Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

What’s happened to all the spare time I thought I’d have after completing Book 3? It’s a question I ponder as I leave Tom and my comfort zone and head off alone to fulfil one of my new roles serving on the committee of the Romantic Novelists' Association. I know it’s lame, but I’m pretty hopeless at finding my way round London and always dread it. Today though, I’m armed with maps and directions carefully printed for me by Tom and instructions from Rose to ignore the hurry everyone else is in and to take my time. What can go wrong?

The plan goes slightly awry at Epsom where I’ve spent the night at Ma’s. At the station I congratulate myself on picking a quiet time to travel, but, seconds before the 8.17 to Waterloo train arrives, the platform is flooded with commuters and I’m outgunned and outmanoeuvred in the rush for a seat. Well never mind, there’s enough room for me and my bag to stand out the way and I can quietly read my Kindle. Except, of course, that with every passing station more folks squeeze on to the train and soon it’s crowded and very, very hot.

Just after Vauxhall, I start to feel very uncomfortable. I try to pretend I’m okay, but now I feel really awful… stars dance in front of my eyes before everything turns black, voices fade into the distance, and I sense there’s a strong chance I’m going to be sick over everyone. What to do? For all that I keep trying to convince myself I can overcome this, I start feeling even worse so I hit the deck before it hits me, crouching down on the floor as the train rumbles along, hoping I’ll be fine. No one seems to have noticed, anyway.

I dimly hear an announcement that we’re approaching Waterloo and try to stand, but my legs are wobbly and I’m totally disorientated. And then… and then a lovely young woman taps my shoulder and asks if I’m all right, smiling at me with touching concern. She ignores my pretence that I’ll be fine in a minute, she turfs a young man out of his seat and helps me into it. She finds water in my bag and makes me drink it then hovers over me, looking after me. At Waterloo I thank her and tell her to go on her way even though there’s still concern in her eyes.

I let everyone leave and sit still, trying to brace myself for the next part of the journey. Then I hear a male voice. ‘You’re obviously in need of assistance,’ he says gently, ‘can I help?’. This kind man carries my bag for me and offering me his arm, helps me off the train and to a seat on the platform. He’s very proper, very concerned and even offers to accompany me to see that I get to my destination safely. Having reassured him that I’ll wait where I am until I feel better, I let him get on his way. As I sit there, sipping water and getting my breath back, I reflect that in a world which often seems so cold and cruel, two complete strangers took time out of their busy Monday morning commute to look after me.

I’ll probably never know who stopped to take care of me yesterday, but whoever you are, I’m truly grateful for your kindness and compassion. Thank you so much for looking after me.

The painting is 'St Giles in the Adverts' by Tom Tomos

Sunday, 2 June 2013

One Story Closes...

Towards the end of a ninety-thousand word writing journey, all I can think of is reaching The End. By this stage, I’m pretty tense wondering if all the story threads will knit together; I used to think I was a ‘plotter’, but three books down the line, I realise I work with the spark of an idea and by allowing space for my characters to grow. This means that I’m constantly going back, revising my work in the light of what I’ve found out, but even so the final chapters still feel like hurtling down a helter-skelter hoping I don’t crash-land!

The next test for me is handing the manuscript over to Tom. He may be my other half, but it doesn’t make it any less excruciating knowing he’s reading my work as there’s no hiding his reaction. Fortunately the man with the red correcting pen says, ‘yes’. I also take it to be a good sign that he’s sat and read the story straight through, barely moving from his chair. Then it’s a matter of making the last-minute corrections, giving it a bit of polish and sending it on its way.

Oh, the relief and… a sense of loss. When I first step away from the imaginary world I’ve been living in, I do genuinely miss my characters, especially the heroine and hero, and I’ve enjoyed catching up with some of the names and faces from Turning the Tide in this one, too. But I’m certainly tired and adding to the excitement this time, I’ve had my brush with skin cancer and Ma’s death-defying greenhouse dive.

And six days on? Well, I’ve done some chores, caught up with some reading, but the spark of an idea for my next book is glowing increasingly bright. As one book closes, the next is waiting to be opened… On the Choc Lit blog tomorrow, I’ll be talking about starting a new book and, in particular, about images and inspiration.

And finally, the total immersion that finishing a novel demands means I’ve had little time for blogging but with some breathing space at last, I look forwards to putting that right and visiting the many blogs I’ve missed.

The photo is of a 'secret' garden, we've discovered on a new walk...