So. Writing. Where am I up to?

My current writing space Here’s the thing. Writing is important to me. Really, really important. I love that feeling when the words are whizzing out of my head and onto the screen and the story takes on a life of its own. It’s amazing.

Here’s the other thing. Until I sell the novel and am actually earning money from my writing, it has to take a backseat to other jobs, the ones that put food on the table. If there’s pressure to be working on those tasks then I feel guilty about writing and so the words don’t come.

The last few months, when we’ve had a house to refurbish, three lots of new tenants to find (the paperwork is unbelievable), we’ve moved to a house that needs lots of work and where I don’t have an office, and it’s been the school holidays which means that the peace and solitude I need haven’t been possible, have not been a good time for writing. I’ve tried and tried and trust me, Malcolm and The Son have been nothing but supportive, but the words haven’t wanted to come. What I’ve written has been lumpen and dull, all the energy sapped from them by an every growing list of other stuff I need to do.

However, it’s improving. Everything is settling down in terms of food-on-the-table work, The Son is back at school, and even the new puppy is less exhausting and distracting. I had lunch a week ago with an agent friend who gave me a talking to and made me feel excited about writing again, and I’ve actually produced some quite decent work in the last week or so. Maybe I need to forget trying to actually write during July and August and concentrate instead on gathering ideas and inspiration so that when I sit down on the back-to-school morning in September, the words are just waiting to be let loose?

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Summer reading suggestions and books to pre-order

Summer Reading 2016 - books by Meg Rosoff, Jilly Cooper, Tana French, Chris Ewan, Veronica Henry and more..  Now that the move is over, I’m looking forward to catching up on some reading, both proofs that will be out this autumn and recent acquisitions.

Top of the pile is Mount! by Jilly Cooper. I am so pleased to have a copy of this proof! I have adored Jilly’s books since I first discovered them in my early teens. Rivals is my favourite and a brief discussion on Twitter showed broad agreement, including from Ian Rankin, who has to be one of the least likely Jilly Cooper fans around. Mount! (I loathe that exclamation mark) brings back Rupert Campbell-Black, now a hugely successful racehorse trainer and breeder intent on his stallion Love Rat winning the accolade of Leading Sire. The Jilly trademarks of scandalous scheming and romantic tangles are all there and I’m loving it so far. It came with lots of embargo notices so I don’t think I can say much more but I will review it properly later.

The other proof that arrived was The Trespasser by Tana French, one of the best crime writers around at the moment. Broken Harbour and The Secret Place are both excellent and I don’t expect this new Dublin-set police procedural to be any different. Again, a proper review coming when I’ve read it and I’d love to interview her here so I’ll be in touch with her publicist to see if we can set that up.

The Disinherited by Robert Sackville-West has been on the bookshelves for a while but I put it to one side when I packed up all the other books as I want to finally read it this summer. The story of a failed attempt to claim a vast inheritance, the cover quote from Lucy Worsley reads “stranger than fiction, but twice as fascinating, and leaving behind it a sense of bittersweet sympathy”. Knole, the subject of that claim, and the Sackville-West family are intriguing and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this, especially as non-fiction is my preference while I’m writing.

Among the other non-fiction on my pile is Singled Out by Virginia Nicolson and this is part please, part research. Looking at the lives of the so-called ‘Surplus Women’, deprived of the traditional future of marriage and children by the terrible losses of World War and who had to forge new futures, often taking the opportunity to challenge conventions, becoming political campaigners and how they changed society by proving that there was more to women’s lives than marriage. The heroine of my novel, although widowed in 1920 via a bullet to her husband’s temple rather than during the war, faces many of these same challenges so this will be both research but also a good read – Nicolson’s Among the Bohemians was a great piece of writing.

I’m looking forward to How To Find Love In A Bookshop by Veronica Henry. I picked it up on a whim as it’s set in a bookshop although when I got home I was a little equivocal about the chick-lit-ish cover but Elaine over at Random Jottings said in her review at Shiny New Books that she loved it. We tend to have similar opinions about a lot of books so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it too.

I’ve enjoyed Chris Ewan‘s crime novels since way back when his debut, The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, was published by Susan Hill at Long Barn Books. I’m samefully late in getting round to this proof of his newest, Long Time Lost, which published in May…

Hygge, the Danish concept of snuggling in for the winter, is becoming better known and Denmark has also given us the inestimable Sandi Toksvig and Lego. Therefore like more right-thinking people when Helen Russell had the chance to spend a year in Denmark finding out more about this country that is supposedly the happiest place on earth, she leapt at it. I picked this up on the spur of the moment in The Main Street Trading Company and it will be the perfect read as another Scottish winter looms on the horizon.

Best known for her YA fiction such as How I Live Now, Jonathan Unleashed is Meg Rosoff‘s first adult novel and it’s shocking that I haven’t yet jumped into this well-reviewed and best-selling book. Will rectify that forthwith.

