010) and Ooh, look at this and that, and these bannisters look brilliant for sliding down. So that was good.
Actually, that was so good, I felt exhausted with sheer relief. Phew. Again. Does need LOTS of work, I noticed all these things I hadn't seen before, but hey, we're DIY experts these days. No worries...

And it was great being in town so soon after reading Persuasion. I kept exclaiming, Ooh, Milsom Street! Anne bumps into Captain Wentworth there! So where's Rivers-Street then? (This New Year's resolution of mine to read more classics is DEFINITELY paying off, I feel soooo brainy these days, you know!) And it is such a gorgeous place, even in the lashing rain. Can't quite believe we will be living there yet. We are not worthy. They might not let us in!

Did a very touristy thing this morning and went to 'Number One, Royal Crescent' which is all done out as an Edwardian house, and a great excuse to go in and have a nosey. The kids were all fascinated with the kitchen which had this 'turnspit dog' model set up. Horrible really - the dog would run in a big wheel (like a hamster wheel), thus turning the spit to cook the meat over the fire. (Lovely.) Hmmm. Funnily enough, I know how that poor animal must have felt.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Fanfare, please!

Wow. Something really exciting to announce. I can still hardly believe it but I think.... Yes, I really think... That after six and half long long years...I might be about to leave the nappy years behind. YES!!!! I know! Youngest daughter seems to have cracked it, with the help of a brilliant book from the library called Potty Poo-Poo Wee-Wee (I kid you not) and the promise of Dora the Explorer knickers. Hoorahhhhhhh! Thank you, Dora. Thank you, Potty Poo-Poo Wee-Wee. It's (almost) the end of an era...

Nearly as exciting was the email from the lovely Jane Henry to say that in the Bookseller today, there's a Debut Novels chart...and Any Way You Want Me is in there, at number 15!! Yippeee! It's sold over 5,000 copies which sounds bloody loads to me. Thank you, if you are one of the 5,000. And if you haven't got a copy yet... No, don't worry, I'm not doing that any more. Even though my horoscopes keep banging on about self-promotion opportunities, I am not a natural saleswoman, I would never get on The Apprentice (although if I was, I'd give that snobby Katie a right good slap.) But anyway, if I wasn't so hungover from last night's shenanigans, I would be drinking a celebratory glass or two of wine tonight. I will have a virtual one instead.

Too feeble with my hangover to work this morning, so lay on the sofa drinking cups of tea, eating biscuits and reading Persuasion instead. I felt a bit guilty that I was supposed to be working and youngest daughter was in nursery this morning for that explicit purpose but I wasn't really capable of stringing a sentence together. Am now at 65,000 words on the new novel but I'm not sure they're all GOOD words, if you know what I mean. Worried it's getting a bit complicated and there's just too many dramatic scenes one after the other. Must write in some lulls next week.

Talking of lulls, youngest is snoozing in her cot now and I'm tempted to catch forty winks myself. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

It's all about the house

So the surveyor guy's just been on the phone having checked over the house we want to buy and....[sharp intake of breath].... on the whole it's fine. [Big sigh of relief.] It's an old house so there is damp and bits and bobs wrong, but that's just par for the course and overall, no huge dramas. Of course, the room that I'd got my eye on as my new office (mine, all mine, gimme gimme) is the main problem area, damp as the Bristol Channel and will need 'tanking' apparently, which all sounds a bit alarming. It did reek when we looked round, but I'd assumed that was just because some smelly students had been staying there, and it was the pong of ripe socks and pants and trainers. (When we looked round the house, there was also the strong whiff of spliffs - with a nice top note of cheap aftershave that had obviously been sprayed around in an attempt to mask it. Did notice a rather smeary mirror lying on the bed too. Loyd Grossman, eat your heart out...)
I had a bit of a wobble at the weekend about, Oh my God, this is the most expensive purchase of our lives and we've barely been in it for 20 minutes! Are we mad? Are we buying a complete dump?, so we're going back for a second look this weekend, and to meet the owner. Can't wait now. I have been holding back from falling in love TOO much with this house, in case there was something terribly wrong with it and we had to pull out but it's all looking good so far...

