The Thief of Time

I’m the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to distract me from the task in hand. Any excuse to down tools and wander off into other, more pleasurable realms, is always welcome. However, I think this week I have really surpassed myself.

It’s not all my fault. I have been ill. Again. Actually, I’m beginning to feel like Dot Cotton from Eastenders because I’m always flipping ill. I just can’t shake this virus off. That is, I’m assuming it’s a virus. It may be something far more sinister. However, since everyone in the office seems to be suffering in the same way it’s probably fair to say that a virus is more likely. It’s not surprising, really. We do work in a health centre, after all, and every visitor we get is sick. Plus the central heating is on full and we can’t turn it down because it’s controlled by other users of the building, and we don’t have air conditioning in our office, and it’s so stifling that by mid afternoon we’re practically slumped unconscious over our desks. In fact, it’s so hot that we all have to put our electric desk fans on to cool down.  Energy crisis? What energy crisis?  Obviously the bugs and germs are going to breed. We’re practically putting out the welcome mat for them.

So I can’t say I’ve had much energy to do any writing. It’s been a case of dragging myself out of bed, getting ready for work, forcing myself to stay conscious for seven hours then coming home to slump in front of the television. Fair enough. When you’re ill you’re ill. However, it has got me thinking about all the times when I haven’t been ill and I’ve still slumped in front of the television or come up with other avoidance techniques to ensure that no writing gets done.

Social media, for instance, is the very devil. It was bad enough when I had to put the computer on to get onto Facebook or Twitter, but now that I can get it on my phone it’s a constant distraction. I pick up my phone every half hour or so at least and check my notifications. I’ve even been known to wake up in the early hours of the morning and click on the Facebook icon to see what’s going on, even though I’m barely awake and all I really want to do is rush to the loo. (It’s an age thing. Trust me, it will come to you, too, so don’t mock.)

Now, of course, I have this blog to think about, too. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing it and I love getting feedback from you lovely people who read it, but it’s still time-consuming. And then there’s other people’s blogs which I enjoy reading. And forums. And online groups. The list is endless.

Then there’s reading. I mean, I love reading and I’m never happy unless I’ve got at least one book on the go. But all the time I’m reading I’m not writing, am I? Then there’s the browsing on Amazon for books. Then there’s the reviewing of books. Then there’s the magazines that are all about writing, and the “how-to” books on writing…dear God, where does it end?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the truth is that subconsciously I am deliberately procrastinating because I’m afraid to start writing. It’s all very well having the ideas and the words in your head, but actually typing them out and seeing them appear on screen is a very different matter, because that makes them real. And when they’re real you can actually look at them and realise that, well, they’re nowhere near as witty or as moving or as interesting as you thought they were when they were just notions swirling around in your head.

I have had a major crisis of confidence over the last couple of weeks. Partly because I have had to rethink the entire novel in light of the conclusion I came to recently that it was far too long and a lot of scenes were going to have to be cut. Frankly, at the moment, the whole thing is a complete mash-up and I’m tempted to press delete on the whole lot and start again from scratch. So maybe, just maybe, procrastination is my defence against actually making any rash decisions, or wasting a whole lot of time writing yet more scenes that will end up in the trash bin?

Anyway, this morning I sat myself down and had a little chat with myself. (That’s probably an age thing, too. Or it could just be me.) The upshot was that I have decided to stop panicking and  stop setting myself impossible targets which has proved to be an excellent way of setting myself up for failure. My new target is to write just two thousand words a day. By my reckoning that will give me a hundred thousand word manuscript by the middle of April. And since I’ve already got a lot of scenes that just need tweaking it should be more than do-able. I’ve managed to hit the target today, in spite of feeling like death warmed up, so I’m hopeful that I can get back on track.

I’ve also taken the advice of Someone Who Knows What They’re Talking About and started a “success collage”. Unfortunately, since I’m currently living in my daughter’s spare bedroom and haven’t got room to stick a postage stamp at the moment I’ve started it on Pinterest. Oh yes, Pinterest. Did I mention that I’ve joined that? It’s brilliant fun but highly addictive. I can spend hours at a time on there, browsing for pictures, repinning other people’s pictures, admiring pictures, sharing pictures…

Oops, here we go again…

Have a great week x

Prime Time by Jane Wenham-Jones

I admit here and now that I owe Jane Wenham-Jones a huge debt. It was reading her book “Wannabe a Writer?” that finally persuaded me to give writing a go after years of believing that I couldn’t do it any more and I will always be grateful to her for that. Even if nothing ever comes of it, I have enjoyed myself so much over the last couple of years that I would heartily recommend her book and its follow-up “Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of?” to anyone.

