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.)

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.