Finally, another non-fiction, and not a new one at that. Domestic Bliss (subtitled How To Live) by interior decorator Rita Konig has been around for a while and I tend to re-read it whenever we move house when we’re at that depressing stage when everything looks a bit shabby and I’m cross because none of the kitchen appliances work probably and all the plug sockets are in stupid places. Somehow her advice to jazz up one’s broom cupboard, the importance of 5 amp plug sockets where you want to put lamps (seriously, you should do this – it means that when you flick a light switch the lamps come on and you don’t need to faff around turning them all on or blinding yourself with the glare of an overhead bulb. Instant cosiness) and the joy of a good scented candle, are soothing and reassure me that in time this new house too will be utterly delightful. Also, excellent tips on dealing with The Moth.

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Let’s call it a sabbatical, shall we?

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Let’s face it, I’m never going to be one of those bloggers with an editorial calendar and posts scheduled and planned to the nth degree, but I am disappointed that after months of assiduous blogging I’ve let things slide completely lately.

I’d like to be able to say that it’s due to the drastic increase in my life’s glamour quotient as the film rights to The Novel have been snapped up and that I’ve been jetting to LA and back to talk to producers and directors and movie stars.

Sadly, the reality is rather more mundane. All the conveyancing and organising to do with moving house has been enormously time-consuming and as M has been refurbing a house in Fife I’ve been dealing with all the endless phone calls; The Son has had GCSEs and a teenager doing exams is an enormous distraction around the house; I’ve been feeling a bit blurgh for what seems like ages… Lots of little reasons and excuses that have combined to make me feel that blogging is just another thing on my to-do list. And it’s been a thing too far.

Now that we are safely ensconced in the new place – only 100 yards from our last and identical in many ways but different in two key aspects – and I have a workspace and peace and quiet and no more of the tyranny of tidiness that goes with having your house up for sale, I’m looking forward to getting back here to talk about writing and books and blogging and all sorts, probably including the house renovations.

So. It’s nice to be back in my little corner of the web and I’m looking forward to talking to you again. And thanks to the people who messaged me to ask if I was ok. x

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Life Lately…

The Stockbridge Colonies Little Free Library May has been a bit of a blur what with the house being on the market, The Son’s GCSE exams, more paperwork for house purchases to work through, and trying to get more writing done. However…

  • We’ve sold our house after only two weeks of hectic viewings and a nail-biting wait for the 11am closing date to see what, if any, offers came in. Fortunately, four offers arrived, two were a bit rubbish and two were excellent so that’s done and dusted. Everything is moving along nicely and, barring major crises, we’re moving on the 22nd July. I’ll tell more about the new house once the missives are concluded.
  • The novel is chugging along and even though I’m not managing to establish the productive writing routine that I probably should, I’m feeling quite pleased with how it’s coming along at the moment. Editing is horrible though and I’m very lucky to have a wonderful beta reader who knows her stuff, likes the sort of thing I’m writing, and isn’t afraid to point out plot holes.
  • Next week I’m off to XPo North – a two day event for that bills itself as “Scotland’s leading creative industries festival”. I was encouraged to submit a chunk of The Novel for an event that they were billing as a kind of networking/Dragons’ Den thing. Right up until they sent me the info last week I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be doing. It’s actually the sort of thing that I did at Bloody Scotland and that went well so I’m not too stressed. I was in two minds about going – on the one hand I wasn’t sure that it would be of more benefit than actually concentrating on getting the novel finished but on the other, One Never Knows. The part of me that believes in serendipity won and so I’ll be heading off up the A9 to Inverness for the next on the 8th June.
  • I’m trying to get back in to the habit of going to the gym regularly. I’m really unfit at the moment and working from home, especially writing, isn’t going to improve that. My posture, hunched over a laptop, is dreadful. I did manage to give myself a minor concussion last week when I fell off a Stairmaster but otherwise it’s ok. I don’t think I’ll ever understand those people who claim to enjoy a workout though – don’t they understand that a coffee and a good book are far more enjoyable? To be frank, doing the VAT return is more enjoyable but I suppose I have to accept that both VAT and exercise are necessary evils.
  • The latest Little Free Library – number 36444 – has been opened a few streets away under the guardianship of book artist Rachel Hazell. It’s lovely and people are gradually starting to use it to discover new writers and share the books they’ve enjoyed. That’s it in the picture at the top of the post – as you can see, it really is a little library.

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April’s writing…

Writing progressLooking back, I seem to spend a lot of these monthly round-up posts justifying why I haven’t written as much as I should or would have liked to. There’s always something, whether that’s family dramas, crises of confidence, sheer bone-idleness or whatever…

This month has – predictably – been no exception to the life-getting-in-the-way problem. Almost on the spur of the moment, we decided to move house because we found somewhere that meets our needs better whilst enabling us to stay in the same neighbourhood. That meant we had to get a wriggle on in order to get our current house on the market. It was finished – the renovation was all done and it’s completely transformed from the scruffy fixer-upper we bought five years ago – but there was a lot to do in the way of making it look a bit more spacious and less as though we have a teenager and work from home. Plus, we’re fostering a dog at the moment until she goes to her new “forever home” (such a naff phrase) and you wouldn’t believe the amount of fur that she sheds. For all those reasons, writing has been shoved into odd corners rather than being the priority it needs to be in order to make serious progress.

Anyway, the house is now on the market and looking gorgeous if I do say so myself. Hopefully it will sell quickly and I can get back to concentrating on my writing. In the meantime, in between viewings and endless cleaning and all the seemingly unending admin that goes with moving house, I’ll carry on trying to sneak in some writing time.

TTFN

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