Thursday, 31 January 2008

Nearly at the midpoint...

After the mellow sun of yesterday ("it feels like Spring!" we kept saying), it's wild, wet and blustery today. Brrr. Lovely to be cosy in my office though. I can see H-t-b and our youngest daughter putting up bird feeders in the garden; daughter keeps running over to gurn through the window at me which is a bit distracting but very sweet!

Had a good day on the novel yesterday - 4,000 new words added to the counter, so I'm very very nearly at that lovely 50,000 word halfway point. It feels about right - all three of the main characters have hit that midpoint crisis moment in their stories and are in transition, if you know what I mean. And I did enjoy writing my character's bad-girl night out yesterday. There's nothing like a bit of vicarious debauchery to put a spring in your step!

Today's workload doesn't look quite so appealing. I've got to do a chapter breakdown for a new book in this American children's series I'm co-writing. Then I've got two manuscripts in a different series to go through - the first needs a few tweaks after its copy-edit, and the second needs a proper second draft. And if I get that far (which I probably won't), there's my new column for Bridalwave to write too... Say yes to too many projects at once? What, me?

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

It's a Writing Wednesday

Ahhh Wednesday. Lovely Wednesday. A whole day for me to sit here and write, write, write. H-t-b is home again and in charge of the kids today, so I'm scruffing around with unwashed hair, glasses on instead of contact lenses, mismatched socks etc all set for a day on the novel, while he tackles the school run. Bliss.
It's a gorgeous day outside, morning sun just lighting up the branches of the trees, birds singing, beautifully still. Meanwhile, I'm going to be writing about an outrageous night in a Bristol cocktail bar. I can't wait...

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Most Boring Meme You Will Ever Read

I've been tagged by the lovely Cally which is actually rather a relief as I don't have anything interesting that I can tell you right now (more secrets rumbling in the background).

So here we go....

The small print: Link to the person that tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his/her website.

Six non-important things/habits/quirks...
Oh Gawd, I can't think of any now. Ummm...

1. I hate it when you treat yourself to a lovely new hardback book and then you don't actually get around to reading it until it's come out in paperback. Grrr. Well, that was a waste of money, wasn't it it?

2. I thought of number 1 because I'm currently reading The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe which I bought in hardback last autumn and only started reading the other night. It is a SIGNED copy as well (I was soooo star-struck when I met him, I actually couldn't string a sentence together) so that would have been even worse, if I'd left it languishing on the shelf. But I'm reading it - and it's good. A result all round, phew.

3. I am halfway through a banana. Trying to be healthy, you see.

4. I am thinking about applying for an MA. Just thinking about it at the moment. Probably won't be able to do it until all my kids are at school (Sept 09). But it's nice to have something on the horizon, isn't it?

5. I still feel a bit guilty that my first lot of Sims children got taken away by a social worker. (I couldn't get the older ones to school and couldn't work out how to feed the baby.) I fear my eldest daughter was scarred for life, seeing her virtual self being taken away by social services.

6. Talking of crap parenting, virtual and real, I'm going to be late to pick up youngest daughter from playgroup if I don't hurry up...

God, I'm rubbish at these things. Sorry. Must go!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Bouncing

Oooh, I am on such a huge high this morning (entirely legally thank you very much) - I have just spoken to the whole of our local school for their assembly - 500+ kids - as I have become their 'school author' (for the children's books I write, not the Lucy Diamond stuff!). It was fab. I spoke to them about writing and how I work, and then had a bit of a Q & A with them all, oh it was just so lovely. I'm going to be judging some of their pieces of writing in a contest, so I was trying to inspire them in different ways - they all sat so so silently, drinking it all in, not a heckle or a shuffle to be heard. It just reminded me that actually, being an author is such an aspirational thing and for me to go in there, one of the mums, and say I've done this, you could too, felt really great.

AHHHHHHH! Endorphin rush all over, I'm telling you.
I am also buzzing with the next bit of the new novel, kept having to get out of bed and scribble things down on a notepad last night because I kept getting new ideas and bits of dialogue. I love feeling like this. Love it!!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Ohhhhh! or Uhhhhh?

