Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Incident of the Fly in the Night

Our house is incredibly quiet at night, but the disadvantage is that it makes you hyper-aware of the smallest sounds. I once became aware of a tiny rhythmic rustling noise and eventually realised it was my heartbeat disturbing the feathers of the duvet! But tonight there’s nothing but the click of my Kindle and Tom snoring gently as he drifts off to sleep. Investing in a Kandle (pricey, but so superior to those stalky lights that wobble about and poke you in the face) has even put an end to the ‘when are you going to turn the light out?’ debate and has made my love of reading in bed more comfortable for both of us. 

I’ve just finished a chapter of a childhood favourite, The Little Grey Men, by BB reissued as an ebook, and now that I know Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Dodder are tucked up and safe, I feel lovely and cosy and decide to settle down too. I have barely fallen asleep when there is a moan of protest beside me. A gnat has decided to take a bite out of Tom. I’m largely untroubled by insect bites due, I’ve decided, to my Rhesus negative blood, but Tom reacts so badly to them that recently he could barely bend his elbows they were so swollen. On a mission, Tom switches on his bedside light, looking for some After Bite, but instead sends a large glass of water flying.

After a huge mopping-up operation, we become aware of a new sound. A fly has entered the fray. We keep very still, trying to locate it, but the fly torments us wheeling round our heads, landing briefly and spiralling off again. Tom grabs a tee shirt and flaps wildly at the air. At this rate we’re going to have a second glass of water drama! I decide to go for chemical weapons and dig out an ancient tin of fly spray. Unfortunately my aim’s a bit off and I liberally spray my pillow by mistake. All the lights are now blazing, we’re both wide awake and the fly refuses to be caught. It’s also very hot so neither of us has a stitch on which suddenly strikes me as terribly funny – especially when I look at Tom’s grumpy face.

After much swiping and spraying, the fly does a lap of honour and disappears off to the landing. Tom quickly slams the door and we flop into bed. You’d think with all the fly spray on my pillow I’d go out like a light, but no. All I can think of is us chasing round the room in our nuddy-pants trying to catch a fly. The more I try to stop giggling, the worse it gets, so now the peaceful night is disturbed by guffaws of laughter. It’s quite a long time before I finally fall asleep!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

About a Book

Ask an author which of their own books is their favourite and I suspect it’s like asking a parent to say which child they love best; it can’t be done. Turning the Tide will always be dear to me because it was my first full-length novel and it earned me a publishing contract. I’m proud of Move Over Darling because I wrote it during a very tough period with Stuff Happening externally and a crippling lack of self-confidence internally. Getting through that long dark night of the writing soul taught me a lot. Oh, but I did love writing Book 3!

I loved returning to Little Spitmarsh, the setting for Turning the Tide, I loved seeing what Harry and Matthew had been up to and I loved my new heroine and hero. And fortunately, phew, everyone at Choc Lit loved them too and I was offered a new contract faster than I dared hope. One thing they didn’t love, though, was the title, so my working title went out the window and a new one was born, Follow a Star.

Then I waited for my cover. Now, cover design is an art I can only admire as it’s something I can’t pretend to understand. We all know a bad cover when we see one, but a good one? I had a choice of four designs to choose from and could have lived with any of them, but v.1 was deemed the favourite. And with a couple of tweaks and some sparkle, there was my girl, May, contemplating her future, just as I imagined her. Amazing!

Follow a Star is part of Choc Lit’s 2014 selection so won’t be out until early next summer, but Move Over Darling is currently on promotion in the Amazon Kindle summer sale at 99p and $1.51

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

All in Good Time

After Tom’s ‘what if?’ it’s his turn to attend conference. It’s in London so that means a whirlwind of catching up with as many friends and family as we can fit in while we’re there.

We travel down on Wednesday via the Gower, where some friends are on holiday marvelling at their good luck in enjoying such fabulous weather, and arrive at Ma’s in the evening.

Ma’s leg still hasn’t healed after her dive from our greenhouse nine weeks ago and since her nurse is on holiday, Thursday begins with me taking over to dress the wound. It’s Tom’s only free day so his parents arrive shortly after for coffee, then the four of us (we have to leave Ma behind because our car’s too small) drive to Richmond where we meet Stepson Two for lunch. In the afternoon it’s time to see Stepdaughter-in-law and Harry, our grandson. Harry takes one look at four faces beaming at him and sobs, but cheers up mightily at the sight of his daddy coming through the door.

On Friday, I spend the day with Ma whose propensity for tripping up has worried me, but she’s in good spirits, has lost weight and looks ten years younger than her true age, all of which helps to set my mind at rest. In the evening, it’s over to our friends, Jill and Martin. Jill and I have been best friends since the register sat us together at school and tonight we let our hair down with fizz, stories and some schoolgirl humour which also reassures me that we’re not nearly as grown-up as we pretend to be.

On Saturday I have a lovely time with Rose and her fiancé Si. Si goes out to tinker with the car whilst Rose and I discuss wedding plans and veils. Who knew there were so many veils?

