Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A bizarre day in the life an author

So yesterday I was due in Dublin again for the launch of the Eason Christmas Catalogue to their third party buyers (As Eason also supply a lot of independent book shops). Deciding I could not face the drive again after the last notorious vomit incident, I decided to be tres swish and book a flight. (Not that it was swish, it was one of those wee jet prop planes which seat about 40 people and move about a lot in the wind... more of that later).
So I arrived in Dublin just after 9am.. feeling rough. Managed not to be sick in Dublin airport (huzzah!) and calmed my preggy tummy with a Cranberry juice while waiting to meet my agent for tea and scones.
By the time she arrived I was thankfully not green around the gills and we had a lovely hour or so chatting. Boy that woman knows how to pamper my ego!
So then, as she leaves, I turn around and there is fecking Cecelia Ahern sat about four foot away from me. What, I ask myself, is yer wan Ahern doing here? And then it dawns on me (yes, I'm thick at the moment, blame the baby) that perhaps this "do" isn't as casual as I thought it would be. That is confirmed when Sheila O'Flanagan walks in, and Collette Caddle, Amanda Brunker, Martina Reilly and a host of other "names" from the Irish writing scene.
Dinner is nice. I'm sat becside some of the head honchos from Eason and a couple of lovely booksellers from Cork. I'm relaxed. Cecelia Ahern seems very lovely, although all the while I'm thinking I once said in a magazine I greatly disliked her book 'A Place Called Here' and at a second's notice she might come over and lamp me.
But then, I realise she hasn't a clue who I am (and the fact my name badge says 'Clarie Allen' might help in my cunning disguise.)
But dinner soon ends and the lovely people from Eason get up to have a wee chat and they decide to thank all the authors who have attended. (Now this bit is important) In. Alphabetical. Order.
Immediately I suss what this will mean. Yer wan Ahern is up first. They list off her (many) achievements that would make many a grown writer weep with jealously and they ask her to stand up for applause. I smile and applaud nicely.
Then, because of the alphabeticalness of it all, I'm up next. Claire Allan (or Clarie Allen) has written two books. Da Dah!!! (Well in fairness, Eason were lovely - they said RD&T was one of the strongest debuts they'd had for years and the second book was selling brilliantly and I was a bright light yadda yadda... but compared to Yer Wan, it really did sound a little "Claire Allan has written two books".)
And then I had to stand up... in front of Cecelia Ahern - cover blown. But she did clap (and not in a vicious way) and no books came hurtling towards my head.
When dinner was over, I went and chatted to the lovely Chris Binchy (fabulous and very tall male author who has a very famous auntie) and we had a great old gossip. I also chatted with Noelle Harrison, who is also very lovely while all the while avoiding Yer Wan. I also had a lovely chat with Martina Reilly and Kathryn Thomas (off the telly), although she was much too glam for my liking.
But all in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet some lovely booksellers (all hail the booksellers) and lovely writers and have a great story to tell about Cecelia Ahern.

Now since the last time I went for dinner with the people from Poolbeg I managed to end the evening in a fit of projectile vomit, I was delighted to have made it through the dinner unscathed. I made my way back to the airport, feeling grand and looking forward to the short flight home.

Mistake. Big Mistake.
It was windy, you see. And turbulent and being that it was now evening (being that my morning sickness gets worse in the evenings) this was not boding well.
I deep breathed throughout. "I'll be fine," I said. And I almost, almost was. Just as the plane came into land I wasn't. Thankfully the air steward at Air Arran (a very cheerful American called Troy) was absolutely lovely and didn't bat an eyelid at my projectile vomit. I managed to clear off the plane before most people walked past me, but the smell of sick hung heavy in the air as I traipsed back to the car.

