Monday, 22 June 2015

New Life

Brand new baby, happy grandmother!
‘Your blog’s going to be interesting this week,’ says my son-in-law after 48 of the most intense hours either of us has ever experienced. We’ve been joint birthing partners to my elder daughter and can smile at each other, because, of course, I’m not going to reveal details of a profoundly intimate occasion. I simply want to express my gratitude to my daughter and son-in-law for the immense privilege of allowing me to be present when their daughter came into the world.

With so much of what makes up human life being reflected back at us through the prism of our computer screens we can spend hours living vicariously ‘liking’ all the places seen through other eyes - those seashores, sunsets and foreign cities – without ever feeling the sand between our toes or the rain on our faces. But no YouTube rehearsal equips us for the visceral power of real, raw life. I feel enormously fortunate to have been there when my father took his last breath and now to have seen my brand new granddaughter take her first.

Already this new life is changing those around her. My daughter is now a mother, her husband a father and it’s lovely to see them so thrilled with their daughter. My younger daughter and her husband are relocating and will be living much nearer to their new niece which is really exciting and I’ve taken stock too, thought of all the things I’ve done in my life so far and allowed myself a moment’s pause to say, ‘do you know, this isn’t so bad?’ before rushing towards the next goal. I thought we were a close family before, but this new little person has drawn us even closer in our common desire to keep her safe and give her a future that’s bright and happy. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Six Years, Six Happy Choc Lit Moments!

Happy birthday to my publishers, Choc Lit. Six years old today! To celebrate I’m revisiting six of my favourite moments with the wonderful people who made my writing dream come true.

Dec 2009 Signing my first contract. I wrote about taking those first steps to publication here.

Just a bit happy at signing that first contract!

May 2010. On seeing the first copies of Turning the Tide “Look what the postman just delivered! For someone who’s supposed to be able to tell you about these things in words, I’m really struggling to describe the feeling of seeing everything I’ve worked and hoped for come together. Choc Lit produce the most beautiful covers; this photo doesn’t really do it justice – you can’t see how gorgeous the title looks in its matt silver livery. I’m utterly thrilled and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hold a copy of Turning the Tide in my hands at last.”

June 2012 Picture This. Posing with – among other things – a plastic blow up palm tree! My first photoshoot with Adam Fradgley for National Express.

October 2012 Enjoying the razzmatazz for my second novel, Move Over Darling. That moment when ‘Doris Day split Fifty Shades of Grey’ and 'Baring it All in Best magazine'!

June 2014. Follow A Star – my third novel, the one that was such fun to write, is published.

August 2014  Wearing an imaginary crown when my first novella, Only True In Fairy Tales reaches an Amazon category number one. I absolutely love this cover, it’s so sweet!

So many happy moments and with a novel and novella in progress I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a few more. Many thanks to everyone who’s supported me during my writing journey. Here’s wishing the lovely Choc Lit team a very happy birthday with many more to come.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Waiting Games and Midsummer Dreams

This week’s been all about waiting – waiting sometimes calmly and sometimes in abject terror for the troublesome symptoms in my left eye to settle and waiting for happier news from Lily and Rose. For a control freak who likes instant results the uncertainty of all this waiting is somewhat testing so I’m taking my mind off it by joining in the promo for fellow Choc Lit author Alison May's new novel Midsummer Dreams which is out this Friday 12 June – not very long to wait at all!

Alison’s given us three dream-related prompts to think about… which in my current state of heightened tension rather reflect my immediate concerns, however, here we go!

I had a dream: Ooh, of waking up and being able to see perfectly! Imagine a day that didn’t begin like the blur of an impressionist painting speckled with shrapnel and ghostly floaters! Of being free from glasses and contact lenses. Ah, but that is just a dream.

I had a nightmare: Hmm, the opposite of above, but living in fear is living in a cage so best to think positively. When we were in Edinburgh recently, we listened to record producer Robin Millar’s Desert Island Discs. Robin Millar’s been registered blind since the age of 16 and eventually lost his sight completely. His sheer determination to meet his condition head-on is a remarkable demonstration of triumph over disaster.

My dream for the future: If we could all just be a little kinder to each other, to treat others as we would wish to be treated – wouldn’t that make the world a better place?

Watch out for other bloggers dream-related posts this week. You can buy Alison’s Midsummer Dreams here:

Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.

