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!