I've got three words for you. And when you read them, you'll either go, "Ohhhhhhhh!" or "Uhhhh?" Are you ready? Okay, here they are:

Mr
Galliano's
Circus


So, which are you? I am definitely in the former response category. In fact, I was a bit louder than a mere "Ohhhhhhh!", I was a "OHHHHH MY GODDD! I LOVED those books!"
Yes, my eldest is still devouring the Enid Blytons like there's no tomorrow and she's onto the delights of Jimmy, Lotta, Lucky the dog (such a clever little dog) and of course Mr Galliano himself (who is camp as Christmas from an adult's perspective). I found myself reading Hurrah For the Circus at breakfast this morning, oooh, it's a good 'un.

There. That's today's blog. An extremely literary and highbrow one too, I'm sure you'll agree. I bet they'll be clamouring for me to be one of the Booker judges now!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The chocolate and wine diet

Sorry for being a slack blogger...somehow or other the days keep passing me by without me getting onto that Blogger Dashboard. Also normal life has been rather overshadowed by a Big Development which I can't actually blog about yet. (No, nosey family members who keep reading this, I am not up the duff before you ask.)

Writing-wise, I am v busy a-tweaking and a -tarting up my novel-in-progress. When I met my Lucy Diamond agent last week, he was very positive about it and wants to send it out as a partial. Eek! So I am going through it with a tooth-comb (not sure what one of those is , but I still have a couple of nit-combs hanging around that would probably do the job) buffing up my prose and trying to iron out all the kinks in the what-happens-next synopsis. So cross your fingers for me, world...
I saw my lovely new agent too (children's books one) who is fantastically proactive and efficient; she is already mentioning me to the great and good, and being v encouraging about other new projects. So I feel all fired up on the writing front this year, which is great.

Last snippet of news...I have lost weight! Yes, after just a few paltry trips to the gym and not eating any bread and butter for a few weeks, my trousers are definitely looser and the scales show a loss of two pounds. Amazing. I haven't given up anything else, am still eating chocolate and drinking wine, which feels to me like a right result. I do feel a bit like Mrs Large with my "nice, healthy soup" every lunch but hey, that's all right by me...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

In a spin

Gaaaahhhh....feel like I just can't catch up with life at the moment. My head is full of stuff that needs doing, stuff not to forget, stuff to sort out for the weekend, family stuff, work stuff, stuff to worry about.... Ugggh. I am stuffed, basically.

I'm supposed to be going to London this morning but when I started getting dressed, discovered I had no clean tights. Bugger. This is what I mean about things that need doing. Washing is on the list. (It is a scarily long list.) I just don't feel on top of everything, I need someone to come and organise me like, oh I dunno, a personal assistant or a butler or... Anyway, so I've had to fling on a wash and will no doubt end up drying some tights with a hairdryer as soon as the spin has finished, or going off to get the train with wet toes. So that'll be nice.

Still, all moaning aside (moaning AGAIN! what is wrong with me?) I am looking forward to the day. I'm meeting both my agents (yes, I have two, I am so greedy) to discuss books and writing in 2008 which sounds pretty damn lovely to me. Working from home means I am always pathetically grateful for an excuse to go to London and talk to somebody who doesn't live with me. But how will I appear professional and brainy if I have damp toes??!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Word power

I've been feeling a tiny bit blah the last few days. I don't know if it was January starting to eat away at me, or all the knackering single-mothering I've been doing while h-t-b has been in London or just the incessant bloody rain but anyway, I went to bed last night feeling quite bad-tempered, and woke up this morning in the same sort of mood.
I won't write anything on the blog today, I decided. I'll only end up moaning. And who wants to read a load of moaning?

Then I started my day's work. (Oh I do love my work.) I'm back on the novel today after a month-long hiatus of other deadlines and writing jobs. I haven't looked at it in all that time, so have gone right back to the beginning for a catch-up read-through. It's so brilliant being able to look at it with fresh eyes. And do you know what? I am really enjoying it. The bad mood has gone. How about that, for the power of words on a page?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

M-M-M-MY Sharona!

It’s here! The piano! After much faffing about with the van and then a series of comedy manouevres to get it into the house, it’s there and it’s fab. Okay, so you can tell it’s been standing in a pub for the last God-knows-how-many years, my eldest found a crisp wedged between two of the keys (ewwwww!) and the top is all shabby where I suspect a few pints have been spilled on it (sacrilege) but it plays pretty well. Hopefully, with a bit of cleaning up and tuning and crisp-crumb-Dustbustering, it will be absolutely fine.

It’s funny how your brain holds on to things; I haven’t played properly for – what? About twenty-five years I guess – but my fingers could still remember Fur Elise and Moonlight Sonata – well, not all the notes sadly, but enough for my kids to look a bit shocked and impressed (ha!). Sadly ‘My Girl’ has vanished from memory. Must try and seek out some music for it.

