I don’t understand this writer’s block thing. It’s taken me ages to get started on another story, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down in front of this computer, and nothing has happened. There was plenty going on in my head but I was totally unable to persuade any words to come out of the ends of my fingers and onto the keyboard.
A dear friend gave a me a rather special notebook for Christmas. All the things I hadn’t been able to type onto the computer – the bits of half-baked ideas, possible names for characters, locations – just a lot of odds and ends really – I started to write in there in longhand. Now, my handwriting leaves a lot to be desired frankly, and so the pages of this lovely notebook looked a darn sight nicer when they were empty. BUT, something seems to have clicked into place because the next time I sat down and typed in ‘Chapter One’, I found I was able to keep going a bit longer. I actually started to write something again.
I’m now almost 18,000 words into it, and flowing. Whatever the block was, and whatever shifted it, I don’t know. I’ve never used the notebook brainstorming method before, and it might never work for me again – but there you are, that’s the mystery of writer’s block.
Actually, one of characters now has a red notebook in which she writes copiously.
Mine isn’t red, by the way…
Take a slightly wobbly idea, a brand new Christmas notebook and the memory of a picture seen long ago, marinate for what seems like forever, season liberally, stir it all up and then heat through until the beginnings of a new book emerge…
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point but I now have something I think I can run with. Hooray! The characters are starting to feel like real people and I can see them moving around now in the locations I have planned for them. OK, there are going to be plot issues that I’ll have to resolve, but now that I’ve started writing I’ve got something to work on. And it feels good.
Spooky thing: I needed a song from a particular year for the introduction and Googled Wiki for a list, then dithered about trying to decide on one. In the end I picked a title and wrote it in. Later that same day I met a friend for lunch and was amazed to hear the very same song playing – and it’s not one you hear often. I took this to be a Good Omen, and it gave me a huge lift. I’ve been singing it ever since…
Had a great day on Saturday at my book-signing! Dreadful weather but around 55 hardy souls turned out, enjoyed the music and bought both books and jewellery (my launch buddy Linda was hosting the event and had her jewellery studio open).
The book (Distant Cousins) is dedicated to all my cousins. In my mind’s eye I was imagining a group photo, me surrounded by a whole bunch of them… In the end only two of them made it, most of the rest having left the country on their holidays – thereby making the title of the book strangely prophetic! October maybe not a great month for a book signing? But many friends from far and near turned up, some I hadn’t seen literally for years. Really great of them to come along and support me, and it was a lovely opportunity to catch up on their news.
Almost everything went as well as I’d hoped: we had enough wine, snacks and books, and people arrived at nicely spaced out intervals throughout the afternoon so there was never a crush.
But guess what? My pen ran out on the second book!!
Memo to self for future events: take a new pen and a back-up… Luckily my dear friend Lyn was swiftly at my side with a battered Bic, which saw me through the rest of the day.
Lots of people asked how the next book is progressing – oh dear, only a couple of mini-ideas struggling to stand to attention at the moment. I’ve got a week away in Cyprus now, maybe Aphrodite will give me a hand…
It’s almost out. Been a while coming (why????) but the release date for ‘Distant Cousins’ is September 1st – I have some advance copies which I shall send out to reviewers as soon as I can stop gazing at them and stroking them lovingly. The cover artwork is great – thank you again Sue for making such a fab job of this. Everyone who’s seen it so far has commented on one particular aspect of the cover – I won’t spoil it for you but this is guaranteed to take anyone ‘of a certain age’ back to their teenage years… And it’s relevant to the plot – no window dressing here!
So why has it taken so long? I really don’t know, a mixture of sloth and indecision I suppose. Plus sunny days (can’t stay in), cold days (need to be active to keep warm), wet days (too miserable for the muse), holidays (need I say more?) – I guess I’m just not self-disciplined. Give me a deadline to work to and I’m your woman, but left to my own devices I’m just too easily distracted.
Anyway, the book-signing is going to be on Sunday October 12th, and invitations will be going out just as soon as I get round to doing them. Which I had planned to do today, but then the sun came out and stayed out – and so did I! My ‘to do’ list just keeps getting longer and the paper is now so dogeared I might have to write it all out again on a fresh piece. Oh dear.
