Catching A Spark

I’ve realised this week that I’ve been so full of self-recrimination for not pushing on with Novel 2 whilst waiting for news about ‘Fighting The Tide’ that I’ve been forcing the process rather than looking inside for the spark that ignites an idea. Capturing the elusive element that breathes life into a project requires concentration, an ability to be calm and listen to the inner voice. The spark for ‘Fighting The Tide’ was kindled by my love of sleepy, seedy seaside towns and I enjoyed writing it so much that it’s going to be quite a blow if I don’t get the news I’m hoping for. And, essentially it’s the waiting that’s holding me back. Good news and I’ll be storming into Novel 2, (working title ‘Make, Do and Mend’ because it’s about making a mistake, doing something else and mending in the process). Bad news… well, no prizes for guessing how I’ll feel. In the meantime I’ve tried to press on and the results have been mixed!

Thursday 3 May: My Study
After years of waiting I’ve finally got my own room where I can spread out and leave work in progress. From where I sit I look out across the Preseli Hills (and yes, today the bloody builders – they’re back). But am I drawing inspiration from nature? No, I’m not. I’m looking at the rudey-nudey farmers calendar my sister gave me as stocking filler for Christmas thinking that it’s scaring the bejesus out of me this month! Just what is that man hiding behind his drill? On second thoughts, should any of you be married to or cohabiting with Mr May 2007, best not tell me as I’m already feeling a bit faint. My ‘Farmers In Their Nuddy-Pants’ calendar is propped on a shelf so that I can put it away when guests of a sensitive disposition visit… remember Mil?

Elvis, on the other hand, is on proud display (no, no, Elvis isn’t in his nuddy-pants –that would be like the Queen doing a Dove advert). There’s nothing Lily and I like better than a tacky Elvis calendar and this year Lily excelled herself. From the back of the door the King broods at me dressed in cowboy gear in tasteful (ish) black and white. It’s a pleasant contrast to April where he was sporting rather a lot of man-tan and mascara.

Ho hum… not a lot of writing going on this study, as you can tell. Right, Faith has summoned up a ‘release’ angel card for me so it’s time to stop staring at the wall.

Friday 4 May: A New Beginning
Dadaaaaaa! I have a first chapter! Sheesh! I’ve gone all round the houses and pretty much come back to where I started. The acid test is running it past Tom. At one time I wouldn’t have allowed Tom to read anything I’d written, I mean, I know him! Why it should be easier to bare yourself to complete strangers but go all coy with your nearest and dearest I don’t know.

Anyway, Tom is a terrific proof reader (I have to say he’s also so pedantic I feel like pulling out what’s left of his hair sometimes, me being Mrs Slipshod and all). More than that Tom is the last man who would choose to read romantic comedy so he scans my work with a very cold eye and plenty of ‘Do you really mean that?’ and ‘This doesn’t make sense to me at all!’ comments. The upshot is that when I write now I’m constantly asking myself if the reader is still with me or if they’ve given up and flung the book down in disgust?

Saturday 5 May: Temper Tantrum
The Telegraph announce their short list for the ‘Novel In A Year’ competition and my entry is not amongst them. Cue mega-hissy fit and much chucking around of toys from yours truly. I visit the website, scan the shortlist and cheer up a bit since my work is nothing like any of these. Of course it isn’t, I hear you cry, yours is worse that’s why you weren’t short-listed! Well, maybe, that’s true but I think it’s because my writing looks frothy on top even though does have a darker, more serious layer underneath. I can’t see very much froth amongst this list so, once again have fallen foul of the fluffy rule (or fallen fowl – perhaps Chickenix and the Green Duck helped to judge?).

Sunday 6 May
A six-mile run restores my mood – well, it would, I’m too tired to rant and rave now.

Monday 7 May: Mourning
I wake up desperately missing my Dad. It’s almost two years since he died and May was the last complete month he saw. Every poignant, funny, angry, joyful and raw moment returns and I long to hear his voice again. At such times the spiral of grief is overwhelming, the thought that I will never see him again is almost unbearable so I try to salvage a memory that will help me come to terms with losing him.

Today I remember a trick he learnt that delighted us both. Once I knew his prognosis I’d made up mind to spend as much time with Dad as I could so had taken to dropping in to whichever hospital he was in to keep him company. On this particular occasion I planned to surprise Dad who wasn’t expecting me. A childhood illness had left him partially deaf and background noise interfered with the limited hearing he had so when I entered the ward and saw him with his back to me looking out of the window I knew I’d have to walk up to him before he knew I was there.

But I was the one who was surprised as, without turning his head, he said ‘Hello Miss Chris!’ After that it didn’t matter where he was or what shoes I was wearing he could always pick my footsteps out and went on to prove it time after time. Miss Chris. His name for me. And suddenly I can hear him saying it, only in my head, of course, but it helps.

Tuesday 8 May: Picking up the Pieces
I’ve gone back to basics, laying down the bones of ‘Make, Do and Mend’. For me that’s a timeline: when the story takes place, dates of important events, sketching in the peaks – and the troughs. Once that’s in place I get a better idea of the supporting cast required, possible sub-plots and my subconscious starts to put the pieces together. I’m beginning to see a glimmer of light when the phone rings. It’s Rose, who is about to email her dissertation to proofread, now that’s one interruption I don’t mind, especially when I read it and nearly burst with pride. My two daughters have been brilliant, wonderfully supportive even when I’ve plundered their lives for copy. They’re also keeping everything crossed for ‘Fighting The Tide’ (probably with cries of ‘Please, don’t let Mum write about us ever again!). Oh well, we’ll see what this week brings.