We were in town yesterday to see a Penguin Books Design Exhibition at the Holburne (lovely, seeing all those iconic covers in huge displays as well as letters and sketches by Edward Young, the guy who designed the original Penguin logo) and afterwards we popped into a music shop nearby. Ooooh, instruments! Oooh, sheet music! It was dead exciting. I bought a book called ‘Sounds of the 70s’ which has the music for such greats as Dancing Queen, My Sharona, You’re So Vain, oh, all sorts of corkers. Not that I can play any of them yet. I will keep you posted.

I am failing miserably on my diet. The problem is, I keep forgetting. That was how I ended up having chips in a greasy spoon for lunch, buying treacle tart in M&S and dishing out the wine and choccie last night. Oops. The wedding seems so long away though that there doesn’t seem any urgency. You wait, in July I will existing solely on Ryvitas and grapefruit.

Mind you, I am feeling a bit more inspired, having just finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl by Shauna Reid, based on her Dietgirl blog. Such a great book – really funny, moving and incredibly honest. Dietgirl, you are an inspiration. I will be back on my diet track very soon, honest.

Right now, though, I’m off to have a go at My Sharona to annoy the neighbours….

Friday, 11 January 2008

Water water everywhere

Aaaaaaand relax.
I went back to the gym this morning, feeling all tense and braced for a ruck. I was half-thinking of cancelling but forced myself to go.
I asked the manager for a word and told him what had happened and how it had made me feel. He was great. He said all the right things and promised he'd have a word with the prat. He actually wants me and the prat to have a conversation about it but I said I'd feel too embarrassed. And I did tell the prat how I was feeling at the time. I don't think there's any point, to be honest.
ANYWAY. Then the lovely manager showed me all the machines and how to work them and we actually *gasp* had a laugh. Yes - me- having a laugh - at the gym. There's a collection of words I never thought I'd use. I really *gasp* enjoyed it. So the bad feelings of Wednesday are just water under the bridge now. I am MOVING ON.

Feel really chuffed with myself as I've just sent off my new children's series proposal to my new agent. Hoorah! It's gone. I haven't got to the worrying-it's-crap stage yet, I'm still on a high for getting it done and emailed. One more deadline to meet on Tuesday and then it's back to the novel.

This is a bit of a dull blog today, sorry about that. But you can always have a look at this on Trashionista instead if you like?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Sound of Music

Thank you everyone who left me a nice message or emailed me after my gym humiliation yesterday. I really appreciated it. I've been fairly confident about the way I look for years now but I could feel myself getting into a spin yesterday and it was horrible how quickly the I Am Crap feelings started to resurface.
But anyway. We won't talk about that any more because I am not crap and I am definitely not obese so the gym prat can shove it up his trackie bottoms (and a bit further).

MUCH better news today is that H-t-b has sorted out picking up my Christmas present. And oooh, it's a good 'un. Ages ago, I mentioned to him that I used to play the piano. I was never a Mozartette or anything, the pinnacle of my playing ability was 'My Girl' by Madness but you know, I enjoyed it and that was good enough for me. So lovely H-t-b thought he'd get me some piano lessons as a Christmas present, and phoned up a teacher.

"Well, I can give her lessons," the teacher said, "but there's not much point if she doesn't have a piano to practise on."
"Oh," said H-t-b. And as pianos cost a couple of grand, he thought, Well, that's that, then.
"However, I do know someone who's giving a piano away for free," the nice piano teacher said. "I'm going round to have a look at it later. I'll give you a ring if it's all right, shall I?"

So all I know at this point is that H-t-b keeps disappearing to take calls and make calls in this annoyingly cryptic sort of way. We'd been to see some friends the weekend before Christmas and on the way home, he drove a different way. "Just got to nip into this pub to see someone," he said, pulling up on a dark street. "It's about your present."

Obviously I was beside myself with curiosity, especially as he came out empty-handed. "What is it? Who did you meet?"
"Oh, just someone called Emma," he said mysteriously. "And that's all I'm telling you."

Then, on Christmas Eve, a van drew up outside our house. "Just popping out for a while," H-t-b said, trying to be all casual about it.
"Where are you going? What's in that van?" I asked. "You're not off to see this Emma again, are you?"
"I'm not saying," he replied. "I'll give you a ring when I'm on my way back. You and the kids will have to go into the kitchen while I bring your present in, okay? Otherwise you'll see it."

