Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Oooh, gave birth to a baby girl. That was pretty amazing.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next this year?
I didn't really make any but my goal was contentment and I'm not quite there - that's one to keep working on for 2010l.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Oh yes. In January Keris had Joe and Nora had baby Nora. Then Louise had Kieran (which I think was late February)  In March I had Cara. In November my sister gave me another beautiful niece Darcy and my lovely school friend Claire had her first baby Nihal. And my lovely cousin and his fiance had a baby boy Emmerson. Babies were us.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, but I was really very affected by the death of my niece's granny Lynne who was a lovely and brave woman who quite simply left us all too soon.

5. What countries did you visit?
A big fat nowhere but home.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A foreign rights deal.
A new deal with Poolbeg.
A top ten bestseller - in fact a number one would be tickety boo.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 4 - the day my life was fulfilled with the birth of my baby girl.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Cara. And writing a whole book while being a new mammy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Weight issues, weight issues, weight issues.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Hyperemesis at the start of the year, occasional madness throughout

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new Clarins foundation. I no longer look as though I have been tangoed.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Pink clothes in Next

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Barack Obama becoming president.
Writing book 4.
Squishing my children - a lot.
The new Marian Keyes book.
The arrival of my niece Darcy.
Erm... the last series of Desperate Housewives.

14. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Although it is not a 2009 song, Rule the World will always be special. And I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?


b) thinner or fatter?
Same answer as Keris for this one... mildly thinner due to the none baby making issues

c) richer or poorer?

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Reading, snuggling, exercising

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

18. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes, entirely with my baby girl and all over again with my hubby.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
I don't think I watched TV all year - not consciously anyway but I quite enjoyed spooks.

20. What was the best book you read?
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

21. What was your favorite film of this year?
Movies? I don't have time for movies

22. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 33 and like Keris I'm a saddo because I really don't know what I did

23. What kept you sane?
Wine, Twitter (many good nights over the XFactor), family and friends.

24. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don't have the energy to fancy any one!

25. Who did you miss?
My bestest friend even though she visited three times this year. My granda as always.

26. Who was the best new person you met?
Boo Face.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What Santa brought...

The most gorgeous charm bracelet in the entire world - complete with three charms (one from my sister, and one from each of my babies).
I have a charm which says 'Mama', and an initial for each of my children all on a gorgeous silver bracelet.

I am a very lucky lady indeed - and the lovely husband (who does exist)has ordered me several other charms which should arrive shortly.

I plan to add to the bracelet on momentous occasions - such as book publications, birthdays and some time just because (for example as soon as I get my advance cheque for book 4 I'll be buying a lovely set of angel wings).

But yes, Santa done good and I'm very happy indeed.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas blessings to all

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog, has bought or read (or bought and read) my books, who has commented, who has supported, who has laughed and who has cried.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas indeed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Red Trucks and Chipmunks

The baby is still sick. The boy is kinda sick. The boy wanted to go to school. The baby wanted to be awake all night.
Thus starts my day. Putting sick soaked bedclothes into the washing machine at 6.30am and trying to calm a fractious baby who seemed to only want her daddy.
So we get up - the baby surprisingly awake despite only having slept for 15 seconds over the course of the last 48 hours. The boy was insisting he went in for the last day of term despite his barking cough and the logistics of getting him picked up at 12.15 with a really sick little lady and no childminder on hand being a nightmare.
We eventually agreed (which sounds awful because honestly we are the kind of parents who never allow him off school unless he is genuinely very, very ill) and he got  dressed while I flapped about trying to tidy up the destruction of yet another sleepless night - 14 medicine bottles, countless tissues, a basin of boke etc etc etc

The boy and I eventually make it to the car and this (through my own sleep deprived insanity) is where it got really interesting. Of course today - when I'm through myself with exhaustion and with my very own scratchy throat to boot - decide that it would be a cracking idea to let him listen to his new Alvin and the Chipmunks CD.

"Girl You've Really Got Me Going" sung at squeak level is not fun.
Nor for the record is 'Hot and Cold' by Katy Perry. Although I did quite enjoy the squeaky version of 'Single Ladies'.