So, a morning of ego boosting, an afternoon of schmoozing with the stars and an evening of puking on myself in a public place. My life - are you jealous?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Our duty to humanity

Forgive me if this column takes on a rather sombre tone this week, but sometimes a news story comes about which cannot be ignored.
This week Barnoness Warnock - from all accounts an old biddy with not an ounce of compassion - stated that elderly and frail people should consider that they have duty to end their own lives in order to stop themselves becoming a burden on their families.
In particular Lady Warnock, an influential figure in Whitehall, referred to dementia sufferers stating: “If you are demented, you are wasting people's lives, your family's lives, and you are wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”
I’m almost tempted to let her comments hang there.
Surely such an inhumane approach to the weaker members of our society needs no comment. Are we really willing to accept a new order where the answer to the growing number of people developing dementia is to encourage those people to commit suicide? Surely we can’t possibly be promoting a society where only the fittest and most able minded should be encouraged to live out their natural lives?
Haven’t we been here before, in or around the 1940s, and I’m pretty sure it didn’t end well then? Now previously I’ve been in the camp where I’ve agreed with the idea of Euthanasia. When someone is in intolerable pain and wishes to end their life with dignity then I feel they should have that option.
After all, we live in a society where we put animals to sleep rather than let them endure extremes of pain or suffering. But after reading Baroness Warnock’s comments (she being one of the biggest campaigners for euthanasia in the UK), I’m not so sure.
Where can we be sure when to draw the line? I’ve always hated that “start of a slippery slope” argument believing that there is no point in pre-empting problems where none exist, but suddenly it has come into sharp focus.
What defines a burden? Who decides if that burden is too much? Is it the once healthy and capable human crippled, emotionally and physically by the effects of their decline into ill health? Or is it the family who have to rally round to provide care? Or is it, as some observers have suggested could be the case, the supposed support services struggling to meet the needs of those who need care?
To suggest it would be less of a burden on a family, a society or the health service to simply top yourself as the first signs of old age kick in (taking into account those most severely affected by dementia would not have the capability to make a decision to end their lives never mind carry it out), is nothing more than a disgrace.
We should not, as human beings, even dare to suggest that those less well and fit should die - we should instead be campaigning - and as loudly as possible - for an improvement in funding for research into causes and treatments for dementia and for the appropriate support services to be put in place for those affected and their families. Funding for research into the causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s is minimal. Access to invaluable treatment is also exceptionally limited. NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines recommend that only people in the moderate stages of the illness receive the appropriate medication.
The ability to keep someone’s memories and ability to function alive is not, according to NICE, worth £2.50 a day. The availability of carers and support is limited - with resources stretched to the absolute limit so that families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s do take on the bulk of care for their loved ones - sometimes feeling as if they are out on their own.
Surely the humane response to all this is to take a more serious approach to the treatment and care of Alzheimer’s patients and make decent respite care readily available. In the UK 700,000 people suffer from dementia. This number will rise with the growing age of the population. None of us knows how we will end our days or what support we will need in the end stages of our lives - so how any of us can stand callously back and not rile up against this woman and her vile beliefs is beyond me.
People with dementia are not easy to live with or care for. It is hard, especially for those responsible for the bulk of the care. There is nothing more devastating that being stared at blankly by a face that used to welcome you warmly to their house, or to watch that same face fade away - from the inside out - through one of life’s most cruel conditions. But that does not take away the humanity of dementia sufferers and we leave our humanity behind entirely if we start picking off the weak and infirm. It may start, as Baroness Warnock has suggested, with those with dementia - but where will it end? Will we pick away and pick away until only a master race remain? We cannot and must not let this happen. For all our sakes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This might just be the start of book 4

It's finally coming together in my head...

