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!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Do you remember the first time?

I am racing through Black Swan Green - almost finished it. Ooh, it's good. Quite painful to read, some of it, but it's unputdownable. I even read a few pages this morning before I got out of bed, ignoring all the shouts and bellows from downstairs. I can't remember the last time that happened.

Next on my pile of books is Rebecca. Brighton are doing one of those 'City Reads' projects - and that's the book in question. And, of course, being a dutiful citizen, I always do what I am told. Well, okay, that's not remotely true, but when I saw the nice little brochure about it in the library, I did have a real urge to re-read the book. I've got a soft spot for Rebecca, too, because it was the first grown-up novel I ever read (at the precocious age of 10). It was such a rite of passage, I vividly remember feeling soooo grown-up as I discussed the plot with my mum. So go on, then, fellow bloggers - what was your first 'grown-up novel'? And have you read it since?

PS So glad Posh Paul got turfed out of The Apprentice last night. There seems to be a high ratio of poshos in it this year - and definitely a bit of class war going on. I am CONVINCED that Adam keeps ending up in the boardroom solely because he's got a Northern accent and didn't go to a rah-rah public school. Hope he shoves it to 'em next week.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Culcha

Gawd…a paper deluge thumped through the letterbox yesterday. Huge pile of conveyancing forms and letters to fill in, ginormous mortgage application, letter from the surveyors… we are drowning in bureaucracy right now, and I’ll be changing my name to Jarndyce at this rate.
Sat down with a bottle of wine to make a start on the forms last night – probably a bad idea in hindsight because we got all giggly and stupid about what are supposed to be SERIOUS DOCUMENTS and I kept making spelling mistakes because I was shaking with drunken laughter. Who would have thought moving house could be such fun, eh?!

It’s actually a bit weird now that we’re not painting and decorating every evening any more. We’ve sold the house – we’ve stopped all that. And because the house we’re moving to is a bit…um… well-loved, shall we say, I know that as soon as we’re in there, we’ll have months and months of cleaning and painting and decorating evenings stretching ahead of us (which is just as well, seeing as we’ll be Billy and Belle No-Mates there with no social lives to speak of…)
So I’m determined to make the most of this *restful* period inbetween. Nights out, trying not to get maudlin and sentimental over lovely friends. And nights in too, watching films and reading books. Bliss, actually! I’ve finished David Copperfield (little bit disappointed – fantastically enjoyable opening, got a bit boring in the middle, hated Dora, wasn’t that thrilled by worthy Agnes either, thought Mr Micawber was tedious even though he’s meant to be comic…) and have read The Night Watch too, which I absolutely loved – so clever, and beautifully written, with all the hints and clues and fabulous period detail. Am now reading Black Swan Green, which I found slightly irritating at first (it felt a bit self-conscious) but am now engrossed in it and enjoying very much. Next classic for May – Persuasion. I’ve never read it but it’s set in Bath so seems very appropriate.

Film-wise, I’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth (fabulous fairy-tale), Red Road (grim weeper) and The Holiday (perfect pick-me-up). Get me! I’m no longer paint-splashed and reeking of turps. I’m cultured, ain’t I? For a short while, anyway…

Thank you for all the nice comments yesterday, by the way. I feel much better. New mantra: It's all going to be fine. Today I'm even starting to believe it.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Stressing

I am stressing. Still!! I feel like THE MOVE is all anyone can talk to me about at the moment. Every time I do the school run, someone else comes up to ask about it, and I have to go through it all again, getting really sad as I do so (and trying to keep that low-key in front of the kids). To be honest, I'm just sick of talking about the whole thing. ARRRGGHH. I almost just want to go now, get it over with. But at the same time, part of me wants to put the whole move off until next year, when I've had time to say all my goodbyes...
Oh, I am so going to miss my friends here. I know it's not like we're leaving the country and we'll never see them again, but all the same, it's the end of an era. Two of my children were born in this house. I have had five very happy years here - and it's definitely been the case for me that the friends made during those tough early years of parenthood have been very close bonds. I can't imagine that happening again somewhere else. I'm really not sure we are doing the right thing, leaving at all, but there you go.

As for the novel, I thought by now I'd have relaxed about it, and all the fuss would be over. But no, another fear has struck, which is that nobody's buying it, and I'm powerless to do anything about that, and why am I even bothering to write another novel, I will be a washed-up failure nobody wants to publish blah blah. Bloody hell. Some people are never satisfied, are they?!
(By the way, I know lots of you lovely blogfriends and readers have already bought copies of Any Way You Want Me and even plugged it on your own blogs/sites - thank you soooo much - but just in case you haven't managed to get hold of one yet, Amazon are currently selling it for a mere £3.99. Just thought I'd throw that in. Ahem.)

Despite all these worries, I did have a really nice day yesterday. Partner had to work on Saturday so he had the day off yesterday and he, I and our youngest went into town and pottered about before having lunch and a beer together, out in the sunshine. It was sooo lovely. Really relaxing. We have made a pact that we are definitely both going to stay part-timers even when the kids are all at school so that we can have one day a week off together, to do things on our own, without small people to think about. Looking forward to that already. So it's not all bad...

I've got the copy-edit of Oliver Moon's Fangtastic Sleepover to go through this morning, then I'm going to work on something completely new to cheer myself up. And try to stop worrying...