So we are driving in heavy hail, with squeaky tunes blasting out when this feckwit in a red truck decides to swerve lanes, without indication, just as we are crossing lanes. I slam on my brakes but resist road ragey slamming on of the horn and we drive on as I watch stupid red truck man swerve in front of another car. We change lanes again and he swerves out at speed once again narrowly missing out car just to swerve back in seconds later once again narrowly missing our car.
The horn was hit. Twice.
And I have the proper rage. There was I, driving with my wee son on his way to school and there is some asshole driving like a dick (apologies for use of profanities but seriously what an arse) almost putting us off the road three times, for what? The roads were clear. We weren't holding anyone up. I was driving at the speed limit and the traffic was light.
How he didn't kill himself or anyone else I don't know but if you see a red pick up style truck, 4x4 style, beginning with the licence plate SUI then steer very clear. Someone obviously doesn't have a fecking notion how to drive.

Monday, December 21, 2009

There is a house in Derry City....

....It's called the House of the Plague...

You know it's Christmas when you spend a fair portion of your time mopping up sick and dosing the wains with Calpol.
Yes, the festive season has arrived with gusto Chez Allan. The boy was the first to fall - developing a really rather loud and annoying cough which persists through the night. Yes, I do feel sorry for him and am doing my very best to dose him with cough bottles and calpol and cuddle him as much as possible but that cough ... well, it is loud and annoying especially when a fit occurs just as I'm trying to enjoy a precious five minutes of sleep.
Because, you see, the baby is sick also. No cough - but she has the raging bokes. The more wee critter is so much pain with her tummy that it is distressing me because there is little I can do to soothe her bar rub her tummy, clean up her sick and once again get the magic calpol out to control her temperature.
My house has a vague aroma of puke about it - no matter how much I have burned the yankee candles or opened the window to the elements -  and my children are as white as two wee snowmen as they sit there in their jammies begging me with big blue eyes to make it all better.

I'm hoping that they will be right as rain by Friday so that we can enjoy ourselves properly.
And I'm hoping for some sleep!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The slush pile

So I'm sitting here reading all the entries to the 'Journal' short story competition in advance of Tuesday's judging.
They (being my colleague Erin) asked me to sit on the judging panel as a "local writer done good" and because she scares me I felt too terrified to say no I agreed with enthusiasm. After all surely it is my duty to share the writerly love with all the lovely people of the Derry Journal circulation area?

This has introduced me to the slush pile.
We received hundreds of entries - from the sublime to the ridiculous. (I so wish I could quote you some of the more ridiculous ones... but I'm told that would be unprofessional).
But as I'm sifting through them and reading the contributions it is dawning on me that I could never, ever be a literary agent. This is not only because I don't have the balls to say no to anyone (see my comment about Scary Erin) but also because my eyes actually start to bleed when faced with certain things.

64 word sentences would be one of those things.
If you want to pass off someone else's story as your own, try to write something a little more original than the nativity. It has been done before.
Try not to creep round either us or our sponsors. That is a little bit obvious.
A fiver stapled to your entry WILL help.
Be back later...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The annual "My wee Christmas Star" picture

From his cracking performance in the Nativity today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Books wot I did not write...

'Poppy Shakespeare' by Clare Allan.
I'm sure she is lovely and I'm sure the book is great.
But I didn't write it.
And it has come my attention some people think I did.
And the thing is, chances are if you are the kind of person who enjoys 'Poppy Shakespeare', you won't be the kind of person who enjoys what I write and vice versa.
I have heard tales of some people being bitterly disappointed when picking up that book and expecting some Irish chick lit charm. I imagine some people picking up my book expecting a searing insight into the mental health system would also be disappointed.
So, for the record, I didn't write it.
Thank you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

ooooh, and the verdict is in

She (being the lovely publisher lady at Poolbeg) likes it!
So yay, she says yes and 'It's Got to be Perfect' will officially be my fourth novel, due for publication at an as unyet decided date in 2010.


Pink Stinks? Oh no, it doesn't.