I just hope the people who enjoyed ‘The Generation Club’ will think that ‘Distant Cousins’ has been worth the wait…
Exciting! The first proofs of my new book arrived from the printers yesterday, so here I am now slowly working my way through the proof-reading. It’s hard to keep the concentration going though without frequent breaks – after a while I find I’m skimming through the text. So diversions have been needed. And how easy it is to find them!
Dealing with the washing, making a few phone calls, eating chocolate (yes, I know…), a quick Su-doku – it’s all rather too readily available to take me away from my task and provide a little light relief. And huge thanks to my friend Jude for suggesting a walk up to the seafront so we could look for traces of the lost 1930s bandstand that sadly gave way to a not-very-attractive 1960s cafe. Now that’s what I call a diversion! (Yes, we have become a bit anorak-y about it…)
I’m never really sure how I feel about starting a new year. There’s the prospect of fresh starts, new opportunities – but also people and situations have gone and can’t be revisited; some good things and some bad from the past year, same old same old…
Anyway for what it’s worth, here are some of the best books I read, TV I watched (not much as I don’t actually have a TV), films and shows I saw, music I listened to.
The books that stood out for me were:
two from Jojo Moyes: ‘Me Before You’, and ‘The Last Letter from your Lover’.
two from Cecilia Ahern: ‘Where Rainbows End’ and ‘How to Fall in Love’.
These are books where you can really get inside the characters. Both writers are prolific, and yet they manage to make the format and style different in every book they write.
I also enjoyed Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ and ‘The Husband’s Secret’ by Liane Moriarty, and I re-read the wonderful ‘Enchanted April’. All highly recommended.
Apart from Strictly (obviously) I was very taken by the Christmas three part serial ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’. Brilliant casting, the actors were completely credible as more grown-up versions of the people were saw in the original TV version (who could forget Colin Firth emerging from the lake in dripping wet undergarments??). I thought PD James did very well in moving Lizzie and Darcy’s story forward and staying true to the characters. It made me think maybe I could have a go at something similar, though probably not Jane Austen as you’re on a hiding to nothing there…
Not much in the world of films grabs me although I will make a point of going to see ‘Mandela’. I couldn’t see any point in re-making ‘Gatsby’, far too much bling for my liking and the music was dreadfully unsuited. Such a lovely book so completely destroyed by Hollywood.
I saw ‘A Chorus Line’ for the second time (one of my favourite musicals of all time), and ‘From Here to Eternity’ twice. It was much better once the running time had been cut and the whole thing generally tightened up, but also my second visit was in a better seat and I could see the whole stage and really get into the story. I think restricted view seats should be given away (actually mine was, so I can’t really complain!) because it’s a cheek to charge people when they can’t see half of what’s going on on stage. I know this musical has had very mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it, the music and staging were great and it’s so good to see something original going into the West End. Sadly it isn’t going to run for much longer – it’ll probably get replaced by a remake of ‘Carousel’ or yet another version of ‘Grease’…
Which only leaves me with music, and at the Scarborough Jazz Festival I heard my gig of the year: the wonderful Adam Glasser Quartet. I would never have expected to enjoy hearing a harmonica so much, but there it is! Brilliant.
So that’s 2013 all wrapped up and ready to slide out of the back door.
Let’s hope that 2014 brings us all more wonderful reading, listening and viewing experiences.
Here comes Christmas again – the older I get the quicker it seems to come around. I could almost swear we’re getting more than one a year these days…
Now I quite like the run-up to the 25th. I like wrapping gifts – it’s something I do as soon as I get them home for some strange reason (the result of course is that by Christmas I often can’t remember what I’ve bought…) And I like putting up decorations, opening cards and getting all the red and gold stuff out again.
The problem I have is that I don’t actually enjoy the day itself. For a start I get bored, I like to have things to do and that’s not the way it is over Christmas, it’s more about sitting around and chatting, watching the tele, eating too much (OK, I do rather like that bit) and generally being jolly. I don’t like paper hats, turkey and bacon or Christmas pudding. I don’t like ‘specials’ on the TV, or the Queen’s speech. I don’t like opening gifts that you would never in a million years have chosen for yourself. Frankly, it’s a relief to me when it’s all over. Sorry…
If the weather’s nice then a brisk walk along the seafront will help me get through it all. If not then I’m afraid it’s all downhill from around midday on Christmas Eve.
So Merry Christmas everyone, roll on Boxing Day!
(Only kidding, it’s not really that bad…!)