Wednesday, 28 May 2008

On being wrong

Well, I finished On Beauty last night - I actually stayed up late because I just had to get to the last page - and I loved it. Just loved it. Oh, it's fantastic - great characters, fabulous drama (especially the conflict scenes - she's soooo good at them), wonderfully rich, meaty plot with all its parallels and interweaving storylines. So there you go. Lesson learned. Do Not Be Scared Of Books. When's the next one coming out, then, Zadie?

I'm working today - I had intended to get back to the novel this morning after a few weeks away from it but have been caught up with my girly children's series instead - second draft of Book 4 to read through and send off, first draft of Book 6 to check over and send off, copy-edit of Book 3 to read and okay, and now there's a second draft of Book 5 to work on.... I feel quite under pressure with my partner's job ending on Friday and being the sole earner from then on, for however long. Must keep everything ticking over otherwise it'll be cheese on toast and home-brew all round at the wedding, and I'll have to start making the children's shoes myself.

Talking of high-flying business people (as we weren't), did you see the Apprentice last night? Thank God Michael got the boot at last. I like all the remaining five although I reckon Lucinda and Helene will be on their way out next. And the interview week next week! I always like that bit - something quite enjoyable about seeing someone else sweat their way through gruelling interview questions when you're safe on your own sofa.

Next book to take off the TBR pile is the book group one - Seizure by Erica Wagner. Not one I'd have chosen in a shop, to be honest, despite the striking cover. (Striking but rather odd nonetheless.) Anyone read it? "Beautifully written but dense," one of the other book group members has said to me. "Not one that you can skim through." Damn....

Monday, 26 May 2008

Mud's the word is so nice to be in a house again, with a roof, and walls that don't leak, and a bath, and fridge, and toilet.... And oh, it is so nice to be dry, too! The weekend was definitely one of two halves.
Saturday, we packed up and set off for Hay. There was a sweeping gale on the campsite, so putting the tent up was a challenge but luckily nothing crucial blew away, and before long, we'd conquered the thing and were in. The kids were all totally over-excited about camping, lots of tent zipping and unzipping going on, running around bellowing in joy etc. Ahh, camping is fab, we thought, smiling to ourselves. We were especially smiley once all the kids were in their pyjamas and sleeping bags supposedly going to sleep (although lots of giggling and more zipping and unzipping and getting into sleeping bags headfirst was to be heard). We sat there with glasses of wine with a fantastic view of the sun setting over beautiful wooded hills and thought, this is the life. Camping rocks!

Then, early Sunday morning, it started to rain. And rain. And rain. And did I mention the rain? It always sounds loud in a tent, we reminded ourselves. It can't be that bad out.
It was that bad out. It was lashing it down. I don't think it stopped pouring all day, in fact. The campsite soon became a swamp, squelching with mud. The tent was leaking. "I'm fed up with camping," eldest daughter said, shivering and baggy-eyed. I'd had about three hours sleep' and didn't have the strength to argue.

Still! We were at the Hay Festival! The Woodstock of the mind, and all that! And I'm sure it's fab when the sun is beaming down, all that lolling around on grass, drinking Pimms and reading and secretly checking out the celebs through your sunglasses. Yeah, that must be brilliant.
The thing is though, when it is cold and peeing it down and you have three children who seem to have organised a secret rota between them where they take it in turns to individually demand trips to the Portaloos every twenty minutes, and when there's nowhere to go except tramp round the covered walkways because the children's area has flooded, and when the only celeb you spot is a very shiny William Hague...well...

I'm moaning. I didn't mean to. I actually really enjoyed the events I went to - Julia Donaldson in particular was just wonderful, entertaining hundreds of children with stories, songs, theatre, puppets, with members of her family all acting out parts of the story (her husband was a fantastically camp Fox in the Gruffalo). And Hay itself is gorgeous, all those lovely bookshops and nice warm pubs. And it was quite exciting, being amidst all those posh literary types (I am SUCH an inverted snob, I am quite scared of posh literary types). And I was celeb-scanning like mad and kept getting all excited thinking I'd spotted Ian McEwan every five minutes when it was just a random bloke in glasses each time. So that was all good.
But it is nice to be home again...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Carry on Camping

So...list of things to pack for our weekend camping. It starts off quite practical:

Foot pump
Sleeping bags
Cool box...

