Saturday, 30 June 2012


Just finished writing my epilogue - whoop!
I've only finished the end of my contemporary chapters, though. I still have another three or four historical chapters to finish before I can break out my celebratory dance moves.

My wordcount is now 90, 000 words long - and it makes me feel an odd mixture of achievement and...doom. My first attempt at a novel was 134,000 words of utterly valueless writing. (Except as a learning experience, I suppose.)

That time, I bought a cheap (and quite nasty) bottle of champagne to sip as I typed the end. Then I went out and bought the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - in a state of great excitement...

I spent a small fortune on stamps, envelopes, paper and inkcartridges and got to know the woman in the post office pretty well. And I can see now that I quite enjoyed it, in a way. It was all part of pretending to be a writer. But I don't want to go on ends up with me feeling a bit stupid and delusional.

This time, I'm going to be more realistic about the fact that I've written 90,000 words that might never be read by anyone. There, I said it.
I've started making a list of the agents that look approachable and - more importantly - accept submissions by email. It's my sensible new rule. I'm going to try to invest slightly less - emotionally and financially.

And I've started to think about how I might word my covering letter (not too grovelly...but not too stand-offish...and not too informal or jokey or...oh, I don't know...) and synopsis (Um - it's a historical mystery romance for young adults? Gah - it's a jumble is what it is!)
Titles too... So far it's been Holiday at the Haunted Castle (but it isn't really a comedy - and if I don't take it seriously, I can hardly expect anyone else to, can I?) Then it was The Ghosts of Darkmere (but it isn't really a ghost story, so that wasn't quite right.) After that it turned into Kate's Holiday (meh!) Now it's The Hungry Castle (or is that awful?)

The Hungry Castle?
I now have two and a half weeks before the summer holidays begin and all my writing time is over and GONE for 47 days!
I'd like to enjoy the holidays and not keep trying to sneak away from my children to write a couple more lines. I want us to have pyjama days and DVDs...splashing in the paddling and sleepovers with school friends...painting and modelling and lego... trips to the park, the cinema and the local cafes...

There are some great photos on the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum site...

...that show one of our favourite cafes and make me feel quite summery...

 So that's my summer in picture form. Hopefully, I'll have finished my manuscript by the time it starts and will be able to relax. I can always fit in a little late night editing and polishing with a glass of cold pink wine...then it'll be all ready for the rigors of the submission process in September.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Rose-tinted spectacles

After noticing there was a chunk missing from my right lens, I finally I replaced my old glasses with the Jarvis-style geeky glasses I've been a-hankering after. I'm really pleased with them - although I'm not I'm not nearly as learned as they make me look...

Here's the traditional 'Attempting to look like a Writer Pose' with new glasses and rose covered laptop. My decoupage also features Spooky Lenore and Hello Kitty (I did this before I turned 40 - although I was old enough to know better.) I thought it was pretty, but my sister denounced it as "Well Emo!"

I also got a special deal on these sunglasses with tiny roses in the frame. I have been wearing them for the five minute breaks in between all the showers of rain...

A fleeting ray of sunshine on the patio.

Wordcount has c-r-e-a-k-e-d up to 85,000.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Father's Day

Husband asked for home-made presents this year. Five year old went for a nautical theme - with a colouring picture and a yacht made out of a Carbis Bay seashell. Nine year old was more topical. He made a card that opened out into a (rather small) football pitch and a bookmark decorated with a football. He laminated it himself by destroying one of my photo albums.

 We all had a happy Father's Day last weekend - apart from the father in question, who was struck down by some sort of flu-bug. We joined my own father, sister and nephew in town for a late breakfast, during which I noticed my husband didn't seemed to be speaking at all. Whenever he was addressed directly, he answered: 'Huh?' while looking all glassy eyed and spaced out. So it took me quite a while to notice anything was wrong - har har!
Back at home he went straight to bed, where he wrapped himself in a woolly jumper,  three blankets and two hot water bottles - inside which he shivered and sweated relentlessly. Even his teeth rattled. Unluckily, the nine year old had spent an entire day drawing up a fiendishly tricky Father's Day Wordsearch as part of his gift. (It was rendered even trickier by the letters not being strictly in line - or in some cases not even being the right letters!) Heroically - and shakily - my husband completed the whole thing before allowing himself to fall asleep, even though I offered to cheat and do it for him. I think this is the kind of thing that really good dads are made of.