I wouldn't say I'm jealous of Fionn. Just because she's getting her happy ending while I seemed to have morphed my life into one of those "choose your own ending" books with umpteen choices and no idea how to get to any of them.
She deserves her happy ending - I believe that entirely. But still I couldn't help, as I watched her walk out of the changing room in her stunning shot silk gown, her eyes misty with emotion, feeling a little green around the gills with envy (and the remnants of last night's vodka).
"She's gorgeous, isn't she?" the over enthusiastic shop assistant almost squealed, while I nodded.
"Do you really like it?" Fionn asked, her face begging me to say yes.
"I do," I said and I wasn't lying. It was a stunning dress which accentuated my friend's natural beauty but when I choked back a tear it was because I couldn't ever see myself in her position - no matter how carefully I had planned every aspect of my life.
You see I had this wonderfully crappy habit of messing things up. If there was a degree in being a fuck up I would have passed with first class honours.
"I'm so glad you like it," Fionn said, waving her hands in front of her face to try and stem her tears, "Because I really think this is the one. This is my wedding dress, Annie. My wedding dress." She emphasised the words while twirling around like some sort of demented overgrown fairy princess and the shop assistant actually did squeal with delight at this stage.
I just sobbed into my hanky. In a most undignified manner.

Bestseller - woohoo!!!

Feels Like Maybe has now officially hit the top ten of the Irish original fiction chart - moving up this week from number 11 to number 6.
Woo- and- hoo!

(And yes, I know, I'm still to do the giveaway. Soon, my pretties, I promise.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cracking review...

... which has made my day!
From the Newsletter!

"I sat down to read Feels Like Maybe and was completely hooked. This is a moving, page turner of a read shot through with moments of laugh-out-loud humour'.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The school run... and other joys

Ah, the school run.

I only thought I knew what stress was doing the nursery run when I had to run, a mere 30 ft, in the rain to class room and peel a child off my leg.

But Primary School has brought it's own unique joys.

First off all, the boy goes to school approximately five miles from our house (and just round the corner from my work) and I have to pick my niece off to leave her to school too.

Now the boy refuses to leave before Thomas & Friends ends on Milkshake. He never used to mind but now thy have animated the trains' faces and you can see them talk and he's all a frenzy. So there is a little mini row each morning as we try and force him out the door before driving to my niece's. Now my niece is lovely, but she likes to forget things, or dawdle, or just generally chat to you before she puts her seatbelt on - while all the time the clock is ticking.

I'm already close to meltdown by the time we set off on the bulk of our drive, through rush hour traffic at a virtual standstill while the clock ticks on.

Reaching the school, usually, five minutes before the bell tolls we face another joy. You can't park in the school grounds, you see. Or anywhere near the doors. And it's busy, really busy so generally you find yourself having a good old sprint to get there in time - remembering coats, schoolbags, lunch bags and children as you go.

Reaching the school, we deposit my niece first - cue ceremonial hugging, kissing and "I'll miss you" between her and her cousin and then we walk, about 234 miles to the other end of the school to deposit the boy.
We are still there before 9.10am - but still we seem to always be the last ones to arrive and his teacher smiles at me sympathetically as we scurry through the door.
Joseph has even started apologising for me. "Sorry teacher, the traffic on the bridge was really, really bad" and I batter on red-faced and stressed because 10 past nine is still 10 minutes after I'm supposed to be in work.

So I run back to the car, drive like the clappers and get to work 15 minutes late, and feel like I've run a marathon.
My only consolation is that as I arrive I generally bump into my colleagues with children who all have the same look of stress and harassment as they walk through the door hoping no-one notices.

The up[side is that nothing in your day is as stressful after that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm a little perturbed..

By the arrival of the Sony Reader.
This little gadgety thing does away with the need for books - glorious, paper smelling, thick, print-laden books.
Instead you get a cool metal gadgety doodah, which no doubt eats batteries or needs plugging in and you read your latest "must read" on screen.
Oh no. It's wrong. It's simply wrong. Not only will it give you eye-strain, but you lose the best bit of the book experience.
You lose the feel of a book, the weight of it in your hands, the chance to run your fingers over the embossed cover, the chance to flick back and forth, to fold down the corners (yes, yes I know, this is vay bad habit), to feel the warm texture of the paper and to enjoy the smell.
I've had cause to visit both Eason HQ and the warehouses of Argosy Books in Dublin and the thing that struck me was the delicious smell of print, the piles of books all fresh and ready for the reading.
The Sony Reader, takes away that lovely personal relationship with books and makes it all mechanical.
Sure it might take up less room in your luggage while on holiday, but woe betide your battery runs out just as the big plot twist kicks in.
No, Sony, we don't want your reader. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Random Conversations with the Boy, Part 11

So tonight we're talking about baby names with the boy.
We know we pretty much wants a baby brother and we've trie to tell him that we don't have a choice in the matter - nonetheless we are talking about boys' names.