To cut a long story short, a pub across town was being refurbished and didn't want their (perfectly good) piano any more. They were actually going to dump it in a skip! So H-t-b had arranged to take it off their hands as a prezzy for me. But unfortunately the owners of the pub had gone Christmas shopping when H-t-b and the man with the van turned up so they couldn't get in. Man with the van had to go after a while ("me missus will kill me if I'm out much later on Christmas Eve") so H-t-b came back looking rather miffed. "I thought it was all going a bit too well," he said.

He drove me round to the pub later so I could see it at least. My very own piano. And he's rearranged a man and van so that they can get it on Saturday. This Saturday! I am so excited about getting my fingers on those ivories. Oh, it will be Christmas carols around the piano next December, I can tell you. In the meantime, I wonder if I can still remember the chords to My Girl?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Ouch

So much for going to the gym making you feel better. I just went for my induction thing now and feel utterly pissed off. And quite angry actually.

I had my little chat with the instructor and confessed that I hadn’t been to a gym for 4 years (well, I have been busy having babies, you know) and then he got out his scary fat pinchers and did some measurements and calculations. “There is a degree of obesity there,” he pronounced after consulting a chart.
I nearly fell off my chair. Hello?! I wear size 10 trousers. How can you be a size 10 and obese? If you saw me walking down the street, I promise you would not think “Oh, here comes an obese person”. Okay, you wouldn't think, "Blimey, she is so skinny I'm surprised she hasn't snapped in half", but all the same... I am not obese.

I felt like crying actually. Back in my teens/early twenties I had what the magazines would coyly call ‘body issues’ – namely I felt really fat and ugly all the time. I look back at photos of myself then and do you know what, I was neither of those things. It was all in my head – put there by a few nasty ex-boyfriends and certain other horrible people. Anyway, I feel a bit sensitive about it even now so I couldn’t keep my mouth shut this time. “I think that’s a really dangerous word to use, obese,” I told him. “I don’t think you should use that word lightly – it’s very emotive.”
He just didn’t get it. “I’m not saying you’re obese,” he went on blithely. “Just that you’re carrying around some excess fat that you need to lose.”

Honestly, I felt like going home there and then. I know that probably sounds very drama queeny and humourless of me but… you know. I felt like I’d been slapped.

I’ve got to go back on Friday morning to learn how to use all the torture machines. Whoopee-do. I can hardly wait.

Gym'll fix it

I've got my gym induction thing this afternoon. I'm a bit scared. I don't want someone prodding at my wobbly bits and sniggering at how unfit I am. Besides, the machines in there look like something from a torture chamber. Maybe I should just stay at home and eat biscuits instead. Maybe I should start a new blog called Porky Brides and devote myself to become elephantine instead of sylph-like for the Big Day. Either way, I'm already regretting signing myself up for what is sure to be an hour of humiliation. Sigh.

On a brighter note, did you watch Mistresses last night? Good, wasn't it? It felt like the best kind of juicy novel - great characters, sparky dialogue, lots of plot-lines bubbling away and plenty of Oh-no-don't-do-it! moments. (And I love Sarah Parish whatever she's in. She's fab.) Watching it made me really keen to get back to my new novel and immerse myself in my own dramas and characters, but I will have to wait until next week for that - a few more other deadlines to tick off before I can indulge. But I've rejoined the Novel Racers so will have to start walking the walk at the Friday coffee mornings soon...

Right - time to throw myself into work before gym hour strikes!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

It's the end of the work as we know it

Oh dear. As if blogging wasn't enough of a distraction from work, I've gone and given into another temptation. The Sims. Ooh, it's good. Addictive though. Me and the kids set up a family of 5 first, with all of our names. Bloody hell, it was a nightmare, trying to manage everyone's needs and wants - far too much like real life. Forget that. Last night we set up a new family, of just a man and woman, and we'll give them three kids gradually. Much more sensible. Youngest is very keen to call one of the Sim children 'Little Lord Jesus' whereas the other two are going for the far more mature names of 'Poo-Poo' and 'Big-Bum'. (When does that toilet humour phase end, anyway? Ever?) The only problem is the grown-up Sims we've got so far don't seem able to go to work and earn any money, they keep arsing around at home. Hmmmm. Irony, anyone?