It then all gets a bit pessimistic:


And finally, acceptance:


The kids are soooo excited at the thought of sleeping in a tent. I'm excited too - I've never been to the Hay Festival and it sounds right up my alley, lots of books, booky people and star-spotting. And I'm going to see Tim Winton and Lloyd Jones (Mister Pip) speak on Monday!!! How fab will that be. But camping in a mudbath...oh Gawd... I think alcohol is the only way I will see it through!

PS I never told you my next Sporting Challenge! It is..... Gymnastics! For Adults! Trampolining, floor-work and vaults. I am dead excited. And quite scared too!
Have a good weekend everyone, back next week.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Wedding dresses part 2

Hoorah!! An excellent writing day yesterday, 4,000 words which meant I finished my series finale book. It's all a bit rough and ready and needs prettying up, but the first draft is there, banged out all the way to THE END. Marvellous. My editor of this particular series is keen for a follow-up set of books so I have been spinning new ideas around my going to try and get down some possible storylines today while I'm on a bit of a roll. Famous last words...

Mind you, I can't concentrate brilliantly at the moment as I'm going out to try on a few more wedding dresses later this morning - it's a mum who's set up her own business, selling ex-sample and second-hand dresses from her house. I really hope there's an 'I-love-it!' one there in the collection. Cross your fingers for me...

(And actually, if you could keep them crossed until Monday, that would be brilliant, cheers. We're taking the kids camping this weekend for the first time ever... please let it be sunny!)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

I can't believe... much I am enjoying On Beauty!!! Who would have thought it? I never expected it to be quite so funny and entertaining, so big thanks to Girl With The Mask and Milla for persuading me to get it down from the TBR shelf at long last and blow the dust off it. I read 100 pages last night, am loving it. I'm rather stunned to see those words in black and white, having assumed otherwise (see previous post and comments if I am confusing you.)
Must confess, I did find it slightly disconcerting to discover that there was a character called Kiki in the book, as Kiki has become synonymous with funny parrot remarks in our house, since my eldest has been on her Enid Blyton love-in. "Wipe your feet, blow your nose, wipe your nose, blow your feet, what a pity, what a pity" etc. And if you don't know what I'm on about, shame on you! (Oh, all right, Kiki the parrot is the star of such greats as The Castle of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure etc.) Ahh, the bit on the train where cheeky Kiki stuffs toffee wrappers into the sleeping old man's pocket! Ahem. Anyway, moving on.

Change of subject. I've got myself a new sporting challenge lined up for after the Race for Life (June 1st - still time to sponsor me if you are feeling generous...). I'm a bit scared about it but quite excited too. Anyone want to have a guess? Go on, someone flatter me and say the London marathon...

Friday, 16 May 2008

On Books (and Beauty)

I have read lots of books lately which is a Good Thing - always makes me feel virtuous to put a dent in the towering TBR pile before buying a load more. (There are some books in the TBR pile that have been there a LONG time, too. I am starting to think I will never get round to reading On Beauty, for example, there always seems to be something else more appealing that begs to be picked up instead. And anyway, it looks too much like hard work. And I'll probaby end up feeling a right thicko because I don't get all the clever references and blah-di-blah. I don't want a book to give me an inferiority complex!)

I'm currently reading something (I won't say what) which is turning out to be a slow one, if you know what I mean. Clever and literary and beautifully written but... Well, it's just not a page-turner you can romp through, put it that way. Not one you can flop onto the sofa with and discover you've gobbled through 50 pages in the time it's taken you to sink a single glass of wine, chortling and ooh-ing at the juicy bits. Hmmm. Luckily, for some light relief, I'm also reading Wicked Whispers by Jessica Callan, which is the perfect counterpoint - a real guilty pleasure of a book, full of gossip and showbiz indiscretions. I'm telling myself it's research because one of my main characters in Novel 3 is a showbiz reporter for a tabloid but we all know that I'm just an old gossip at heart...

So tell me... what's the veteran in your To-Be-Read pile that you bought with such good intentions but which, for one reason or another, has remained resolutely unread since the day of purchase? Go on, fess up, you're amongst friends here. Oh yes, and should I make an effort and pick up On Beauty next?