Joseph: "Is Jesus a boy's name?"
Me. "Yes, it is."
Joseph: " We could call our baby Jesus. That's a good name."

Can't fault the reasoning.

So, I'm having a baby

Nothing particularly new in that announcement but today, at just over 15 weeks pregnant, I had my first official scan (on top of the early scan after a scare).
This was the first time we saw a baby - not a wee shrimpy looking thing - but a baby with wee hands, curling and stretching and legs kicking furiously like it was doing a jig.
I've had my issues with bonding with this baby (probably due to the early scariness) but today my heart flipped when I saw my baby. (Our baby as my husband reminds me).
I've been getting myself into all sorts of hormonal states because I've not been feeling stupidly emotional over this baby - not bawling at silly songs in the car on the way to the shops etc.
So today, when I fought back tears listening to Michael Buble's 'Everything' I knew that things were going to be okay.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

There are things you don't want to do...

And getting quite violently ill in front of your publisher is one of them...

Let me tell you a story...

So last Thursday things were going well - too well. I did a day of signings around the M50 and managed to not feel at all sick. I was thirsty yes, but not at all sick.
I was delighted - absolutely over the moon. In fact it prompted me to do a little happy dance that my morning sickness was gone.
So that evening I get ready, straighten my hair, wear most flattering preggy dress, do make up. I'm picked up by lovely Poolbeg people who drive me to a lovely restaurant where I'm to meet the rest of the Poolbeg people and some lovely booksellers.
The restaurant looked lovely. (Although the menu referenced oysters which was never going to go down well).
So anyway I start to feel sick - like really sick. And a little faint. So I get a drink of water. I'll be grand, I tell myself and the lovely publisher lady is very concerned. I go to get some air and s comes and sits with me, like my mammy, and is very soothing and reassuring.
I just feel worse.
So in the end I get a lift back to the hotel, in the car of a lovely Poolbeg girl who has not long passed her test and is clearly in love with her car and terrified that I might chunder everywhere. She drives at about 5 miles per hour (exaggerated for creative licence) and is very considerately gentle at speed bumps.
I get to the hotel without so much as a goodbye and run, yes RUN, to my hotel room where I'm so violently ill I burst the blood vessels in my eyes.
I then lie, moaning on the bed, all night before driving the 200 miles home weeping with sheer embarrassment.
This was not the impression I was hoping to make.

Yet still, I'll laugh about it sometime I'm sure and it might even make it into a book

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Well I made it, and to prove it I'm here...

...as my dear old daddy would say.
Three and a half hours (with occasional "comfort breaks" being as that I'm pregnant and all) and I arrived in Dublin. I practically kissed the hotel receptionist who handed me the key to my room and was all toasty and asleep by 10pm.
Now the Sat Nav was grand, except it doesn't know there is a new motorway between Monaghan and the M1 and it kept sending me off on mad goose chases.
The annoying lady kept telling me to turn left - you can't turn fecking left on a motorway - and when I could I found myself in someone's very lovely driveway.
I ended up stopping Castleblaney, which was entirely unnecessary, and feeling the will to live drift away.
I then promptly ignore the Sat Nav and followed the signs for the airport - sorted.

I've spent today stalking Melissa Hill (not really, but she's on the same book tour and I'm signing books in all the same shops she's been to, so it feels a bit Norman Bates) and trying to ascertain whether or not my morning sickness has gone, or is just in hiding. Time will tell (prob on the drive home tomorrow).

