Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Happy Endings, New Beginnings

Blended families come with conflicting loyalties and at Christmas time nearly everyone has somewhere else they feel they ought to be. Throw partners into the equation and it gets even more complicated. Since Tom and I aren’t especially hung up about Christmas we’re happy to let our children go with the strongest flow, but I have to say it was a great delight to have the girls and their partners staying with us this year. When such moments are few and far between they become very precious.

My stepsons weren’t far from our thoughts either, not least because we had the very happy news on Christmas Day that my elder stepson and his girlfriend had become engaged. Congratulations Dan and Gill, here’s wishing you every happiness together.

Tom and I end a year that has seen the fruition of many years work, both of us crossing important thresholds within weeks of each other. I’m really looking forwards to seeing Turning the Tide published next year and it’s been so satisfying, after all this time, to become a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. In the meantime I have another OU deadline fast approaching so today’s post will be brief for that reason!

Whilst I have been fortunate to have a happy ending to my year, another family didn’t but they still managed to give the promise of a new life to Jessica Wales. Sometimes there’s hope in the darkest places.

Painting is 'West Coast Surf' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Something in the Hare

We travelled home the other night beneath a clear, sapphire sky with Jupiter twinkling on an invisible thread off a sliver of a crescent moon. Suddenly there was a movement in front of the car; a hare, pale gold in the headlights, loping in front of us before leaping into a bank.
‘Ooh,’ says Rose, when I tell her, ‘Isn’t that symbolic?’ So I look it up and read about fertility, longevity and rebirth none of which seem particularly relevant at first, unless I suddenly find I’m expecting octuplets in which case I’m straight off to the papers.

But then I start thinking about everything that’s happened over the last couple of weeks; certainly, so far as my writing is concerned, I do feel reborn. I’m overflowing with ideas and looking forwards to getting them down in the New Year. Tom, too, has crossed a threshold this week; he’s passed his degree and achieved a Diploma in Music some thirty-odd years after deciding, as a very homesick eighteen year-old, that university the first time round wasn’t for him. Along the way, as an OU student, he’s battled with two bouts of severe illness and personal turmoil, but has come through with distinction – I’m really proud of him.

We’ve had some lovely family moments too; sitting in a Caribbean restaurant with my stepsons and one of their girlfriends enjoying good food and laughter was, at one stage, something I wouldn’t have believed could happen. Today, Rose and Si join us and Lily and Russ are due tomorrow so our family has certainly expanded in interesting ways! As for longevity, I caught up with three of my lovely and enduring Ace Gang this week, though in our thoughts is our dear girl, Ju, whose mother is so very ill.

Yet it seems that the hare is also a paradoxical creature symbolic of opposing traits; yesterday I was absolutely thrilled to bits when my publishers, who have been a complete delight to work with, sent me the most ravishing box of chocolates for Christmas (it’s up there with winning a tin of chocolates at primary school so far as best ever writing moments go!). I have to say I did have a serious ‘Cor! I could get used to this’ feeling, but because it’s been so long coming I’m also wary of jinxing it so I’m trying to take it one day at a time and simply enjoy each minute.

Best wishes to you and yours this Christmas.

Painting is 'O Say Can You See By the Dawn's Early Light' by Tom Tomos

Monday, 14 December 2009

Boots, Jacket and Rellies

Ma greets the news that I am a soon-to-be-published-novelist with a variety of pigeon noises. I know she’s thrilled, but it’s just not the done thing for her to say anything that would make me or the Kid, too big for our boots. Her mother was the same; as soon as the news broke that I’d passed my eleven plus I got summoned before Nan and Grandad and warned about the perils of becoming a snob. Same again when I was offered a place at university. No lectures about sex, drugs or sausage rolls, just ‘don’t be a snob’.

Thinking about it, it was Dad who usually tackled the tricky stuff, like before my very first date assuring me that if I became pregnant I wouldn’t be turned out the house, but I ought to reflect on how it would ruin my life. Sheesh! Mind you, his tactic worked; for years I got a bit nervous if a boy so much as put his arm round me in case something flew down his sleeve and impregnated me.

Although Dad could deliver some dire warnings, he was always chuffed to bits when any of us had good news; his face would light up and he’d get a tad watery-eyed which always brought a lump to my throat too. My lovely daughters placed a star on one of the Royal Marsden's Christmas trees again, to celebrate his life - but I do miss him.