I'm feeling a lot less peeved about not winning a prize in the Mslexia competition since I read the winning entry on their website. It's better than mine.
It's incredibly hard-hitting and not something I could've written myself. To be honest, it's not the sort of thing I'm aiming to write. Although I can admire the writing, I'd baulk at the subject matter. It's written from the point of view of a mentally-handicapped woman who is raped by one of her carers in exchange for biscuits. When she becomes pregnant, her baby is taken away from her because she is unable to care for it. Years later she saves another new baby that is being manhandled by a young boy. This serves to make her feel slightly better about what happened. 'Blimey,' I thought.
I haven't analysed my own choice of subject matter in much detail, but I know I want to write stories that are funny and surprising and exciting and romantic - escapist stuff rather than the powerful (but bleak) stories that win all the prizes. I refuse to be snobby about it - there's nothing wrong with wanting to cheer people up!
It's a really good feeling when you're enjoying a book so much that you look forward to each page. I'm reading such a lovely book at the moment that I've been staying up late to cram in an extra chapter or trying to read bits early in the morning, in the bath or at mealtimes. It's called 'The Blue Castle' by Lucy M Montgomery (who wrote all the Anne of Green Gables books) and it's super-cheesy! Look at the cheestastic cover...

It was recommended by an internet blog. I know I should attribute more, but I hop around so much I've never got any idea where I've been - sorry! Anyway, it tells the story of a downtrodden spinster who discovers she has only a year left to live and - basically - decides to spend it being rude to people and doing whatever she pleases.
One of these things is to propose marriage to the local ne'er-do-well, Barney Snaith. This is her family's reaction...
"Do you mean to say that you have actually gone and married - married - that notorious Barney Snaith - that - that - criminal - that - "
"I have."
"Then," said Uncle James violently, "you are a shameless creature, lost to all sense of propriety and virtue, and I wash my hands entirely of you. I do not want ever to see your face again."
"What have you left to say when I commit murder?" asked Valancy.
Uncle Benjamin again appealed to God to bless his soul.
"That drunken outlaw - that - "
A dangerous spark appeared in Valancy's eyes. They might say what they liked to and of her but they should not abuse Barney.
"Say 'damn' and you'll feel better," she suggested.
"I can express my feelings without blasphemy. And I tell you you have covered yourself with eternal disgrace and infamy by marrying that drunkard - "
"You would be more endurable if you got drunk occasionally. Barney is not a drunkard."
"He was seen drunk in Port Lawrence - pickled to the gills," said Uncle Benjamin.
"If that is true - and I don't believe it - he had a good reason for it. Now I suggest that you all stop looking tragic and accept the situation. I'm married - you can't undo that. And I'm perfectly happy."
"I suppose we ought to be thankful he has really married her," said Cousin Sarah, by way of trying to look on the bright side.
"If he really has," said Uncle James, who had just washed his hands of Valancy. "Who married you?"
"Mr Towers, of Port Lawrence."
"By a Free Methodist!" groaned Mrs Frederick - as if to have been married by an imprisoned Methodist would have been a shade less disgraceful. It was the first thing she had said. Mrs Frederick didn't know what to say. The whole thing was too horrible - too horrible - too nightmarish. She was sure she must wake up soon. After all their bright hopes at the funeral!

I'm enjoying Valancy's adventures hugely, but they may well be an acquired taste, since all the bits I've quoted to my husband have been met with a frown of incomprehension and a plea that I pipe down and let him go to sleep (maybe he's still shaking off the flu?)

