Thursday, 26 January 2012

Book Two and Beyond.

I always feel a bit hesitant about discussing my writing here. I think it’s to do with not being the kind of writer who trots out two thousand words before breakfast. In fact, if my writing was a lover, I’d have walked out years ago! It’s moody, evasive, constantly threatens my self-esteem, but I hang on because that rare feeling when everything falls into place is utterly sublime and powerfully addictive. I have to work hard at what I do, but it’s not hard work.

Anyway, because people have been interested enough to ask, I thought I’d say a bit about the book I’ve just finished and the one I’ve started.

I tend to soak up impressions of places so the setting for Turning the Tide was born out of all the sleepy, seaside towns I’ve visited whilst sailing. Move Over Darling is influenced by the experience of living on the coast of west Wales. One of the first things that struck me when I moved here was that the population of Ceredigion is roughly the same as the town in the south-east I’d just left. With so few people spread out over such a large area, I started to wonder how couples ever found each other! It’s an exquisitely beautiful part of Wales, attractive to tourists and second-homers, but some of the lowest wages too mean that employment prospects are often brighter elsewhere. A trip to New York suggested the book’s premise: 


She’s escaped to the country. He’s escaped from the country. Who’s going to admit that home is where the heart is?

Or this?
From there, I met Coralie Casey and Gethin Lewis. Coralie doesn’t like the hand fate has dealt her so she’s taken charge of her own destiny. Gethin’s an artist living in New York who thinks he’s escaped his home village for good – until I came up with other plans for him. I also had fun with a cast of supporting characters to reflect the book’s theme which is about separation and reunion. 

As Move Over Darling takes its first steps away from me, I’ve started work on Book 3. So far, I’ve got twenty-thousand ‘white-hot’ words. Exactly the opposite of how I ideally like to work by starting with a plan. Now I’ve got to sit and figure out exactly who these people are and how they got here. My latest hero is already on his third change of name, as I clearly didn’t listen to him properly in the first place. Looks as if this is going to be an interesting journey.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A Happy Day!

Look!  Those lovely people at Choc Lit have sent me a new contract for Book 2.  I'm absolutely delighted to say that Move Over Darling will be out later this year.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Can Do?

‘Guess what?’ I say to my sister, ‘I’ve made my own marmalade!’

There is a good deal of laughter from the other end of the phone and my sister goes off to share the hilarious news with Ma, who’s round there because she’s been struck down by the Mighty Cold that seems to be catching up with everyone.

‘Even I’ve never made marmalade,’ Ma mutters, sounding incredulous and impressed at the same time.

Actually, this is more about my role in the family as the opposite of a Domestic Goddess. As a former school cook, Ma’s culinary skills are pretty impressive, whereas it’s a well-known fact that if Tom didn’t cook for me, I’d live on toast and pasta. Sewing? I fell out of love with sewing in my very first lesson when I stood up and discovered that I’d stitched my square of gingham fabric very firmly to my gingham dress. My sister is the Queen of Curtains, and contrives the most amazing, lined, interlined and weighted creations. My own, much simpler, efforts are produced with a great deal of ill-temper and swearing.

The thing is, though, I’ve always believed that if I can read a book on the subject, I can do it if I want to. It’s not arrogance, truly, it’s more about being the product of one of the last grammar schools standing, where we were encouraged to believe that anything was possible if we put our mind to it. Unfortunately the downside of that legacy, for me, is that I put all the blame on myself when things don’t work out!

Dismal, overcast days and waiting for news on the writing front is a recipe that can lead to dark introspection, if I’m not careful. So this has been a week of making my own sunshine and doing rather than waiting. I’ve made fourteen jars of marmalade, picked up a tapestry that I started many years ago (the one on the left in the photo’s mine as well – now, that is boasty!), I’ve resumed my Welsh lessons, got the hang of the hula-hoop (to Groove Armada, Mags, instead of Hardcore!) and entered a poetry competition. Okay, it won’t last, especially with Novel 3 calling, but a bit of ‘can do’ has chased away the January blues and, judging from my sister and Ma’s reactions, not just for me.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Rectangle and a Circle

How many memories does a rectangle hold? When Stepson Two’s Gorgeous Girlf asked, one lunch-time over the New Year celebrations, where we’d bought our dining room table it set me thinking about this ordinary piece of furniture.

