The End.

girl-jumping-in-the-airThis is how I felt on Monday when I got to the end of my manuscript. I started work on this novel almost three years ago and this is my fourth(ish) draft. It’s been hard. Harder than I ever imagined.  I am delighted and terrified in equal measure that all the work (for now) is done.  I know, if I’m lucky enough to get it picked up by a publisher (please, please, God) then there will definitely be more. But for now I have done all I can. My character’s lives, on the page, are complete. I’m so glad and relieved to be done. I keep fist-pumping myself at random  because at one point – no,  at lots of points,   I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get there. And who knows what will come of it, but I’ve achieved a goal I set for myself and it feels great. Thanks to all of you for your words of support. I really do appreciate it.

So what now? Don’t they say ‘the end’ is only another beginning… And it’s Valentine cupcakes for school on Friday so I thought I / we should do a trial batch…

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Aesthetics aside, they taste delicious, but safe to say I probably won’t be making this into a baking blog!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone and please do let me know what personal goals you’ve achieved so far in 2016. Big or small, each one counts!

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BELIEVE!

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Unfortunately I’m currently between number 3 & 4

I finished the penultimate edit of my book today! Yay – super feeling, should be celebrating another milestone – right? Wrong. Instead I had a sinking feeling of, ‘oh crap, what if it’s not good enough. In fact I don’t think it is good enough. Is the ending strong enough? Have I just wasted the last three years? What if my agent doesn’t like it?’ And so on, and so on. Horrible. It feels like mental self-harm. There’s no blood, no scars, but bloody hell it hurts on the inside. It is often said, ‘to be creative  you must lose the fear of being wrong.’ Well, I can certainly testify to the fear. I’ve lived with it now for eight years and it intensified three years ago when I decided to take a ‘career-break’ and dedicate my time completely to my second book. The book I’ve almost finished. The book I think is no longer good enough.

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My cheque for £50k, cue laughter.

I’ve learnt that, the trick to stop myself from going insane is to keep control of the fear. So, I’d like to share with you my latest secret weapon. For those of you that read my earlier post on meditation (click here if you didn’t catch it) I’ve kept it up. Not everyday, but regularly enough to make me feel calm and in control for at least the ten minutes after. As part of it, Oprah quotes Jim Carey the actor, who used to park his car on Holywood Boulevard and dream of the day when he would be a famous actor. He even wrote himself a cheque for $10m dollars and sure enough a few years later he actually received a cheque for $10m for one of his movies. His visualisation helped him BELIEVE that he could do it.

Belief, or lack of fear, seems to be half the battle. So, I thought what the hell, and despite feeling ridiculous I duly wrote myself a cheque for ‘my first published book’. I have it up where I can see it everyday and you know what – it feels good, there’s something about actually putting it up there in writing, like a promise to myself. A pledge. A belief. My husband sniggered – especially when he saw the amount, it’s nowhere near $10m and I’m definitely not doing it for the money – but you know what? Let him laugh. I can’t wait to see his face when I show him the real thing!

Whatever your dreams: BELIEVE.

P.S. The wonderful Kelly at www.projectme.com has more great tips on achieving your goals.

Nx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Hits: oranges, an invisible note and a book.

Hello! Happy 2016 one and all!  I trust you survived the Christmas festivities intact. Can you guess what oranges, an invisible note and a book have in common? No -? Well, they were my best Christmas gifts of 2015.  I’ll start with the oranges.  They arrived a few days into the holidays. Two huge boxes filled to the brim with gorgeous Valencia oranges. I swear, you could smell the sunshine when we opened them!

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A gift from the family of our spanish au pair; orange farmers, of course. I promise you they are the tastiest, juiciest, oranges ever.  I credit them for keeping us bug-free over the Christmas holidays. I’ve even started freezing the orange peel to put in my G&T’s!! Fact.

FullSizeRenderMy second favourite is the wonderful ‘The Long Gaze Back’ edited by Sinead Gleeson. This has been on my ‘must buy’ list for ages so my husband got mega brownie points for this one. (I might have hinted once or twice) Each story is superb. Not only does it feature some of my favourites female Irish writers, but it has also introduced me to some new ones too. I have had to read each story numerous times – there is so much to unpack. Each one is a master-class in storytelling; a guaranteed way to give yourself a sharp, short slice of brilliance. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s pages are going get well and truly dog-eared and it’ll have pride of place on my shelf  for years to come.