Having said that, I hadn’t read any of her novels in spite of meaning to for ages. When I saw that this novel was one of the ones nominated for an award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association I decided to give it a go. Having read various magazine columns, Tweets and Facebook comments from Jane I was pretty sure it would be a light, amusing read. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would also be surprisingly moving and would really make me think.

Laura is divorced from Daniel who has walked out on her due to his love for a stick thin, health obsessed, much younger woman. Laura feels fat, frumpy and washed-up. In her early forties, she suffers from low self esteem and treacherous hormones. But Laura’s life is about to change as a series of events lead to her becoming involved in reality television and with a gorgeous young director called Cal.

This novel is brilliant because, although Laura is quite self-deprecating, she’s not a quitter. She’s a devoted mum to her son Stanley and a loyal best friend to Charlotte, but both of these relationships cause her much angst and lead to her feeling even more of a failure. With Stanley seeming to be permanently sad after his parents’ divorce and apparently deeply unhappy at school, in spite of the kindness and concern of his teacher, and Charlotte oblivious to a looming crisis in her own life, it’s down to Laura to desperately try to make everything all right for everyone around her, in spite of the fact that she has a stressful and unsatisfying job, a demanding boss, raging PMT and a mother from hell.

Don’t for a minute think that this is a gloomy book, though. Laura is funny and Jane Wenham-Jones writes in such an easy, chatty manner that you could be listening to your best friend as she regales you with her tales of woe, while you both knock back the wine and tuck into the Maltesers, promising each other that you’ll fast tomorrow.

Stanley is beautifully drawn and your heart aches for him and for Laura as she battles her guilt and tries desperately to ensure that he is able to cope with his new circumstances – living apart from his father and settling in at high school.

She is a well-rounded heroine (no pun intended!) whose vulnerability is well-observed. This makes you really ache for her as her life spirals out of control and you just know that she is about to come a cropper. Poor Laura is always trying to do the right thing, but unwise associations, the monthly “curse” and, quite often to be honest, too much wine, leads her to somehow always making huge errors of judgement that just makes everything much more complicated.

Will Laura ever recover her shattered self-esteem after her divorce? Is Cal really all he seems? Can Stanley ever be happy again? Will Charlotte ever put down her wine glass long enough to open her eyes to what’s going on around her? And can garden gnomes ever be truly exciting? It’s all here in this lovely, thought-provoking novel. Its nomination is well-deserved and I’m now going to have great pleasure working my way through this writer’s other novels. 5/5

Click Here To Buy

Prime Time

high school.

Love, Actually.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Yes, I know it’s been and gone, but I wasn’t blogging on that day, was I? And I can’t just pretend it never happened, can I? After all, as my headline quote thingy says, “Love is woman’s moon and sun”, and so it is. Well, in the world of fiction, at least.

I’ve had a proper up and downy kind of week. (Doesn’t my grasp of the English language thrill you?) As you may or may not know or care, I am currently separated from DH and, trust me, being a separated person in Valentine’s week isn’t much fun. I sat, slumped in the office in a state of gloom, while all around me people discussed their plans for the evening and simpered on about the presents and cards they were planning to send and, more importantly, were planning to receive. Me? I typed solemnly on, ignoring the whole conversation. I had no interest in Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t listening to their silly plans for this shallow, over-hyped, over-commercialized waste of time.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I staggered downstairs in my glamorous ensemble of pink pyjamas and fluffly slipper boots to discover a beautiful cellophane wrapped bunch of red roses – proper ones from a florist, not grabbed from Tesco’s or a garage, I might add – and a lovely card from DH. Was I chuffed? You bet your sweet life I was. Of course, in spite of my total aversion to this special day and my separated status, I had sent him a card.  I’d Funky Pigeoned him, so to speak. But I wasn’t expecting anything back because a) we’re separated, b) he’s usually as tight as a gnat’s arse and c) we don’t do Valentine presents. A card, yes, but not presents. And I don’t think he even sent me flowers when I had the kids. So you see, it was a massive deal to me.  So I swaggered into work, grinning to myself as I realised that for the first time ever I could proudly announce that I had been given red roses for Valentine’s Day, and what happened? Nothing. A Big Fat Zero. I think my work colleagues, sensitive to my separated status, had decided not to mention it to me nor to ask me what they were asking each other all flipping day.  Absolutely typical. Still, I don’t think I stopped smiling all day. Just shows you how ridiculously happy this shallow, over-hyped, over-commercialized waste of time can make you. Ain’t love grand?