Hwyl fawr!

The painting is 'Drygarn' by Tom Tomos and shows some of the view from my study.


I have my fingers crossed for you - the waiting is the worst part of all . . . . and not something easily put out of your mind. Can I put in an advance order for my copy of your book, infact books - now get on with book number two, or Matron and I will have to give you detention and a huge glass of wine and big bar of chocolate . . .
Rose1278 said…
Still have everything crossed for you ma mere! And if the worst does come to the worst (which im sure it won't!) i'll hunt the agent down and Wart hog her, hah! Thank you again for reading through my diss, really really appreciate it! xx
Inthemud said…
Good Luck with book, ...........Get on with No 2 don't look back!

It's always hard at anniversary time of a death, and 2 years isn't long, hope you have many happy memories of your dear dad.
countrymousie said…
Good luck with book and keep going. Lost mum also two years next month - she,also, could tell it was me by my walk, clip clipping along she said. Hearing about your dad brought tears to my eyes as it so reminded me of mum. I have missed her alot this week. Well I miss her every week, we were two of a kind.
Suffolkmum said…
I keep thinking of you two and hope you get some news soon (the best news, of course). Put me down for an order too, I'll buy a few and suggest it for my book group etc - we'll get those sales up! What a glam photo, you look very cool and crisp and lovely. Also lovely hearing about you Dad and how he always recognised your footfall. Bet he still can hear you.
Suffolkmum said…
Sorry, that was meant to be 'you too', not 'you two' - haven't worked out how to edit comments.
I am green with envy a room of yourown in which to write. I have Chief Patissier siting backto back with me and if I ask him toread anything he writes he jsut wnats to check spelling rearrange sentences adn go through grammer like a pedant hat he is!! ( he is far better now I jsut say read correct spelling and leave well alone but tell me if you think its not funny)

tell me do you have an agent or did you send your book draft of topublishers? I have been holding my breath re your book since you first mentioned waiitng for news. I have everything crossed for you which is odd as I have never met you! ps photo of you very glamourus author dust jacketish!!
LittleBrownDog said…
Really enjoyed your blog. And looking forward to your novel, too. I'm also in the process of writing some fiction for the first time, only progress is very slow and faltering at this stage. It is kind of nerve-wracking giving it to someone else to read, but I think a second eye is really vital. So long as it's the right one...
jackofall said…
Great blog, and SO sensibly laid out, so one can read it chronologically - why can't Blogger come up with something like that?

Agree with UPL, the photo is very dust-jacketish.

As for Georgia Nicholson, Eldest is regularly in fits about them (she's 15) and I must try to read them one day soon. What about HER publishers?
bodran... said…
lovely blogs,I liked you dad memories.good luck with the book and your photos lovely..
Milkmaid said…
Lovely to read your blog, My father died more than 12 years ago and I still think of things I'd like to tell him about
It's amazing how parents can tell their offspringm i can tell which one of the Rabble has entered the house by how they shut/slam the back door
Pondside said…
Really enjoyed reading your week's blog. I'll keep my fingers crossed re the waiting. In the meantime - write girl! - they'll be clamoring for the second one when they've done with the first!
elizabethm said…
am so utterly impressed by your writing, by the fact that you have finished one novel never mind being on the 2nd. dont think i would have the self discipline although doing these blogs has shown me that i love to write.
fingers crossed for your book. note you have katie fforde on your list of favourite books - me too. like loads of serious stuff but nothing like real quality light stuff for brightening your day.
Posie Rosie said…
Enjoyed catching up with your week, sorry you didn't make the shortlist, there will be lots of others, just you keep writing. It must be a fascinating and rewarding process, wish I had a 'book in me'. Lovely bit about your dad too, fond memories, but a deep loss.
Kate said…
Hi there,
Just spotted your comment about the Great Novel Race over at my blog and am about to explore your blog, but wasn't totally sure whether you wanted to join up? If so, we'd love to have you - just pop back and say so in one of the comments and I shall link you in!

All the best,
Exmoorjane said…
Ah Chris, I sympathise, I really do. Remember entering the Richard & Judy competition and the agonies of waiting.....only to have disappointment as a result. And so hard working on Book Two (at the best of times) let alone while waiting for Book One to trot merrily (and hopefully lucratively) into view. Hold your nerve - keep writing.....well done for Chapter One....just write and write and write and don't think about tomorrow.
annakarenin said…
Intrigued to know what you have written about your daughters our wait is getting to equal yours, please let us all hear soon.

Laughed reading about your calender but tender and sad hearing about your dad. Small comfort perhaps but at least you were able to make the most of spending time with him towards the end and add to the good memories.
Zinnia Cyclamen said…
Hi Chris, welcome to the Novel Racers. I think you do have to do the sidebar thing one at a time, at least I couldn't find another way - but then I'm not a techie... and am a bit rubbish at updating my sidebar! But I will put you on there soon, honest!!
Eden said…
Oh waiting is so hard. I do hope they'll take it.My dad died three years ago. I still can't believe he's not waiting on the other end of the phone.
liz fenwick said…
Waiting is terrible. Hope is goes well. Welcome to the Novel Racers. I am profiling the racers on my blog and would love to add you to the list. Could you send me a paragragh or two? Email's on the blog. Thanks :-)

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