There’s never been any money in the budget for expensive furniture and neither of us enjoys trudging round shops for the sake of it, so our table, like so much of our furniture, comes from Ikea. It’s plain, solid and seats eight people. We bought it for our first home when we could finally afford to upgrade from the tiny, circular garden table that four of us had been squeezing round. Since then it’s been dismantled and reassembled for three moves and is now in its fourth home where I hope it’ll remain for many years to come.

It’s the place where we sit to eat every meal and has been the starting point for so many memorable family occasions. My daughters have grown from little girls to young women here; we’ve laughed, cried, argued and made up, seen boyfriends come and go and partners arrive. I watched my dad’s life ebb away here, as he slowly lost his appetite for food, but never for the chance of a family gathering. We’ve laid out our wedding buffet on this table, food for my parents-in-law’s golden wedding anniversary celebrations, and cut and sewed curtain fabric here. It’s only a table, yet every meal we eat here, every new face that joins us here, adds to the kaleidoscope of memories this simple rectangle holds.

And after festive season of sitting round our table, I decided it was time to eat less and move more. With the posterior vitreous detachment on-going in my left eye, I still can’t run or skip or do any high-impact exercise, but then I read Karen's blog about hula-hooping and was inspired to have a go myself. A low-impact, vigorous workout – what’s not to love? Well, for a start, there’s getting the hang of it! You need a large, weighted hoop and lots of space and then, like learning how to ride a bike, it’s something you just have to feel. Those YouTube videos are all very well, but seeing and doing are different skills. I particularly liked one response to the instructor’s casual, ‘it’s okay if your hoop drops!’ where the frustrated commenter had replied, ‘it’s NOT okay – that’s why we’re watching this!’

With a lot of practise and much gritting of teeth, I can now keep my hoop up and spinning for four minutes. Not quite the forty minutes I’d fondly imagined I might be doing, but that’s part of the challenge. A new year and a new circle to turn.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Through A Glass Darkly

Like Arthur C. Clarke who famously said, ‘I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re sceptical,’ I’m another sceptical Sagittarian and I never, well, hardly ever, read what is written in the stars for me according to the monthly magazines. I’ve always loved the prospect of a shiny new year; a tabula rasa freshly smoothed. But after a rather bumpy 2011, I’m slightly apprehensive about what will be written in the wax of 2012.

New Year began with an unforeseen seven of us celebrating at Hotel H, an untried blend which worked out smoothly despite the foul weather that kept us indoors for most of the time. Fortunately the arrival of so many visitors coincided with some downtime in my writing schedule. Picking up one of the magazines that arrived with the visitors, promising all kinds of reinventions for the new year, I couldn’t resist seeing what the stars, apparently, had in store for me.

Delays on the work front are inevitable at the moment,’ said the monthly forecast. True, especially with seven people in the house. ‘While you’re waiting to get things done, or for a project to get the green light, have a think about where you know you’ve wasted your energy professionally in the past, so that it doesn’t happen again in 2012.’

Wasted my energy? What about all those hours spent slogging away at my desk, trying to make up for all the time spent fretting about Aged P, moving house, tearing it apart and putting it together again?

Turning to the yearly forecast, the section headed ‘Work/life balance’ (Ah, don’t you just love the idea of a work/life balance?) urged me to ‘Make 2012 your year of working smarter, not harder.’ And actually that does make sense. I have several writing projects in mind this year and I’m going to start by planning them, remembering to allow some time for those unforeseen incidents that inevitably derail them.

But, having scoffed at the magazine horoscopes, I should add that I was very privileged a couple of years ago, when the very lovely Dog Star drew up my personal horoscope as a counter to my natural scepticism. I have to admit that what I read was so accurate it was spine-tingling. The reading included some forecasts for this year which, if they unfold as suggested, would really be rather nice. In the meantime, there are some events at Hotel H which haven’t been too hard to predict. Take five visitors, three of whom have colds at various stages of being cooked, and guess what they leave behind?

Happy New Year to you!