I’ve been very busy writing this week, and also doing a lot of thinking. I think thinking is under-rated. When you’re sitting there, staring into space, trying to work out a piece of dialogue or untangle a twisted plot point, absently chewing on a pen and gazing blankly out of the window, people simply don’t seem to appreciate that you’re actually hard at work. Unless you’re physically writing or tapping on a keyboard they think you’re wasting time. It’s very annoying and rather rude. Mind you, I was at the office at the time and there was a queue for prescriptions…

I’ve been pondering word counts this week as you will know if you’ve read my page entitled Word Count Worries, and if you haven’t read it, why on earth not? You’ll find it by clicking on the Writing  tab at the top of the page. Off you go, then. Oh, hang on…best finish this first. I won’t go over what I’ve been pondering or what suggestions the dear souls who responded to my plea for help came up with. If you want to know, you know where to look.

What I do want to say is that I have been completely overwhelmed by how kind and supportive the writing community is. From the minute I took the plunge and made my intention to write a novel public knowledge on Twitter and Facebook, I have been literally dumbfounded by how much other writers – many of them published – have encouraged and advised and been generally jolly friendly. My gob has been well and truly smacked by their kindness and their lack of ego. They really are a fantastic bunch and I am so pleased to have made their virtual acquaintance. I appreciate every single one of those wonderful people’s comments and am constantly shocked when they take the time to respond.

Just yesterday, some marvellous authors commented on my blog post and offered me advice, and the other day Veronica Henry “liked” a Facebook comment I’d made. Veronica Henry!! I tell you, I went to work with a face like Zippy. I couldn’t smile wide enough.

So in spite of the fact that I may have to buy myself a wig as I’ve been tearing my hair out so much over this novel, my resolve is still firm. In fact, I am more determined than ever to continue as I know I have such amazing back up and have been assured by so many fantastic writers that they, too, struggle with insecurities and lack of confidence. I know it’s not just me and that makes a whole lot of difference.

So if you’re a would-be writer, or a newbie like me, struggling along in silence and not daring to connect with the writing community, please just take the plunge. There are so many people out there in various stages of their writing careers and they are more than willing to share advice, give tips, congratulate, commiserate and encourage. You don’t have to be alone.  Online you have a whole world of friends to lean on. Go for it! And to all who’ve helped me on my journey so far, thank you! Two small words but they mean a whole lot.

Yes, I know, this has been quite a soppy post, hasn’t it? Still, it is Valentine’s week and I’m allowed to be soppy. I’m pretty sure normal service will be resumed before too long…

Have a great week x

My Kingdom for a Cow

It’s very odd. Turn on the news or pick up a newspaper, flick through Twitter or browse Facebook, and what do you find? Well, the House of Commons voted in favour of gay marriage for a start. Then the bones in the Leicester car park turned out to be our very own Richard III. Not to mention the ongoing saga of the Black Beauty burgers…

Yet walk into the office and all you hear is what happened in Corrie and how many calories there are in a tin of Campbells Cock-a-leekie soup. Amazing. It’s like the outside world ceases to matter.