My sister and her husband are celebrating their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary (well done, dear hearts) so Sunday begins with a brief visit to their house before we head home via Cardiff and a quick pit stop with Lily and Russ.

After five days of limited internet access Monday and most of Tuesday disappears wading through my inbox. As a new member on the Romantic Novelists’ Association committee, I’m not only getting up to speed with my job, but with committee work in general. I seemed to have joined at a time of intense debate within the organisation reflecting the momentous changes within the publishing industry. The work, plus all the travelling to meetings, has really shown me how many hours people have put in on my behalf over the years so I’m happy, if slightly daunted by the task, to put a bit back.

Today I switch on my computer and Spotify nags me about the artists I haven't listened to for a while. Sheesh! What next? I only hope it can’t see my garden as it would probably have a go about that, or the fact we still haven’t ‘done’ our utility room. Or that the outside of the house needs painting.

I sometimes gnash my teeth a bit when people tell me how lucky I am to have all day to do what I like, as if writing takes the form of some celestial dictation with very little effort on my part, but then I take a deep breath. Time pressures affect all of us and I am fortunate to be able to organise my work more or less as I please. I could still do with a few extra hours in my week though – or is that greedy?

The epainting is by Tom Tomos.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

My RNA Conference 2013

We leave the house at Crack of Doom so that I can catch the 7.30 train from Aberystwyth. My head’s full of ‘what ifs’ covering all kinds of worst case scenarios from missed connections through taken seats, stolen bags, comfort breaks and so on. I am, however, carrying plenty of anti-fainting rations so hopefully that’s one ‘what if’ I can forget about. For the first part of the journey I can just relax and enjoy the view as the train winds out of Wales.

I make The Edge, where the conference is taking place just after lunch and without a mishap. Result.

The accommodation’s excellent and a far cry from the student housing of my day when my clothes seemed to carry a permanent whiff of mould.

The conference begins with a welcome from RNA Chairman, fellow ChocLiteer, Pia Fenton, but what happens next? A quick internet search of any Romantic Novelists’ Association gathering will bring up plenty of pictures of shoes, frocks and parties, but a great deal of thought and hard work goes into the conference programme. There’s something for everyone, new writers, newly-published authors and experienced authors alike. It’s a packed schedule too with workshops, lectures and yes, a very great deal of talking.

A selection of ChocLiteers, but we missed those who couldn't attend.
(My thanks to Janet Gover for the photo)

There are too many stand-out moments to recall here, but those that will particularly stick with me are award-winning romantic novelist Linda Hooper’s advice to ‘keep the joy in your writing’, being brave enough to put my hand up in Headline Associate Publisher Sherise Hobb’s workshop and winning a bag of Haribou sweets for my efforts, and not being brave enough to volunteer in fellow ChocLiteer Janet Gover’s media skills workshop, but being very grateful to another fellow ChocLiteer, Liz Harris, who did! Somehow there’s never quite enough time to catch up with everyone and soon it’s time to leave.

My homeward bound ‘what if’s’ are greatly eased by the good company of a fellow writer Ann Ankers as far as Telford. From there, one of the hottest carriages I’ve ever travelled in subdues me for the rest of the journey.

At Aberystwyth my heart skips a beat at the sight of Tom waiting at the station for me. I walk through the door to flowers, fizz, a lovely meal… and a ‘what if’ I never saw coming. But that’s a story that can wait for another blog.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Away, Home, Away, News.

I never take Tom’s support for my work for granted and always count myself lucky to have someone who puts up with me and my imaginary friends. However, it’s always good to return the favour. Tom’s about to complete his MA in music and last week we did an overnight stay in Milton Keynes where he was presenting an academic paper at the Open University. I worked in the Hub which was very comfortable though strangely devoid of what I would recognise as students. Whilst I couldn’t attend the lecture it was just brilliant to be there to see Tom’s face when he came out and know that his presentation had gone well.
The view from the Hub

On the home front, we’ve been enjoying this rare spell of glorious weather with visits from MiL and DiL and Lily and Russ.

DiL, MiL and Tom at Fishguard, post-ice creams!

I’ve also been reorganising my study which involved moving what felt like a never-ending pile of books into the hall. There are bookshelves all over the house, but these are just some of my ‘keepers.’

On Friday morning, I’m leaving at crack of doom (trying not to faint on the train this time) to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in Sheffield – further reports to follow! Then the following weekend, it’s Tom’s turn and a trip to London for a music conference.

Between visitors and trips, I’ve been playing with ideas for a novella and Book Four. This is the ‘coasting’ stage where I pick up and discard ideas until it all starts to hang together – a real contrast to the other end of the creative spectrum when I’m living and breathing every moment of my imaginary world. All the intensity of those last weeks feels worth it when your publisher writes to say ‘yes’. I’m delighted – and, yes, it feels just as brilliant and thrilling as the first time – to say that Book 3 – new title and cover to follow will be published by Choc Lit in July 2014.