I’m troubled, dear reader, deeply troubled. There is a new movement on t’interweb decrying all things pink.
It seems, according to those behind the PinkStinks campaign that if we choose to let our little ladies dress in pink clothes and play with pink toys we are condemning them to a life of unrealistic expectations and low level goals.
The plethora of pink toys now on sale in the Early Learning Centre (which has borne the brunt of the PinkStinks ladies’ anger) are sexist, demeaning and are breeding a generation of proper little princesses who wouldn’t know how to use their brains if their life depended on it.
Now there are several things about this which trouble me greatly. The first is that by hitting out at shops which sell toys aimed at say “imaginative home making play” the people behind PinkStinks are actually demeaning every woman who has made a legitimate life choice to be a home-maker.
It seems, if you read the campaigners’ website - listing as it does teams of appropriate role models for our daughters- that raising a family, keeping a house and doing other more traditional female roles is somehow letting down the entire gender.
The second, and related, thing which troubles me is the assumption that playing traditionally female orientated games as a child melts your brains and renders you incapable of ever making anything of any significance out of your life
I shall put it on the record that as a child I was a girly girl. I had Barbies and Sindys coming out of my ears. My favourite ever, ever Christmas present was a dolls’ house. My proudest childhood moment was adopting a Cabbage Patch Doll by the name of Lana who I would cart everywhere in a baby carrier and who I would beg my mammy to knit clothes for.
I dressed, whenever possible in pink - but my brain (for the most part) remained unmelted. I did well in school. I got a good job. I would consider myself to be a decent enough role model for my daughter or my nieces. I never felt pushed in a fluffy direction. I never felt I was being discouraged from achieving anything I may have wanted - be it being a home-maker or a brain surgeon. The sky was the limit.
Which leads me to my third point. The availability of pink toys, and tutus and princess slogan t-shirts does not a generation of wannabe bimbos make.
Young girls don’t form their attitiudes by the colour of the toys they play with, or the pink curtains in their bedrooms or the T-shirts which declare they are little princesses.
They form their attitudes from the people around them and the examples they are given. There is nothing wrong with buying your four year old a pink kitchen, as long as you don’t bat an eyelid when they ask Santa for a Fireman Sam fire engine. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with decking your wee one in all the pink finery of the day as long you don’t loss the head should they climb a tree and tear a hole in it.
The PinkStinks campaign to me smacks of yet another example in today’s world where things that women and girls enjoy are belittled and used against us to make us feel as if we are somehow intellectually inferior.
It’s the same old toot that is peddled out time and time again about the films we watch, the books we read, the shoes we wear and now the very toys we let our children play with.
Pink is simply a colour - and if we are going to get all girly - a pretty colour at that. It is not a definition of an attitude or an IQ level. It is not a colour used to keep women in their place. And if we women choose to wear pink or buy pink toys for our daughters we are not demeaning them in any way.
For the record, yes, since the arrival of my daughter in March my house has developed somewhat of an “explosion in a marshmallow” factory feel about it. But she isn’t being discouraged from anything. I’ll be the proud mammy cheering the loudest when she decides on her path in life - be it as mother herself, a journalist, an author or - if she wants - a plumber.
Restrictions on our children are not formed by colours. They are formed by narrow minded people who want to see problems where none exist. And that, dear reader, is what stinks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Good things come to those who wait... I hope

"The Book" (somehow I can't get myself into the frame of mind of referring to it with its actual name yet) has been in the hands of "The Publisher" (lovely lady at Poolbeg) for a week now.
Seven Days.
168 hours
10080 minutes
604800 seconds.
Not that I'm counting. At all.

You may or may not have realised over the course of our relationship that I am somewhat of a nervous Nelly. I don't do waiting well. I get myself all paranoid and crazy with big bug eyes and a constant tremor from the increased ingestion of caffeine.
Now I know, that reasonably speaking, the lovely lady at Poolbeg won't have read the book yet. She may not even have started it. It is five minutes before Christmas and she has three tiny children and a job, and a house and one those life things I read about so often. She also has other authors pawing for her attention and sending her books and begging her to read them and I'm just a girly in a queue.
But the paranoid bug eyed version of me has this internal dialogue stuck on a loop at the moment

I wonder has she read it. Oh my God, what if she started reading it and was so bored with it she couldn't finish it? What if she finished three days ago and is trying to find the right words to tell me it is shite. Oh God, surely if she loved it in an 'unputdownable' way she would have read by now and got back to me. Maybe she thinks it is 'Meh'. To be honest I'd rather she hated it that thought it was 'Meh'. Who am I kidding? I want her to love it. A lot. And if she doesn't love it, Meh will do in comparison to hate? Why hasn't she got back to me? Why? Why? Why?

(This the part of my brain that doesn't compute that even while I loved the new Marian Keyes it took me three weeks to read as I was busy)

Now the literary world does not work that fast. And it took me 14 months to write the fecker, how can I really expect someone to appreciate it in just a week? Especially when they have other things to be getting on with.

I fear, before this is all over, I'll be a nervous wreck. Glass of wine anyone?