FullSizeRender 3My third ‘gift’ ( I use this word loosely)  is a note from my 9 yr old. I know it looks like a blank piece of paper, but its written with his new invisible ink pen! (thanks Santa) Now you’ve got to consider:  he’s a boy, he’s 9yrs old, mostly he thinks I’m embarrassing, all he  currently cares about is football and Star Wars, he thinks farting should be included in the Olympic games and the extent of his vocabulary is usually ‘epic’, ‘lol’ and ‘yeah right’.  He is not prone to writing  affectionate notes. Anyway, on Boxing night he’d tucked it under my pillow. Thankfully he’d flagged up that he’d  left it there, otherwise it would have  likely gone in the bin, because to the naked eye it is essentially a blank piece of paper. But under his special UV light it becomes something magical,

‘Dear Mum,

I love you so much and I hope you like me too.

Love William

What can I say? BEST. PRESENT. EVER.

It’s in my jewellery box, but nothing in there comes close to the value of that piece of paper. Only problem is I’m going to have to buy my own UV light so that I can read it! As the boy himself would say LOL!

I hope your 2016 is going with a swing so far. Would love to know what your best gifts were and why….

Happy No-Resolution New Year!

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It’s that time of year again. As 2015 fades out and everyone exclaims, ‘Where has the year gone?’ We begin to look towards the sparkly unspoiled year ahead. It lies before us like fresh undisturbed snow.  As we lie around eating Christmas leftovers and feeling bored countless people will begin to make their New Year Resolutions. We will promise ourselves to ‘do more things’, lose the weight, give up this, give up that, drink less, don’t drink at all, exercise, be kinder, spend less, spend more, spend our time more wisely, blah, blah, blah and so it goes on.

I’m in awe of the women I’ve discovered through the #selfishmother network. Clever, (so, so clever), funny, brilliant women who manage to pack in unfathomable amounts between wiping baby puke off their shoulder and the school run. I think it must be our suffragette heritage that makes us attack each day as though our lives and sanity depend on it. I know many of you will be listing up your resolutions as I write this, well,

I’m here to say NO! I’ll be standing strong and giving a big fat two fingers to New Year Resolutions and here’s three reasons why I think you should too:

  • Because January is hard enough!

Most people fail with their New Year resolutions before the end of January. Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you set yourself up for failure during the hardest month of the year? It’s the dead of winter. The days are short and cold and everyone is recovering from their Christmas hangover. If you’re like me, you’re financially crippled. January is horrible. It takes guts just to face January, just to get through it. Who needs the extra pressure of taking up tiquando? What twisted mind ever thought listing things to ‘fix’ about yourself in January was a good idea? Here’s my proposal; if you want to start something new, why not do it in the Spring, that’s when mother nature makes her new year – make it yours too. Don’t feel pressure to start ‘afresh’ just because the calendar shows different numbers on it.  I bet if people made spring resolutions the success rate would be a lot higher!

  • Because you’ve done more than you think you have.

Scrap your ‘to do list’ for 2016 and write a ‘done it’ list. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by boxes left to tick why not celebrate your ticked boxes. I wrote about this in a previous blog, you can read it here. So, put the kettle on, or pour your wine and write down everything you’ve accomplished in 2015. No matter how small, or how amazeballs. Write it down.  You’ll surprise yourself and you’ll start 2016 on a high buoyed up by everything you’ve already done.

  • Because you are enough.

It’s 2015 and the unfortunate fact is that women still have to work twice as hard as men to get noticed, to get promoted, to even get near the glass ceiling. All too often our careers hit the buffers when our clocks time-bomb us into motherhood. It’s true that the majority of women, working or not, still do the lion’s share of the child-rearing and and the domestic duties. I’d love to do a survey on the gender divide of households when it comes to Christmas; who buys the teacher’s presents, the Santa presents, the nieces and nephews gifts, cooks the Christmas dinner, decorates the tree, moves the elf on the shelf – the list goes on and on. I know there are exceptions, I know there are some men who do their fair share, but let’s be honest they are few and far between. I’d like to state that I’m no man-bashing feminist. Feminist yes, but not because I hate men because I love men. I love my husband, I love my sons, I love my brother, I love the company of men, I love our differences and our contradictions. (I especially love it when one is handy to lift a heavy object.) But unfortunately, we are not yet truly equal in the world.

