Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Near Miss and a Surprise Hit

Poor DiL’s been in the wars since leaving us last week. He was pootling around on his allotment on Monday when he decided to lift a piece of old carpet, inadvertently disturbing a wasp nest. In the mayhem that ensued DiL was stung repeatedly on the head and face. No one else was about, but somehow DiL managed to grab a garden hose and turn it on himself until the wasps had had enough. He then drove himself the short distance home where a horrified MiL, who doesn’t drive, summoned a friend and got him off to hospital. Fortunately DiL’s not allergic to wasp stings and various pills and potions have patched him up, but it’s one of those incidents that has shaken us up too and made us appreciate – even when their undercrackers turn up in unexpected places – how very precious our loved ones are.

Ma’s been having an exciting time too, although her experiences have been rather more positive than DiL’s. My brother-in-law whisked my sister off to Venice for a long weekend to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary (well done, you two!) leaving my nieces, aged 10 & 12, with Ma. Not being close enough to pop in, I started ringing every day to make sure they were all coping. Well, I don’t know about my nieces, but Ma’s had a lovely time, with Izzy (12) getting her on the internet, showing her how to book cinema tickets, telling her where the best seats are and persuading her to buy a Chinese takeaway on the way home.
‘What did you see? Toy Story 3?’ I ask Izzy.
‘No, KitKat (my nickname),’ she says with contempt. ‘That’s for little kids. We saw The Karate Kid.
‘And very good it was too,’ says Ma, in the background.
Hmm, if my mother turns in to a junk food, junk film addict I shall know who to blame.

Painting is 'Sunset - Bardsey' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cool Running

After a night of heavy rain, the west Wales coast was at its most beautiful this morning when I went out for a run. Blue sky, fluffy white clouds and hedgerows bejewelled with harebells, cornflowers and diamond-chipped feathery grasses shimmering in the watery sunlight. Not so great sights included a poor little dead mole lying on its back, forlorn starfish hands reaching for the sky, and a banana skin. (Note: always avoid the banana skins.)

Hotel H has been heaving. I’ve finally got round to unpacking my bag from our recent trip to the south (don’t worry – I did unpack the manky bits on our return). We’ve had MiL and DiL here (on the ‘go-to-south-to-catch-up-with-one-set-of-rellies-bring-another-lot-home’ basis) and they like to spread out a bit. Surprise entertainment this week has included DiL suddenly being afflicted with an inability to walk – his slippers were on the wrong feet – and a mystery object falling out the washing machine with my tea towels – DiL’s undercrackers, leftover from MiL’s wash.

But now, with a book to deliver and the Cardiff half marathon in October, I’m glad to get back in the groove of steady work. There are no short cuts, at least not for me; to run 13.1 miles you need to build up slowly and train regularly. To write a book, you need to put the hours in and watch the word-count build. I’m naturally impatient and always want quick results, but running’s taught me the value of taking life a step at a time. Just watch out for the banana skins.

And finally...
My sister and I always used to dread exam results. Not because we were bad scholars, but because there was no pleasing Ma. Even 99% would have her sighing and saying something like, ‘Oh well, perhaps you’ll do better next time.’ I don’t think even Ma would find fault with today’s marks for Turning the Tide over at Novelicious – I’m thrilled to bits. So, with Miss Write's review yesterday, it’s been a brilliant couple of days for the book. It doesn’t half feel good too!

My thanks too, to lovely Wordtryst who was kind enough to give me an award – I’ll collect it as soon as poss, but do go and read Liane’s blog for wise words about writing, reading and a dash of Caribbean sunshine.

Painting is ‘Rain setting in – Pembrokeshire Coast’ by Tom Tomos

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why I love writing...

'As the last chapter came to a close, I got off at my station, sat on a bench in the sun and postponed my walk home by ten minutes or so to enjoy the last few pages uninterrupted, a little oasis of sublime romance in my rushed day.'

A lovely, lovely comment from a review of Turning the Tide by Miss Write. Check out her blog for sharp, clever writing.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

No-one Died

I worked for several years in the research department of a large trades union. It was my first job after my daughters started school and I shared it with Maureen who also had children, unlike most of our colleagues within the department. Maureen was one of those incredibly serene, unflappable people who was wonderful to work with. Just as well, really, since we were the jugglers of Research, trying to cram full time work into part-time hours to prove our worth, whilst fielding the inevitable calls from school. The one that particularly sticks in my mind was an office lady ringing me up to say, ‘Could you please collect your daughter? She’s fallen off a log.’

Maureen and I built our joint career together, starting as research assistants and fighting our way to become trades union officials. Along the way we had to put up with a lot of rubbish, such as other officials sticking their heads round the door of the department, seeing me or Maureen and saying, ‘Oh, no one in!’. I always had a feeling that as mums and part-timers we were never taken quite as seriously as the hungry, straight-from-university, twenty-somethings who began to fill up the department, hoovering up experience before moving on to the next job. At times, I got pretty fed-up about our treatment, but Maureen always managed to remain calm. ‘No-one died,’ she’d say, with a tranquil smile.

Maureen’s words came back to me after my stint on the Choc Lit panel at the Romantic Novelists Conference 2010 on Saturday. The talk that I had practised in my study went straight out of my head when I looked up and saw... faces! Where did all those people come from? I thought that caring about my subject would make it easier, as opposed to talking about some old employment nonsense, but in fact it made it twice as hard! I’m afraid I stammered and stuttered through my piece before staggering off wondering how it had all gone so wrong. And Maureen’s words came back to me. So what if I’d made a bit of chimp of myself? I got through it. No-one died.

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

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

My Guy

Excuse me if I FREAK OUT just a little, won’t you? My keyboard should be smoking with activity, but today I’m having a bit of a moment. We’re off to the south east on Friday which is good because I’ll catch up with Ma. My sister and I are both trying to sell our houses at the moment so Ma’s been something of a Freak Control Red Centre, fielding calls from both of us and handling all the ‘It’s on/off/pile-of -cr*p/best-thing-I’ve-ever-seen/b*stards/heroes’ calls with appropriate pigeon noises. A very diplomatic approach, actually, since neither of us can throw her words back at her.

But what’s really creeping up on me is Saturday, Day Two of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference 2010, because I’m joining the Choc Lit panel where we’ll be talking about our heroes. ‘But, mummy!’ said Rose. ‘The expert on your hero is you! What are you worrying about?’ And the answer is that I don’t know really, after all I’ve got up on my hind legs in a previous life and talked about such thrilling topics as sick pay and millennium payments and I knew a lot less (there, I’ve admitted it now!) about either of those than I do about Matthew Corrigan, the hero of ‘Turning the Tide’.

I suppose the answer is because I really care and I really want people to engage with my guy and to see why he and my heroine, Harry, would be attracted to each other. On that subject (terrible trumpet tootling alert), my Mslexia magazine arrived yesterday, (would heartily recommend it – and not just on a sucky-up note; every issue is packed with useful information and writing exercises... although they never pick my poems when I send them in. Sigh.) and it included a really wonderful write-up about ‘Turning the Tide’ (page 51 ‘Independent Press: Choc Lit’) which set me up for the whole day. I must remember to think about that before I do my bit on Saturday.

Painting is 'Late Light - Preseli' by Tom Tomos