The king in the car park was a huge story – and rightly so. It went all around the world. In fact, there seemed to be more excitement in America and Canada than in dear old Blighty at times.  I have to admit I knew very little about Richard III. When I was at school we learned a lot about the Norman Conquests, then skipped to the Tudors, then hopped on to the Industrial Revolution. Shameful really. Particularly since our school was in Yorkshire! We learned nothing of the War of the Roses or the fall of the House of York or anything really interesting. Our teacher was obsessed with Henry VIII – well, to be strictly accurate, he was more interested in the sex life of Henry VIII. He would sit, wild eyed, reading out letters that Henry and Anne Boleyn had supposedly exchanged. I used to think that Anne Boleyn girl was a very saucy minx. It took me many years to realise that the letters were fake, by which time said teacher had served time in prison – but that’s another story.

So, between the saucy shenanigans of the Tudors and the mind-numbing dullness of the invention of the Spinning Jenny and the date of the Corn Laws, the rather mysterious world of the Houses of York and Lancaster passed me by. Of course, having watched the documentary on the dig for Richard III,  I have now read all I can read online about this King, and have taken to browsing Amazon and buying Kindle editions of works on the subject, both fiction and non-fiction. I am nothing if not thorough.

I find it quite amazing how, seemingly overnight, the reputation of King Richard went from that of an evil, nephew-murdering, hunchbacked coward to a loyal, moral, much-maligned, only slightly stooping chap who fought to the bitter end and had the courage of a lion. I suspect the truth may lie somewhere in between. I can’t help having sympathy for him, though. It’s not a good way to go, is it? There’s not much dignity being slung stark naked over a horse with a sword up your jaxy.

Speaking of horses…oh yes! The horsemeat controversy rumbles on (or should that be canters on?) It seems that there is far more horsemeat in our meat products than first thought, with more discoveries coming through nearly every day. My mother can’t understand the fuss. After all, they eat horses abroad, don’t they? Well, yes, Mother, they do. But they know about it. They choose to eat horse. We, on the other hand, are being told we’re eating beef. It’s not quite the same thing. There have also been pork products found in our supposed beef dishes, too. What about people with religious beliefs which forbids them to eat the flesh of a pig? What about people with allergies? How do we know these animals weren’t diseased or treated with horrendous chemicals which have now entered our food chain? If we didn’t even know they were being used, how do we know how they were treated? Were they slaughtered humanely? Were they cared for properly before they ended up in our lasagne? Did they just drop down dead while pulling a cart somewhere and get dragged off  to the Findus factory? (Note: there are other food companies that are also using horse meat. The author of this blog does not only recommend Findus).

As some earnest fellow pointed out on TV recently, there could be cat, or dog, or rat in our food. I mean, if we didn’t know there was horsemeat there could just as easily be something else in there that we weren’t expecting…like beef, perhaps. I think maybe it’s time for a complete overhaul of the meat industry. Things obviously aren’t being watched closely enough and if the inspectors and mighty powers-that-be didn’t notice a stable full of horses trotting into the meat factories then I’m no longer convinced that they are keeping an eye on the animals’ welfare. Not that I was ever really sure on that point. I think we have to face facts that it’s easier to turn a blind eye to animal suffering and trust that the officials are doing their jobs then to actually find out for ourselves what the truth is. It’s no good screaming in protest that you may just have discovered what happened to poor Shergar. We need more quality control, tighter regulations and a more compassionate approach to the food industry. Cows are people, too, you know. Well, you know what I mean. Join Hillside Animal Sanctuary if you want to know what goes on in the food industry – and no I’m not a vegetarian, or a vegan. I just think maybe it’s time we all opened our eyes and realised that it’s become all about money, not animal welfare. And if we can’t raise enough interest for the animals’ sakes, then maybe our own selfish horror at what we may be eating will make us all sit up and think. It’s a possibility anyway.

And on to the subject of gay marriages – something else that has caused uproar this week. Does anyone really believe that allowing two people of the same sex to get legally married will contribute to the downfall of our society? Honestly? Marriage is supposed to be about two people who love each other and want to make a commitment to stay together for life. Why does that bond have to be between a man and a woman? Marriage is a man-made institution anyway. It was created to ensure that people stuck together and couldn’t just run off and leave their partner and children behind when things got a bit dodgy. It was meant to make people live up to their responsibilities and so ease the burden on the state. It was about belonging and moral obligation and duty. In the early days, love didn’t really come into it. It was for financial security. Now we expect it to fulfil all our emotional needs, too. Yet marriages are breaking up at a high rate and divorce is a fact of life for so many people that we don’t even register it any more. When I was at primary school there was one child in our class whose parents were divorced. I had to ask my parents what that meant. I’d never heard of it. They explained it to me in hushed tones as if it was something unspeakable, and honestly, we never talked of it to her. It singled her out, as if something horrifically bad had happened to her.