Next week we might even start talking about exchange dates. And then - at last - I'll be able to apply to move the kids into a new school, to find out if they can be squeezed in. We are going to have to go through an appeal process, I think, so I am braced for some despair, angst and possibly a bit of moaning...

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Betty Wart, Betty Wart

I haven't really written much about the children's books side of things lately, have I? Too caught up in First Novel and House Move to think about anything else. I've got to send off a new Oliver Moon synopsis to my editor next week so I will have to get my brain in gear sharpish. It's a birthday party one, so I've been trying to think of a good title other than the classic formula of Happy Birthday Oliver Moon. Oliver Moon's Bogey Birthday, eldest daughter suggested. Hmmm. Not the nicest image.

Eldest daughter's teacher is currently reading Oliver Moon's Nipperbat Nightmare to the class (thank you, Mrs C) and I had the delightful experience last week of going to pick up said daughter from school, and hearing her and about six of her friends all singing some of the lines of the book in chorus and laughing their heads off. Ie "She's rude, she's snobby, her nose is very blobby, Betty Wart, Betty Wart". Ooh, it did fill my heart with joy, I can tell you. Every author's dream to have their words chanted aloud by adoring fans!! Well...okay, it wasn't quite like that. But all the same, it made me smile.

Having said all that, I am going to plough on with the new novel again today. I hit 60,000 words yesterday, so want to keep up the momentum. I had a panic that I had peaked too early, writing one of the Big Dramatic Scenes that is the catalyst for several other Big Dramatic Scenes sooner than I thought, but then remembered (DUH) that this novel doesn't actually have to be 100,000 words long, just because the other two have been. So maybe it's going to be an 80,000 word novel, after all. In which case, I'm three-quarters of the way there!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Girly books (no, not THAT kind)

I am reading like a mad thing at the moment - bliss. Finished Black Swan Green (loved it) and devoured Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk. She's one of my favourite authors, I love her books, and this didn't disappoint. She writes with such brilliant insights, fantastic observational detail and well-drawn characters - and is so good on the conflicts of motherhood. (And it says in the inside cover that she lives in Brighton! If only I'd known sooner!)

This is going to be a very girly reading month, I think, after last month's more masculine Dickens/Raw Shark Texts/Black Swan Green combo. Next it's Persuasion, then Rebecca, then I'm looking forward to Kate Harrison's new one, and also the new one by Adele Parks. Oh, what a nice reading pile, every one a pleasure I am sure.

The Children's Parade was great, by the way. Thousands of people lining the streets all cheering on the procession of children, parents and teachers, all in different costumes, with amazing props and samba bands. A quintessential Brighton experience, so glad we got to be a part of it this year. (WISH I hadn't worn my high heels, though - dreadful mistake. Ooh, me aching feet...)

Friday, 4 May 2007

A series of excuses

Friday mornings are supposed to be work time for me, but am only just getting to the computer now while my 2-year-old snores in bed (thank God for naptime). Eldest daughter's assembly to go to first which was gorgeous, of course - although at the end I had a real attack of Oh God! This could be the last assembly I go to here!, which totally set me off and I got all tearful AGAIN. I'm a sentimental fool at the moment. Must try to toughen up.

Then I had to go to see my accountant and sort out my tax return including my first VAT return, which was a painful old business - ie I couldn't understand what he was on about and just sat there like a simpleton, obediently signing things where he told me to. But it's done at least, and I've got something to send off for the mortgage application, which was why I've wanted it done so early. One tedious job to tick off the list.

By the time I got back, there was only half an hour before I had to run out again to get the poppet from nursery. So that was my working morning reduced to nothing. Still, I moved the word count up to 56,000 yesterday so that's not bad for the week. I'm slightly worried I've peaked my big dramatic turning point too early and also that there are too many plotlines running through, but am making a leap of faith that it will pan out okay.

What are you all up to for the long weekend, then? The Brighton Festival starts tomorrow, kicking off with the Children's Parade which is always a spectacular sight, with loads of children's bands, dressing up, amazing props etc. The theme is 'Inventions' this year and my eldest is taking part, which is very exciting. Fingers crossed it doesn't rain - soggy papier mache is not a good look!