PS Ran for half an hour with Lovely Partner along the river this morning. Lovely and cool, lots of leggy cow parsley in the hedgerows, ducks on the water, barely saw another person. Checked out my favourite new site and discovered we'd run 4km. Result!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Running, crying, gasping, maybe even working

I've just come back from the gym having run a mighty 4km on the treadmill - my furthest ever! C'MOOOOOONNNNNNN! (in a macho back-slapping City Boy styley). I have really had my ups and downs with running - was all set to pack the whole thing in at the start of the week, went into a real 'I'll never be able to do it!' spiral but now... now I think I might just pull it off. Go, me!
My sponsorship has topped £200 too which I am so chuffed about - and it makes the whole thing seem all the more worthwhile having watched Child of Our Time last night. Oh my God - did you see it? I always watch it as my eldest was born in 2000, the same year as all the featured children, so I'm always really interested to see how they're all getting along. Last night's programme was about children dealing with stress, which I find very sad anyway but oh, it was just a heart-wrencher. I burst into tears when that announcement came at the end. Very very sad.

I am actually going to do some *gasp* work today (haven't quite begun yet but hey...). I'm starting the final story in a six-book children's series I've been writing for Usborne. This is my first sequential series, so I'm quite excited about reaching the finale, it's going to be an all-action finish (she says hopefully). All six books will be coming out at once next spring and there's even talk of *another gasp* sparkly writing on the covers. Oooh. Like the sound of that.

Ahhh - there's the grindstone starting up, I believe. Must go and press my schnoz against it immediately...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

culture club

Hello! I am back at my desk. I haven't spent much time here lately, I must say... the weather has been far too gorgeous to be stuck indoors at the pc. Somehow or other I've managed to get away with not-very-much-work lately too - a bit of proofreading here, some tinkering on a second draft there, but no actual new writing. Not sure I can do it any more now...
No - mustn't talk like that. Lovely Partner's job ends this month so I will become Sole Breadwinner of the House until something else comes up for him (eek) and therefore I must stop slacking off and get down to work.
I'll just write this blog post first. And then work really really hard until I have to get my youngest from playgroup at 12.
Hmmm. That's not going to happen, is it?

So...what to say? Tell you what, I'll give you my cultural round-up of the last week. Go on, humour me, pretend you're watching Newsnight Review or something and I'm Germaine Greer or someone brainy... I've just read the brilliant Mothernight by Sarah Stovell. Ohhh it's good. I can't believe it's her first novel, it's so beautifully written, paced, structured... Very chilling and intense, the sort of book that's hard to tear yourself away from, the sort of book you read with a creeping feeling of dread, that oh-no-please-don't-let-this-be-happening! fear running through your mind. And the cover!!! So striking and beautiful. If I had more than half a brain cell, I'd be able to post a picture of it but *cough* I still haven't worked out how to do that yet on Blogger. Ahem. Go and look at it on Amazon anyway. Lush.

Saw Enduring Love on DVD the other night which was fab. I picked it up in the video shop and couldn't for the life of me remember if I'd already seen it or not because for me, the book was so vivid (especially that amazing opening sequence) that I could still conjure up lots of images from the pages, and wasn't sure if they were from the film or my own head! That's never happened to me before - weird. Anyway, turned out, I hadn't seen it. I thought it was good although judging by the review on Amazon, not everyone else agrees...

Telly...ooh, I feel spoiled with all my favourite programmes on at once. Lost, Heroes, The Apprentice... Best telly moment of the year so far has got to be the kosher chicken incident in The Apprentice last week. Priceless!

Over to you, now. What's your cultural round-up? I'm all ears...

Friday, 9 May 2008

I blame the parents

No time to blog properly today so I'll tell you my son's current favourite joke instead.

Why did the baker have brown fingers?

Because he kneaded a poo...

Normal service will resume soon!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Making a statement

Today I tried on some wedding dresses. It didn't go very well. I don't know if it was the bad new haircut or what, but nothing looked great. In fact, most of the dresses looked awful and I couldn't quite smile at myself in the mirror. So that was a bit depressing.
I started off in Monsoon having liked the look of a couple of dresses on their website. All the long dresses were just too long (I am five foot one and a half). All the shorter ones seemed a bit shapeless on me. And I don't know how many other brides-to-be had tried them on before me, but I did see quite a lot of dangling threads and loose sequins which put me off too.