Friday, 4 January 2008

Hacking it

Look at this! Look! I am a columnist! Practically a journalist! Columnist for Bridalwave, that sounds good, doesn't it? I am now a bit worried that photo makes me look like I've got a pinhead but never mind. And yes...ahem...the column is recycled from a blog post right here wot I wrote earlier, well spotted. But from next month it will be all brand new exciting stuff about...well, me, basically. Getting married and that. Blimey. Better start doing some exciting wedding things to put in there, fast.

It has been a breathless morning all in all. Straight after the hideous swearing-under-breath school run (thank Gawd it's the weekend tomorrow) I went to the gym-round-the-corner for the first time. I decided I had better start walking the walk or rather panting on the treadmill of this new year's resolution so promptly signed me and h-t-b up as members. Eek! I've gone and booked myself an induction next Wednesday and everything. Keen, eh?

Even keener, when I was purchasing Betty Mark 2 from the charity shop the other day, I picked up Patsy Palmer's Urban Dance Workout for 50p as well (full of bargains, that shop) and did it in the living room just now while the house was empty. Get me, eh. I am knackered now and ready for a lie-down but it's playgroup kicking out time soon so am having a rest in my office instead. I am shockingly unco-ordinated, I hope none of the neighbours caught a glimpse of me puffing my way through box steps and heel digs.
Right. Too tired to type any more. Have a good weekend. zzzzz...

Thursday, 3 January 2008

It's all so quiet

..And suddenly the house went all quiet.
School has begun today and the older two have been packed off grumbling in their clean uniform. Oooh, I'd forgotten how hectic it is on a school morning, quite a jolt back to reality for us after the lovely lazy holidays. We are in disgrace as a family because we (well, I say 'we' out of the kindness of my heart even though I wasn't actually there at the time) managed to LOSE Betty Bunny, the class cuddly rabbit that my eldest was responsible for over the holidays. They each take it in turn to bring Betty home for the weekend along with Betty's Diary where the child is meant to write up all the adventures they've had with Betty during that time. Unfortunately for us, Betty made a break for it on the first day of the school holidays, losing herself somewhere in town. Much drama and wailing has been had from eldest etc etc. (I did my best to hold back from saying, "Well, I must say, I didn't think it was a great idea taking her into town in the first place, but you did insist...")

Anyway, the long and short of it is, I have had to buy a new Betty Bunny for eldest to take in (thankfully I found a similar Betty in the charity shop up the road for 50p). But yes. We are sure to be known as The Family Who Lost Betty from now on. Black marks all round.

Here at home, I'm cracking on with a new story today - book 3 in a girls' series I'm writing for Usborne that's hopefully coming out later this year, autumn, I think. Lovely. I'm also trying to get a brand spanking new series proposal ready to send to my agent next week...it would be so nice to start the year with a nice new contract, wouldn't it? Here's hoping...

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

I predict a diet

Happy New Year! So how was it for you? Seen off the hangover yet? Promised all kinds of denial and self-torture in the name of resolutions?

I’m a bit of a sucker for New Year, I have to say. All right, so I’m a sentimental old fool anyway, but there’s something about that old year/new year assessment of the last 365 days, and all the hope and looking forward to the next 365 days…I like the way it punctuates your life, new year, and makes you think about whether or not you’re on track.

2007 was a busy year for me. Big dramas and big changes, quite a lot of stress in there too. I hope 2008 is going to be a bit calmer.
I’ve only got one resolution this year and it’s a bit of a cliché: lose some weight and get fit. Yes – it’s the Wedding Dress Action Plan cranking into action…just half a stone off would be good, nothing too alarming…I want to feel a bit slinky when I’m swishing up the aisle, that’s all. So I’m going to join the gym round the corner (about a minute’s walk away…it really couldn’t be nearer, so no excuses) and work on the three Bs – bum, belly and bingo wings. And, depressingly, impose a chocolate ration on myself. I’ll keep you posted.

It’s much nicer and more fun to make wish-lists on January 1st though, isn’t it? Keep fit resolutions are a bit of a drag. Already I feel a bit uggggh about mine. (Although frankly, as soon as the wedding is over, I will be throwing my gym trainers to the back of the wardrobe where they’ve been for the last four years and loading up the supermarket trolley with Cadburys' finest.) So…wish list for 2008:

Fab, stress-free wedding
Second novel, Over You, flies up the bestseller chart in August
Third novel is finished and brilliant and gets snapped up for publication
We turn our shabby old house into an immaculate, freshly painted, no-dusty-corners home at last
Oh, and of course, good health and happiness for all friends and family, and lovely blog readers everywhere. That's not too much to ask, is it? Here’s to 2008!