The painting is 'Dinas and Carn Ingli from the Coast' by Tom Tomos

Monday, 1 June 2015

Get Happy!

When they were small: Rose and Lily
Friday sees me at A&E again with another episode of flashing lights and severe visual disturbance in my left eye. I have the great good fortune to be seen by the same consultant ophthalmologist who saw me last year and remembers me. Even better, she’s able to tell me that all appears to be in order and sends me away with a follow-up appointment in six weeks’ time. Hopefully all I have to do is wait for my eye to settle down, although the whole frightening business has given me a few sleepless nights.

Trying to concentrate on the positive, I was interested to read what Professor Paul Dolan has to say about happiness in this recent article from the Telegraph. Apparently, nobody gets any happier with extra cash after a salary of £50,000 … fair enough, although I reckon I’d be like a dog with two tails if I ever made half of that! Joking apart, because, of course, happiness is not about material possessions (although there’s a lot to be said for new shoes) I certainly agree with Professor Dolan’s five ways to be immediately happier. Getting outdoors, for example; we have a little south-facing suntrap at the back of the kitchen where, assuming it isn’t lashing down with rain like today, we’ll often take a short tea break. And having started thinking about the nature of happiness, I’d add three suggestions of my own:

1. Sit in your favourite place. I love our large bedroom; it’s one of the rooms which attracted to me to our deeply unfashionable dormer bungalow. With its duck egg blue walls and dual aspect windows, it makes me very happy indeed to sit there on a lovely afternoon feeling the sun on my face and looking out across the sea.

2. Read a good book. As well as being a big fan of nature writing, I love a bit of ‘rural noir’. This week Daniel Woodrell’s bleak, poetic Winter’s Bone has distracted me from my eye problems.

3. Flick through some favourite photos. Revisit those happy memories for an instant pick-up. This one (top) of Lily and Rose makes me laugh every time I see it – despite the protests from the girls about putting them in the same clothes (which saved a lot of scrapping, I can tell you). Both my daughters have exciting challenges this week which will bring big changes… but it doesn’t seem a moment ago that they were little dots eating milk lollies! And I also love this photo of Ma … who’s probably laughing at something naughty she’s said!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Close Encounters

The first of our fixtures in what’s going to be a busy week finds us in De Beauvoir Town at former library and community centre, Open School East. We’re here for a seminar on Posthumanism and The Arts, in part because the speakers include one of Tom’s PhD supervisors, David Roden. A trickle of attendees turns into a flood and soon it’s standing room only for what proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening with fascinating presentations and lively debate. If you’d like to hear more about it you can listen to David Roden’s post on SoundCloud here.

Tom and I are probably the oldest people in the room, however there’s an interesting outbreak of #GrannyHair, both here, and on the streets of trendy East London, which makes me wonder why I bother hiding mine – except, of course, that the young women will still be young and I’ll look even more like a granny!
St Leonard's. Shoreditch

Thanks the non-appearance of trains on the London Overground, there’s plenty of opportunity to people-watch en route to Brick Lane where we have a curry before tackling the rest of our journey. Some of our encounters are closer than I would like; the woman who calls me a ‘horrible f*cker’ for declining to give her her bus fare, the busy train carriage where we sit opposite Mr and Mrs Shouty-Fighty and their snarling, farting dog, the ranty man at Wimbledon pacing the platform while fulminating into his phone and the man urinating in the street as we leave the station. Perhaps I’ve just lived in west Wales too long!

On Wednesday, Tom sets off to Milton Keynes to present the first of his PhD papers at the OU Music Department Research Day and I continue a busy round of catching up with friends and family before a full day in London on Thursday when I’ll be attending my final RNA committee meeting and the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party. But before that, on Wednesday evening, Rose and I have some rare ‘mum and daughter’ time at a local restaurant where we have a lovely time recommending books to each other and discussing plans for the future. 

I go to bed very happy, but wake up at two in the morning feeling very unhappy! My body feels as if it’s on fire, my head is spinning and my stomach is in considerable distress. The moment I have to ask Tom to fetch me a bucket, I know that no fairy godmother in the world is going to get this sick Cinderella to the RNA ball! Perhaps unsurprisingly words like ‘gutted’ and ‘bummer’ spring to mind at having come all this way to say thanks and farewell to my fellow RNA committee members only to fall at the final hurdle. The only consolation is that I seem to be getting over it quickly and now just feel tired rather than ill!