I tried a second shop. I don't know why - maybe it was the bad haircut again, or maybe because then I was starting to feel a bit harassed - but I only flicked through a few dresses, saw a £1000 price tag and came over all faint. I just can't pay that much money for a dress - it seems all wrong when you have three kids to feed and clothe. So I ran out of the shop in a fluster.

THEN I looked in the windows of the poshest bride shop in town... but it's one of those places where you have to ring the bell for them to let you in and there were no prices in the window and I was all hot and sweaty and I was sure the door would be answered by someone very glam and beautiful who would turn their nose up at me... so I went home.

Maybe I'll just get married in a black bin liner. I could call it a statement. What do you reckon?

Sunday, 4 May 2008

High, low, everywhere we go...

What a weekend I'm having! And it's not even over yet. Here are the edited highlights and lowlights so far:

A horrible rat incident (that's 'rats' plural still too freaked out to write about it but it was BAD)

Crying over a new way-too-short haircut (I look like a pinhead...wahhh!)

Fantastic night at friends' house involving drunken Nintendo Wii-ing (I so want one now!)

Crashing hangover today, not enough sleep, more angst about bad haircut and pinhead-ness (wahhh! #2)

The lovely b emailing me with the translation of my German review as done by her sister (so so kind, thanks again b and wonderful sister!)

And best of all... I have a new nephew, born yesterday. Ahhhh!!!! The world is a lovelier place. Even with this hangover.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Ist gut, ja?

Oooooer! Look at this racy cover of my book in German! How exciting is that! I think the title translates as My Career as a Liar - is that right???

Anyway, I'm all a-flutter about my first review in German - four stars the reviewer has given it, cheers, love! I have no idea what she's saying though, so whizzed it through an online translation thingy. Apparently it means:

Lucy Diamond has "My career as Lügnerin" a novel that is very difficult from the hand to put it. Rather, the reader will in large sheets into the events and is catapulted meanwhile torn from the stress with the children and Sadies secret affair. Secretly think desöfteren "no, do not" or "why are you only so blind?". And yet it includes Sadie, her two children Molly and Nathan - the author described wonderful - and other characters quickly into the heart. This is where the mother is not rosy words, but also with the real stress of women and sometimes frustration emerging enriched. After all, nobody is perfect and even Sadie know that they are much different, should be better. But at the moment simply lacks the power to decide, and so here and there a little too flunkern, sometimes even as a career woman, and so spend their dreary life to escape. When Mark finally appears in her life, she is no longer under control, even if they know that this affair may not be. And finally, their increasingly aware of how happy they can appreciate, with two healthy children and a man who slowly starts to their relationship to work and to understand them. The author has a great sense of feelings and knows this expressive in her novel. And at the end vergießt with the aufgewachten Sadie sometimes one or the other tear, and is happy that everything still can be good.

I am lost for words. Ist gut, ja?

Loose Woman

I feel as if I've been let loose on the writing front at the moment. For the past few years, I've had back to back deadlines, have taken on way too many commissions for my own stress levels - on average 20 children's books of between 4,000-10,000 words each plus a full-length novel each year, working only two days a week (as well as LOTS of bleary-eyed evenings). My work diary has been mapped out like a military operation - must write three chapters of Book A on Wednesday, start second draft of Book B on Thursday, proofread Book C on Friday morning before playgroup pick-up etc.... It has been a bit of a slog, to be honest, and while I've been grateful for being offered writing work in the first place, I have still found myself yearning for for a lighter workload and more hours in the day. Oh, and my evenings free again, please!

I guess it's all part of that freelancer's mentality - say yes to everything for fear of never getting any work again. And for a long time, we struggled financially, what with me popping out 3 kids back-to-back (well...that's how it felt at the time) and my other half only working part-time, so....

Anyway. It all feels unnervingly different now. Since the end of last year, I've turned down quite a lot of work. Eleven children's books, I've just counted. It was all stuff that would be under a pseudonym, not really my stories (and not really my cup of tea either, a lot of it...) So I took a deep breath and said no, no and thrice no (in a rather scared voice). Instead of sweating over those commissions, I've now got space to concentrate on the new novel, and more of my own children's books, with my name on the front cover and everything!

It's great on one hand, having more time and space but I do find it a bit daunting. What - no deadlines for anything until the end of the month? But how can that be???

PS 25 minutes on the treadmill this morning. 4km is now tantalisingly within reach. Whoopeee!