Now, look at the state of us. I bet there isn’t a single person who doesn’t know someone who is divorced,  and many will have been divorced themselves, or be children of divorced parents. It’s a weary world. Isn’t finding someone you love enough to want to marry them something to be celebrated? Isn’t the fact that – in spite of all the break ups and bitterness around us – people still have enough faith in love to make that commitment something worth rejoicing in? What does it matter what sex those people are? Love should be celebrated. If you find it you should hang on to it for all it’s worth, and other people should be glad for those optimistic lovers who make their vows amid such a cynical society.

That’s my rant over…and now to the serious stuff. Wasn’t Corrie fantastic last week? I have to admit I think Gail is just awful, and I was cheering Lewis on all the way. And weren’t those flowers he left Audrey romantic? Oh, and there’s about 116 calories in Campbells Cock-a-leekie soup. Not that I’m interested…

Have a great week x

A Hopeless Case

I’ve had quite a week of it. Back at work after a week off sick and boy, did that tire me out! For the first couple of days I just collapsed on the sofa as soon as I got home and struggled to stay awake till a reasonable bedtime. I’m not cut out to be working class. I should be laid on a chaise longue being fed top quality chocolates by a very grateful manservant. My mother always said I should have been born a lady and she was right. Mind you, she also wished me a merry Christmas on New Year’s Eve and thinks Big Brother is fantastic television, so I can’t really set much store by her opinion.

I hadn’t fasted during my “poorly” week. In fact, I’d eaten any old rubbish as I couldn’t be bothered to cook. The result? I gained three pounds. Three pounds!! Enough to send me straight back to bed with a bag of doughnuts. Luckily, I’m made of sterner stuff and instead started the week fasting. The weight I gained has now gone, plus three pounds more, so I’m back on track. Quite a wake up call, though. If you don’t stay on top of things they slip away quite easily. Too easily…like a marriage, for instance.

I learned something else this week. DH and I had a long talk in an Asda car park – as you do – and it transpires that my writing really is a major issue. Now, he says he’s proud of me and wants me to succeed, but at the same time I apparently get so absorbed in it that I have no time left over for him. He said, quite wistfully, that he’d like to give me time to “get it out of my system” but knows it’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life so doesn’t see a solution. It seems we’re at an impasse.

I don’t really know how to solve this one. The problem is that DH works nights and I work days. When I get home from work I am absolutely NOT in the mood for writing. I know. I’ve tried, but I’m just too tired to do it. I work better in the short time I have in the morning before work, but the best time for writing is weekends. I can spend a whole two days working on the WIP and getting thoroughly absorbed in it. The trouble is, when DH got up around lunchtime, obviously he wanted my attention. I would be too busy thinking about the novel to give him much attention. I’d be resentful because in the evenings I’d be alone all the time and I’d got so used to my own routine by then that I didn’t see why I should change things for him. On his two nights off a week he’d either go and see his mates or fall asleep in front of the television. That seriously annoyed me. Our timelines were all askew and just didn’t allow for us to see enough of each other. Or maybe, the truth is, we just didn’t try hard enough.

I know that I get very distracted by writing. I can be in the middle of a conversation when a thought will strike me about a plot point or a character and I’ll just break off mid-sentence and stare into space. My daughters know this and just laugh about it but I suppose for DH it became very irritating and I can see how selfish I was being. Writing just can’t be compartmentalized though, can it? I mean, I could stop myself from doing any actual writing when he’s around, but I can hardly stop thoughts or inspiration striking can I? Should I just ignore them?

Anyway, we left the car park with me in tears and him as baffled and upset as ever.  I don’t know the answers and I don’t think he does either. The worst thing is, even as I lay on my bed later on, sobbing, a part of me was thinking that I’d better write down how I was feeling because one of my characters is going through a very similar thing and this is great research.

God help me, there’s no hope…

Have a great week xx

Is there any way to reconcile these two?

Is there any way to reconcile these two?