Babies and Books.

Spring has sprung, at last! Hasn’t it? Well, kind of. I’ll take the longer days, at least that’s something – right? I’ve been in the middle of a baby-boom lately; babies have been arriving like the Easter bunny drops eggs! My nephew, and a little cousin to my boys, arrived safely on 18th March.

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MY first baby with his new cousin 

I’ve been thinking (dangerous, I know) but I can’t help but draw parallels between babies and writing a book. One friend has waited over ten long years for her precious baby girl. And then suddenly she’s here, and all the torment of ‘trying’ has disappeared. A brand new life. A miracle. A lucky-dip.

And I can’t help but wonder if I will get lucky… It’s been a hard slog. A long wait. At times, painful. And now, suddenly it’s over.

I’ve been enjoying what I’ve jokingly called my ‘retirement’ . In other words the relief of getting to the end of it. Now I’ve created a bit of distance between it and me I can begin to look back and see things that I didn’t before. My readers are starting to come back to me with their feedback and I know I’ve more work to do. But it’ll never be like it was before. The hardest part is behind me. I can start to live the afterwards, to think about what to do now that I’m not ‘writing my second book.’ Go back to my old day job? Or maybe try something completely different? It’s both exciting and scary.

As I’ve gazed in wonderment at the new lives I’ve had the privilege of holding these last couple of weeks; the parents in awe, my head awash with the memories of my own precious little bundles that I once held. I can’t help but fantasize if my novels will have a life, if they will ever live outside of me, if they might change my life and make my dreams come true. Like new mothers, the effort and pain of the journey means that I am still swearing never again. It’s over. I’m done. I have no plans for any more siblings.

But then again, time has a habit of making us forget the bad bits. And maybe it wasn’t as awful as I remember…  And so maybe, just maybe there are a couple more stories bubbling away at the back of my head. Maybe I should never say never. Maybe I have one more in me…

P.s My ‘retirement’ has meant I’ve been able to indulge in some binge reading, the best of which have been: ‘A God In Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson, ‘I Let You Go’ by Claire Macintosh and ‘The Girl On The Train’ is as good as everyone says!

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

For Elf’s Sake!

IMG_3931This is the first time we’ve invited an ‘Elf On A Shelf’ into our home. I say ‘we’ but  TBH it came via my husband and if he hadn’t done the ordering  it would never have been invited in by me. Yeah, yeah ba-humbug. Whatever. But it’s the truth. I thought it was just ANOTHER thing to be added to the endless list of wifely / mother duties that seems to increase tenfold at this time of year. Anyway, like I said, he arrived – invited by the husband, who has of course handed over all responsibility to me!

FullSizeRenderSo, two days ago I threw myself into it with gusto (yesterday morning ‘Efie’ even had a dusting of snow- must have been a cold night in the north Pole.) Anyhow, I have to admit three days in its working a treat and the letter from Santa even seems to have tipped a sceptical 9yr old over into ‘believing’ for one more year and obviously the 4yr old is lapping it up and yes it is lovely blah, blah, blah. But it’s still another thing to do – at night, when I have everything else in the world to do too. But hey, who needs sleep anyway?

Admittedly, Elfie has got me thinking. What if he really could observe everything that went on in here? What kind of things would he see? And I’m talking about adult behaviour, not just the children! What would an ‘elf eye view’ of our family look like? I for one, am cringing just thinking about it. I’m not sure anyone in the house would be deserving of gifts this year- accept for the husband and that’s cause he’s never here!

Timely enough, homework this week is about observation. The tiny details that pass us over everyday, unnoticed. The small things that make us human, that connect us, that help make our stories sing. So here’s what I’ve observed so far this week. In no particular order:

  • The dirtiest dirt is always under my radiators.
  • Every night there are wondrous stars in the sky, but I rarely take the time to look at them.
  • There are countless shades of gold that make up the blonde of my son’s hair.
  • The tiniest hole in a single tooth can cause the biggest pain.
  • How people move in the rain; all bent over and out of shape.
  • My husband answers the phone EXACTLY the same as his father; a short, rapid hello with a heavy ‘h’ that nosedives towards an abrupt ‘o’. A genetic quirk invisibly passed on.
  • The noise of a swallow.
  • If I stand still and tip my head back to look at the passing clouds I can feel the earth move.
  • The sound of a sleepy breath.
  • A thought can be seen.
  • A thought can be felt.
  • The slick shine on a pavement after rain.
  • The different shades of his eyes. Only seen when the light is just right, one iris much paler than the other; a chestnut beside a coffee bean.
  • The dead quiet of a winter morning.
  • The hushed and humble magic of ‘An Elf On A Shelf’.
  • The muck and dirt of winter, the wet of everything. The dog needs a daily bath, he does not get one and so my house is dirty – especially under the radiators!

You don’t have to be a wannabe writer to observe the tiny details. Take 5mins a day to just look at what’s around you. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.

Now, wishing you all a good-night cause I’ve got washing to sort and then an elf to move!

Nx

 

 

Being Brave and Broken Hearts.

Dear Sisterhood,

(I don’t want to be sexist, but I don’t think I have any male followers, apologies if I do, and hey if you’re there, speak up!)

The other day I bought Cheryl Strayed’s new book. ‘Brave Enough’ for a friend and ordered a copy for myself.* It’s a small book that packs a mightyIMG_3851 punch. It’s full of words of wisdom to comfort when you’re feeling down, to kick you up the arse when you need it and best of all to tell you that you’re not alone. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. I can’t recommend highly enough. I’m hoping it brings some solace to a dear, dear, old friend who is having a rough time. She got her heart badly broken a few years ago and in August she lost her Mum, suddenly, and it’s smashed it to smithereens all over again.

The thing is; you can’t see a broken heart the way you can a broken limb. But boys-a-dear does it hurt. Anyone who’s been there (and who hasn’t?) can testify that a broken heart breaks you from the inside out. It usually comes with tears. Oceans of tears that make you feel wrung out.  Many years ago I lay on my kitchen floor sobbing over my first real broken heart.  It’s been broken again since that, this time by my husband, and that hurt more than anything that’s gone before. And no doubt it will happen again. Unfortunately in order to live we have to experience loss. What a tragic exchange? And yet how many of us, I wonder, would forgo the love in order to avoid the heartbreak? None, I bet. Because the memories of the love, the experience of loving and being loved is always better and stronger than any loss. Yes, we might do things differently, but I don’t think any of us would want to delete it. Would we? Because without the darkness we would never recognise the light.

To the rest of the world my friend looks normal: she goes to work, she smiles, she functions, but I know that if I shook her she would rattle with broken bits. And I hate that all I can do is stand on the sidelines and urge her to take it day by day, breath by breath, step by step. Our hearts heal, they may never be the same but they do heal and what’s left behind is an eternal afterglow from all the love. At least, that’s what I like to think.

Nx

*Waterstones have texted that my copy in in store. Be prepared for a liberal dose of Strayed quotes!