Monday, December 07, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Yesterday was tree decorating day Chez Allan. I had been very much looking forward to it - being Baby's first Christmas and all that.
For various reasons the last few years have not made for the most joyous of festive seasons. In 2007 my father-in-law died six weeks before Christmas and hubby's then firm was hit by the impact of the credit crunch leaving us as a one income family by the time the big day rolled around.
Last year I was still in the throws of the vomiting bokes of hyperemis and the newspaper industry was being hit by the credit crunch with the prospect of seven job losses at the Journal.
These were not happy times.
So this year I want it to be different - and I am probably putting a lot of pressure on myself to make it so.
I even wanted the putting up of the Christmas tree to be just so. so the boy and I went to the wonder that is Matalan (or Mataland as Joseph calls it - as if it is some wondrous magical place) and bought some silver decorations.
We then called past the local garden centre - and I saw the trees.
I have never had a real tree. I think I was permanently traumatised by the John Denver classic 'Alfie the Christmas Tree' and didn't want any other trees ever to be cut down in the name of Christmas.
But then, I've also seen Friends where Phoebe says all trees have the right to fulfil their Christmas destiny.
And I saw the tree - and I wanted it. And I went home to hubby (who does exist) and we discussed it and we went with great jollity to buy a real tree. (I HATE our fake tree, for the record... it is a pain in the arse to put up and take down and one of these days I'm just going to burn it).
Coming home like happy lumberjacks we sat the tree in its stand and fetched the children to help with the decorating.
Cara wanted to eat the lights.
Joseph just wanted to choose which decorations would go on his 2ft tree that he has in his bedroom.
Cara started to scream, presumably because I wouldn't let her eat the lights.
The boy started to throw a blue fit because he hadn't remembered his 2ft tree was golden and "real trees aren't golden" (Yes, they are, I told him. They grow special gold trees in the gold fields of Christmas land...yes, I am ashamed of my lies).
I swore as the baubles fell off the tree while hubby urged me to give the tree time to rest (Why? Had it been running a marathon?)
Then the baby decided she wanted something more than lights to eat so while I was trying to sing Christmas carols with a still vaguely huffy Joseph, hubby brought in her dinner and PUT THE TELEVISION ON to (wait for it) watch a documentary about SEA LIFE!!!
Those of you who know me at all, know that I am an absolute and total phobia about sea life.
This was not going well.
Eventually, baby fed, boy ensconced in his room over decorating his magical tree from the Gold Fields of Christmas Land and husband taking refuge in his office I placed our star on top of our very first real tree. It wobbles at a precarious angle.
But it is still lovely.
And the baby, now fed with non-electrical goods looked entranced.
All in all - family rows, over fractious children and disturbing documentaries - yes, it is indeed beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The rest is still unwritten

This week I printed off 360 fresh white pages of a new manuscript, bundled it into a very large envelope, wrote in my very neatest writing on the front and then popped down to the Post Office to post it on its merry way to Dublin.

My fourth novel - marking 14 months of blood, sweat and tears (there were a LOT of tears) - is done and it is off on its way to my publishers - the lovely people at Poolbeg.
As you read this I will be sat, fingernails in tatters, nerves wrecked like never before awaiting their response. I can only hope and pray (there has been a LOT of praying) that they like it and just like the man from Del Monte, they say yes.
Because that is how it happens - you research and you write and you send it off and then you hope. They can still say no. There can still be a shake of a head and a strongly worded email and you have to run off and lick your wounds and start again. There is no fear like it.
Starting over again is scary - staring at the blank screen in front of you willing your fingers to start moving over the keyboard and battering something together which makes some ounce of sense. Actually it has to make more than an ounce of sense - it has to be those magical words - a potentional bestseller. Those, believe me, are strong enough words to strike enough fear into the heart of your average writer so as to induce a gut-wrenching dose of writer’s block.
It has been three years since I signed my four book deal with Poolbeg. I remember, quite vividly, laughing at the deal. Four books? Seriously? Me? Write four of the buggers? Sure the one I had just finished had almost killed me.
Still, if they had faith in me enough to think I could do it, who was I to argue? So I signed and set about on what seemed like an impossible task. Four books. Sweet Lord. That’s almost half a million words - at least 400,000 of them were not to be “feck”.
But they are done - and three of them are out there (in the shops, for the record, and delightful Christmas presents they would make, and all).
Each marks a different time in my life and a different set of experiences while writing them. Writing Rainy Days and Tuesdays was a leap into the unknown. Feels Like Maybe was the difficult second book - but a blast to write. Jumping in Puddles was my most challenging book to date while the new one was fun from beginning to end - just interspersed with morning sickness, hospital stays and nappy changes.
During the course of writing each one I’ve wanted to pack it all in. I’ve wanted to go back to a life of reading books without analysing them or worrying that the reading is taking away from precious writing time. (Or worse still worrying about the fact that your latest hard written book has some of the best lines from the book you have just read slap bang in the middle of it).
At other times I’ve been on a high living in my wee imaginary world, having random conversations with my imaginary friends and playing out different plot twists in my head. It is fair to say that it will do you no good whatsoever to try and talk to me during such times. I may look as though I am listening. I may even answer but you are not really talking to me. I’m off wondering how my characters would respond to your line of questioning or planning what they are going to wear in the next scene. (I have lost sleep over what they wear - it’s like having your very own dressing doll. You want to get it just right).
I never ever forget that I am in a very privileged position where someone took a chance on me. I don’t think I’m better than any of my writing colleagues (except perhaps those celeb wannabe authors. They really grate my carrot). I’ve just been lucky enough to achieve a certain level of success.
But now, well the jig is up. My four books are done. I’m hoping and praying (there is a LOT of praying) that this won’t mean the end of my writing career. Even though I never thought I would get this far in the first place I’ve grown to quite like it - and there are a few more books in me. Maybe not four, but we’ll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Are they serious?