Also on the Mslexia site were short biographies of all the winners which told stories of endless rejection letters and far more years than I've spent in fruitlessly trying to attract an agent. They were enough to make me stop sulking and realise that I just haven't paid my writing dues yet.

I'm easing myself back in to my work-in-progress. Just a few hundred words a day at the moment, but it's better than nothing. I've had to do all the holiday washing, looking after poorly children, gardening duties, opticians appointments due to broken glasses - just too many domestic chores to be ignored really. How ever much I want to be a writer, I'm never in any doubt that the family stuff comes first. around 83,000...

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Home again...

Well, my advice is that you never ever try to drive anywhere on the first Saturday of a half-term/extra bank holiday/Jubilee weekend. Not EVER!
There wasn't much of our journey that wasn't spent in a barely-moving, nose-to-tail queue with a billion other motorists. It took us nine hours to drive to St Ives for our holiday. I don't think I've ever spent that long in the car before. My whole body was still shaped like the car seat for hours after!

View from the kitchen window

We had a lovely week away, though. And - although no one believes it - the weather was pretty good. We paddled in the sea every day. We sandcastled and fished with a net and played ball games on the beach. We bought a beach tent, we tangled our two kites irretrievably and we ate fish and chips, ice creams and cream teas almost every day. We got very, very sandy!

There's the nine year old and his father playing with their new blue ball.

There's soon-to-be-six running away.

And that's me striding in manfully (although I probably ran back even faster than soon-to-be-six a second later!)

And it was good to get away from texts, wifi (and the Jubilee) and all the little routines like bedtime, bathtime and sensible meals at regular times. The boys fell asleep watching their favourite DVDs with sandy legs and chocolatey ice-cream faces.
Not only did I not bring my work-in-progress with me, I neither missed it nor thought about it. In fact, I feel a bit stupid now for imagining that I might've had need of it while at the seaside.

 I suppose the only time it came into my consciousness, was when I was lusting after the stylish apartments or posh houses built along the coastal path and wishing I was Stephen King or J K Rowling so that I could afford one of my own. I bet Stephen King and J K Rowling don't have to spend nine hours driving to the seaside. Oh no - they probably go by helicopter - to a fully-furnished house - where their servants feed them on lobsters covered in edible gold-leaf. Or something.

We all fell in love with this one - Shun Lee House - a snip at one and a half million with Knight Frank!

Or what about this one? It's super cool and it's only a million pounds! It's right on Porthmeor beach (by the Tate) and it's with
 Miller and Son.

 Dreaming aside however, we actually stayed at Tremorna Vista - overlooking the beach at Carbis Bay. And it suited us just fine!

This is the view I woke up to every morning. I don't think I closed those curtains once!
One night, some people gathered on the beach and set off dozens of those paper lanterns and let them drift out to sea in the darkness - just like the scene from 'Tangled'. It was lovely!

 On our last Saturday, we got up at 5.30am and started piling everything into the car in order to beat the terrible weekend traffic. Turned out there wasn't any. Our drive home took about three and a half hours and we were back in Cheltenham in time for breakfast. I still say we'll think twice before holidaying out of term-time again though!

Sunday was my littlest boy's birthday party. Six at last - after almost everyone else in Yellow Class!
We took our (still faintly sandy selves) over to Magicland in Cirencester for fun on the slides and ballpits with a dozen of his classmates.
In lots of ways he's still my little boy. He still gets into bed with me every morning for a cuddle...he's still got fluffy yellow hair like an easter chick...he's still got tiny little hands I hold when we're crossing the road and he still smells like my baby boy when I bury my nose in the back of his neck.
But really he's a big boy now. After my morning cuddle, he goes downstairs to play on the Wii...he never falls asleep on car journeys anymore (even the nine hour ones)...I don't have to pretend to let him win running races or board games (instead, I'm trying to teach him how to be a good loser by example)...he's mastering the fine art of sarcasm...and look, he has trendy new big-boy trainers...

Easily as pretty as girl's shoes...