And finally…
Apologies to my regular readers and fellow bloggers for my absence – it’s just a very busy time!

Painting is Totem Gymraeg by Tom Tomos

Monday, 27 April 2015

Mountain High

The weather’s set fair so Tom and I decide Wednesday’s the day to tackle Snowdon. Armed only with sandwiches, sushi, Gala pie, Mars bars, a tray of Bakewell tarts and lots of water (yep, you can tell we were determined not to starve), we’re up at the Crack of Doom and out the door at 6.30 am to be at the car park for our walk at 9 am.

After a slight false start when one of us spots the sign which states ‘Watkin Path’ and one of us who ‘has been here before’ ignores it, we are on our way. At first, I wonder what all the fuss is about; it’s just a series of wide stone steps, isn’t it? But the ‘steps’ are high, uneven and the incline just keeps getting steeper.

Along the way we have a very slow race with two men neither of whom has climbed Snowdon before and who are both a little daunted by the path – or lack of – across the treacherous scree slope which leads to the summit. Tom’s hearty reassurances that the path isn’t as dangerous as it looks make me completely oblivious to any difficulties until we’re actually on it. Fortunately the sound of my calf muscles screaming in agony as I pin myself to the side of the mountain stops me worrying too much about falling off. I even manage to perform a daring grail quest when the two men above us stop for a breather and send the lid of a thermos tumbling down the scree. 

However, the views on this glorious day when we finally reach the summit are worth every bit of pain and effort; it’s truly sublime. Now all we have to do is get back down.

My hopes that we might somehow avoid sliding down scree slopes on the descent by taking the Rhyd Ddu Path first before re-joining the Watkin Path further down are quickly dashed, but once again Snowdon rewards us with wonderful views.

After eight hours of climbing, scrambling and walking perhaps the most welcome sight at the end of the day is that of our car. It’s been a wonderful and extraordinary day… but I’m glad I don’t have to get up and do it again tomorrow!

P.S. For anyone who hasn’t read it, Turning the Tide is the Amazon Kindle Daily Deal today at 99p.

Monday, 20 April 2015


A spell of bright sunshine here in west Wales brings bright illustrations of Dylan Thomas’s ‘force that through the green fuse drives the flower’; vibrant new leaves unfurl, pale buds unfold into blossom and the hedgerows are a jewel box of colour. But all this energy, this renewal, brings, as Thomas’s poem also identifies, a strong sense of time marching on and nagging feeling that there are things I need to get on with.

Seeing the glorious photos my seventeen-year-old niece took when she recently climbed Snowdon reminds Tom of his walk there with my stepson and me that it’s still on my ‘to do’ list. We can just see the top of Snowdon from an upstairs bedroom window so it’s high time I stopped looking at it and walked up it instead! I’ve bought some new boots, taken them out for some test walks and we’re keeping an eye on the weather with a view to heading off to the mountains this week.

Now we’ve completed our utility room, it’s time to tackle the jungle that is our garden. There are three main areas; a front garden with views over Cardigan Bay, a south-facing terrace, lawn and vegetable plot behind the kitchen, and a large sloping wilderness of overgrown shrubs which got away during a spell of very wet weather when the ground on that side turned into a quagmire. We’ve made a start, but, unlike my sister, I definitely didn’t get the gardening gene from our talented mum. I have to keep reminding myself that all the hard work will be worth it!

Looking towards Cardigan Bay
Behind the kitchen
The garden slopes away steeply to the side of the house. Lots of work needed here!

The Work In Progress. Ooh, this has been so flighty and fugitive! Like the garden, it’s rather big and untamed at the moment and I seem to have been particularly prone to bouts of self-doubt. It’s not that I don’t think I can write the book, but as regular readers of this blog will know too well, it’s all the other pressures that come with staying published that sometimes get me down. I suspect the only answer is to shut out the ‘noise’ – other writers’ successes and failures, a wobbly review, the pressure to produce more for less - and stay focussed on the work itself. Now it’s a matter of taking a deep breath and conquering it a bit at a time.

I suppose this is true of everything on my list of ‘things to get on with’. None of them matter in the great scheme – they’re all what our neighbour aptly described as ‘small things in a big world’ – but as I look out of my window every flower that opens is another reminder that time waits for no one