At the minute I'm a bit ragey.
I think it might be down to the time of year - dark mornings and dark nights and running round in circles trying to catch up with myself but never quite getting there.
So I have latent rage issues which are probably meant to be aimed at myself and my own inability to get on with things (like cleaning the house before we put the Chirstmas tree up at the weekend. I would actually love NOT to put a tree up at all this year but is that a little Scroogey? Perhaps).
It's always nice, therefore, to find a focus for my rage and today it came from this story on the BBC website.

So a dirty old man, who abused a child for EIGHT years can get out of a prison sentence because he stuffed his fat face for the following 20 years and is too fat for jail?
Must remember that defence m'lud. Anything is excusable as long as you eat enough Big Macs afterward so as to make a stay at Her Majesty's Pleasure impossible for you.

This makes an absolute and complete mockery of the judicial system - and it belittles the pain of survivors of child sex abuse.

He should have been sent to prison, and if his fat ulcerated legs troubled him so then he should just take his damn oil and get on with it.

I have no sympathy for sex abusers, none at all, and it is disgusting that this man is a free man due to his own gluttony.

Shame on the Northern Ireland judicial system.

Random Conversations with the Boy

We were driving to school this morning. I should say the car is where the vast majority of these brilliant conversations take place. Joseph was telling me how Christmas was Jesus' birthday and so on.
There was a short pause and then he asked:
J: "Mammy, what do you think Jesus dressed up as for Halloween?"
M: "Don't know, Joseph. What do you think?"
J: (with a nod of the head) "He would definitely have dressed up as something scary. Like a Frankenstein or something..."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Random Conversations with the Boy - phonetics strike again

Pointing to his legs on the way to school...

J: "Is this where your keanies are?"
M: "Your what?"
J: "You're keanies. There are on your legs."
M: "Knees, Joseph. Knees."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Random conversations with the boy

"Mummy, why is your tummy so fat?"

That's me for Weight Watchers then.

She shoots - she scores!

Donegal lass Cara McCarthy has always been a tomboy type of girl, who wouldn’t care how to spell Versace, let alone have any desire to wear it.

On a career break in London, she lands a job as a cleaner which is right up her street just then. Her new boss is Sophia Brannigan – the fashionista girlfriend of gorgeous Fulton FC Premiership star, Dylan Summers, and her new place of work is their luxurious home, Summer Manor.
Cara is determined to stay in the background, but life has other plans. Before she can say ‘Manolo’, she finds herself plunged in at the deep end of high fashion and posh parties. With a friendly father figure in gardener Sam and a delightful new arrival called Lola, Cara’s new life is set to be both fun and challenging.
But as Sophia’s hunger for celebrity grows, so does Cara’s bond with Dylan Summers and soon everything she does at Summer Manor seems destined to land her deeper and deeper into trouble ...