Things with the book are going okay. It's number 13 in the Borders Bestsellers and Hughes and Hughes are expecting it to chart this weekend. It's also gone into a big promo at Eason - so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tomorrow will be interesting...

For I am driving to Dublin, in a car, by myself. For the first time.
It's approximately 200 miles in a direction I have never driven before. (I've never driven 200 miles in the one go either). I haven't a feckin' clue how to get to where I need to go and the fact that my husband has equipped me with his Sat Nav is no help either.
(This is me, who got lost in Belfast with the "help" of Sat Nav. I tend to spend entire journeys shouting at it ala "But I can't stay right, right is three lanes over. Ya big smug eejit computer fecker" and things like that).
Added to that, I'll be driving 200 miles - with morning sickness. Which is why I'm driving, for the record, as a non- morning-sicknessy bus ride to Dublin earlier this year made me feel rotten - I'd be dead for sure trying it now.
I'm taking a packed lunch (rock and roll) and some cheesy CDs.
If you don't hear from me any time soon, I'll probably be lost somewhere near Cork, shouting at at the Sat Nav... of course.

And the third review is in...

From the Irish Independent..

Allan has a strong writing style that is smart and funny.
Feels Like Maybe ... is a sparkling and feel good romantic read.

The review also references that the subject of infertility has been done before in contemporary fiction and I can't deny that. Again I would say there are no new stories. but just new ways of telling them.
Still "sparkling and feel good" works for me.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The second review is in...

From Trashionista...

Feels Like Maybe was a breeze and a joy to read. In fact, it's one of those books where you don't notice you're reading; when I think of it now, I feel like I watched it on TV. It addresses so many different relationships with warmth, wit and wisdom. At times, my heart hurt for both Aoife and Beth and at others I laughed out loud. Loved it.

I think I love this one!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ah, but yes, he is vay cute

And I do love the bones of him already...

I got a new nephew - and a whole big set of issues

My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Ethan, in the early hours of yesterday morning. This was after what felt like the longest pregnancy ever and definitely one of the longest stop/ start labours ever (although in fairness, once it really did kick off, it really kicked off)
I met Ethan yesterday morning - looking very much like his big cousin Joseph did at the same age. All 6lbs something on him, with blonde hair and chicken legs.
My sister is besotted. (Sore, ya know, but besotted). She doesn't want to put him down and can't say as I blame her - he's pretty damn cute.
But a little part of my heart broke yesterday because I thought I was over my birth experience and my post natal experience. I saw her cuddle him, and hug him and thought back to the 24 hours after Joseph was born. I barely held him. I was too damn tired.
I knew he was my baby and I knew I would bust the arse of anyone who tried to hurt him, but I didn't passionately feel that mother love. I didn't marvel at his ears, and his fingers and his long feet. I didn't spend my day smelling his head and kissing him. I fed him, and changed him and saw to his needs.
That made me so very sad - to see her like that yesterday. Happy for her, of course, but sad for me because I'll never get that back with Joseph now and while I love him and he loves me and we are close as two close things in a close place I'll never have the memory of marvelling over a newborn him.
That kind of really, really sucks.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And the first review is in!

4/5 Stars from the RTE Guide.

Claire Allan's second novel has struck the perfect balance between humour and emotion. Despite dealing with a very sensitive subject honestly and thoughtfully, there are many laughs along the way with the situations Beth and Aoife find themselves in.

I quite like that!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Well my big boy is now a school boy

And he's a grumpy wee sod this evening on the back of it.

He was so excited this morning and I managed to retain my composure as he got dressed into a uniform for the first time.

Leaving him to school was fine. He smiled, went into his classroom and sat down like a good boy.

He did give me a soppy eyed look as I was leaving and I did cry all over the playground.

He was fine when I picked him up - if a little over tired and over excited and now I'm just settling myself down to the fact we have to do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.

I think I'm knackered from the exertion, never mind him.
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