Whilst Nan would be pleased to know I haven’t outgrown my boots, I have had a really exciting week watching the progress of Turning the Tide. Funnily enough it was seeing the blurb that really thrilled me; I suppose it was the first step along the route of the book having an existence of its own. Next step, jacket design... hmm, I might have to watch my boots that day.

And finally...
We’re gearing up for the relly round; six whistle-stop days of non-stop food, drink and making merry. Whilst it’s lovely to catch up with everyone, it is a bit of a marathon – only with less running. Still, we do get a few days grace before Christmas when the girls and their boyfs arrive – and then we can all start again!

Painting is 'The Tomb of St Basil' by Tom Tomos

Monday, 7 December 2009

New Author for the Choc Lit Selection Box!

Do they mean me? They surely do because now there’s a press release from the lovely Lyn at Choc Lit to prove it! Honestly, I still can’t believe it’s happening; it’s a very strange feeling to think that something that began with an image in my head now has a life of its own.

I’m very excited to be joining Choc Lit (isn’t that a fab name?) because I had a Mystic Meg moment when I read about them. You see, it was winning a tin of chocolate at primary school in a national essay competition for my story My Life as a Cocoa Bean (a tragedy – I can still remember that ‘Oh, damn!’ thought when I realised there was only one ending to that particular tale) that started it all for me! It wasn’t just the name of the publishers that attracted me ‘though; I like to have fun when I write and I also really enjoy writing from my hero’s point of view so I felt that my novel would be a good fit for them, too.

Luckily Lyn, Choc Lit’s Marketing Director and the team at Choc Lit agreed and I’m thrilled to say that Turning the Tide will be out for the summer next year. Oooh, don’t wake me up anyone!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

First Steps

In July, I opened Book2Book’s ‘Book Trade News Digest’ for a quick scan and noticed that an author I ‘knew’ had just been taken on by a publisher I didn’t know. Popping over to their site to satisfy my curiosity, it only took a few seconds for me to realise that this was The One. I couldn’t imagine a better fit for my novel.

The novel had spent many months on two desks before being rejected with heaps of praise that were incredibly frustrating to read and left me wondering why, if they loved it so much, they hadn’t taken it on. This time, though, I was sure my book was a good match so I sent an email with a synopsis to the publishers the same day and was absolutely beside myself when I had a return email the next day asking to see the entire manuscript.

An amazingly prompt six weeks later I had my reply; they loved the story and characters but wanted some changes. Now, during its time on two desks, FTT, as I nicknamed it, had gone through a couple of metamorphoses, but this time the changes really made sense. I’d never been entirely happy with the opening of my novel but there were passages I really liked which, until then, had stopped me killing my darlings. Truly, one of the most important lessons you can learn as a writer is to listen to your inner bullsh*t detector. If you know something stinks then clear it up! I’d been ignoring the smell of my opening chapter for a long time, but as soon as the publishers pointed out to me that it lacked impact I got rid of it and it transformed the novel. By the end of a busy two weeks incorporating the suggested amendments I had a version of FTT I was really happy with and sent it off.

Again, the publishers were very prompt in replying and told me when I could expect a decision. There are worse things in life than waiting for a response to a manuscript, but one of the aspects I’ve really appreciated about working with this company is that they’ve done exactly what they said they would do when they agreed to do it which has made the wait so much easier. Even so, when the decisive email appeared in my inbox, I had a sudden, ‘Uh-oh, this is going to ruin my day’ thought as I fumbled to open it.

Since reading, ‘we would like to discuss offering you a publishing contract’, I’ve been trying to absorb this feeling of stepping over the threshold I’ve dreamt of crossing for so long. Even as I stood waiting to meet my publisher I was convinced that they’d say they’d made a terrible mistake, so when I was told, ‘everyone who’s read it loves your book’ I had a bit of a rush of blood to the head (mind you, the 5am start didn’t help). I’ve only ever wanted to be a writer and to have someone enjoy what I’ve written is a huge compliment and a wonderful feeling. I’m looking forwards to the next step.

And finally...
It’s also been my birthday this weekend and it’s fair to say we’ve done some celebrating. My thanks to Rose and Si for a lovely meal, Lily for a welcome break and Stepson Two and Gorgeous Girlf who arrived with gifts of Laurent-Perrier and crystal glasses. My thanks too, to Tom, as ever, for looking after me.

Photo shows me with my contract!