Girls, women, mothers, friends, I am here to tell you that you do enough, you are enough, you have enough. We produce other humans! And then we look after them, we clothe them, feed them, wash them, we love them. Whether you have given birth or not, you are still a caretaker of the next generation. They will follow your example. They will become what we have allowed them to believe they can become. That alone is enough.  That’s not to say you can’t do more. I’m all for doing more, but I am here to tell you that motherhood alone is also enough.

If you must make resolutions please do it for yourself; a resolution should be for you, and only you. Don’t do it because the magazines say you should, or because your favourite celebrity is doing it, or your next door neighbour is doing it. Do it for yourself, because you want to, because you need to, because you know it will benefit your life in a positive way. Only your reason is good enough. If you fall off the wagon, who cares? Enjoy doing it. If you consume more than your allotted calorie intake for January in one lonely day, make sure you savour every mouthful. Women, in everyone of you I see a hero.  In 2016 make a resolution to be kinder to yourself and start by saying No to New Year’s Resolutions!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and A Happy carefree New Year.

xxx

 

Reverse The Curse!

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When we meet my main character, fair to say she’s having a bad day. The kind of day millions of women have every month. It might put off some squeamish male readers but f**k it, my market is women’s fiction. My readers are going to be predominantly women, so I’m writing for them. Here it is, I’d love to hear what you think; good and bad.  Would you part with cold, hard cash to read more? I’m hoping ‘The Curse’ turns out to be a blessing for me.

ANNE.

15th September 2011

The blood, when it came, was always a relief. She told herself they took adequate precautions, but in truth, she knew they erred on the side of carelessness too often. Anne had felt wound up for days; the smallest aggravation made her disproportionately angry, or ready to burst into frustrated tears.  Recently, she’d noticed it getting worse. She felt as though she was at the mercy of her emotions and was in danger of becoming a female parody, or even worse; more like her mother. On top of her pre-menstrual tension the death of her beloved Gran three days before meant she was experiencing adult grief for the first time. This wasn’t like anything that had gone before; it had shaken her to her core and she hadn’t known what to do with the unfamiliar feeling. The bleakness perched on her heart, its claws digging sharply into her soul’s centre. If she didn’t know better she might think that is where the blood was coming from. Maybe it was coming from both places? Maybe her body was bleeding for herself and for her grandmother? Anne knew she should paint to try and make sense of her myriad of incommunicable feelings. That’s what they’d been taught at Art College, ‘to paint through their experiences.’  She should. But she knew she probably wouldn’t.

Death had made the left hand side of her chest feel heavier than the right. At times, she felt it hard to breathe. It had made her think about things. Ironically, death had made her think about life. It had made her think about her own life; it was passing too quickly before she could grasp it and wrestle it to the ground and make it the shape that she had always wanted it to be. At thirty-four she was getting on the old-side of young. Anne had learnt there is nothing like death to make you feel as though you need to hurry up in life.

She reached for her bag and located her small cosmetic purse. Nowadays, manufacturers try to dress-up woman’s monthly bloody mess in happy yellow or pink parcels, as a way of getting around the rather ugly, uncomfortable inconvenience of shedding an internal lining every four weeks. Advertisers show women jumping with glee and smiling idiotically as they trampoline through their periods while pouring blue liquid on sanitary pads to show their superior absorbency. Anne had never found anything blue coming from her uterus. On TV and in magazines ‘The Curse’ was transformed into an unrecognisable delight. Yet more bullshit, thought Anne.

Anne’s relief had quickly washed way to leave a hollow feeling. Her body was reminding her that she was empty inside, nothing was growing there, and perhaps nothing ever would. Anne had never had a desire for children so she couldn’t understand why this bothered her – but it did. Lately she’d become aware that she desired more from life, but she didn’t know what. Maybe it was just another strange by-product of death. Death. The cold, hard insurmountable fact of it was staring her in the face. Her grandmothers’ funeral was at 12 noon. Her indomitable and sagacious ‘Gran’ was gone. Anne had not seen her in over two weeks. She should have made the effort to visit more, much more. Anne was learning that was another thing death was good at; it was good at making you regret.