I've just finished reading 'Playing the Field' by fellow Poolbeg author and all round glamour puss Emma Heatherington.
This is Emma's third book - her first 'Crazy for You' was published by Dodder in 2007, her second 'Beyond Sin' (under the pen name Emma Louise Jordan) was published by Poolbeg Crimson earlier this year. Yes, earlier this year. The woman is without a doubt one of the hardest working, fastest writing people I know. And she has three kids. She needs an award - seriously.
But with all her busy-ness (she runs her own PR company and is heavily involved in the local theatre scene as - you guessed it - a writer among other things) does the quality of her books suffer?
If Playing the Field is anything to go by - then absolutely and categorically no.
It is, from the very outset, a witty, fast paced, funny and aspirational read. Set in the impressive world of Wagdom - with all the luxury trimmings thrown in - it is a fun, lighthearted and impressive read which is, without a doubt, Emma's best book to date.
Her characters are warm, likeable and well drawn. Her settings give an absolute sense of place - so much so that I can truly imagine myself in the kitchen at Summer Manor or sitting on Priscilla Presley at Graceland (read the book to find out more).
I can't give too much away without ruining the book - but with a wonderful festive ending Playing the Field would be a real treat in anyone's stocking this Christmas.
Fun, flirty and absolutely fabulous.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I very muchly love this song and it makes me smile

Viva la Diva

One of this things I admire most about Mariah Carey is that she is, unashamedly, mad as a box of frogs.

The singer has been in the news this week and last for her extraordinary Diva-style behaviour while in the UK for TV appearances to promote her new single ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’. (And for the record I actually quite liked it until the final high notes made my ears bleed. Mariah - less is more love, less is more...).
She kept the crew of ‘This Morning’ waiting for more than two hours for an interview with her, prompting host Philip Schofield to post on Twitter about her behaviour. When she appeared on the X-factor, one of the requirements on her rider (the list of requirements made by celebs before public appearances) was that butterfly shaped confetti be supplied in her dressing room. When she appeared with Lorraine Kelly on GMTV she had two assistants lower her onto the famous sofa - just in case she creased her dress.
This is the same woman who, if reports are to be believed, wears her Manolo Blahnik shoes while exercising on her treadmill at home as she “doesn’t do flat shoes”. Apparantly her feet “repel them”.
While there is a big part of me that tends to think “Who the hell does she think she is?” there is a smaller - but equally vocal - part of me that is really quite jealous of her brazenness.
Yes, she might not live in the real world but you know, sometimes the real world is a little overrated these days. What I wouldn’t give for a day or two of some full on ego pampering - not to mention the actual really, really pampering.
I’ve made a few TV appearances in my time. I can assure you that I have never had a rider and if I even tried to submit one I would be laughed out of the TV studio.
When I’ve done TV it hasn’t exactly been high glam - although I’m willing to accept the studios of UTV or TV3 may just not have the same budget thrown behind them as the X-Factor. Forget butterfly confetti and bottled water - I’ve had to content myself with a glass of the tap variety. I was offered a chocolate Muffin when i went to TV3 - but with my slot in front of the camera still to come I didn’t want to risk the muffin-stuck-in-your-teeth-country-bumpkin look.
I have had my make up done by proper make up artist people but when the hosts of the show came in looking for some pressed powder, my needs were pushed aside. Martin King, I’m pointing my finger at you. (Lovely and all as you were).
There were no chaffeur driven limousines sent to pick me up from a plush hotel. It was me, my battered car and my nerves of steal barrelling around the M50 in Dublin with not a notion as to where I was going. And when the show was over, were there post production drinkies complete with canapes? No. I barrelled back up to Derry in my trusty car stopping only at Monaghan for a quick sandwich and a top up of petrol.
But if I could demand my heart’s desires - what would I ask for? It is one of my guilty pleasures to think about this. Forget all that bowl of M&Ms with all the yellow ones taken out nonsense - I would be more sophisticated than that.
I would opt for opulant white candles glowing on ever surface and a chaise longue drapped with cool silks and satins for me to swoon on while sipping my cold Pinot Grigio and being fed grapes by a George Clooney lookalike (or Martin King, he’ll do...).
I’d have another minion/ man slave/ lacky to sit by me with my laptop while I dictate whatever passage of my latest novel springs to mind. He can deal with the fact the keys need properly battered to register almost every letter - I wouldn’t want to risk a broken nail.
I’d have a masseuse to do one of those Indian Head thingies and then a hairdresser to rescue my mop afterwards. I would have a make up artist who saw to my needs and only my needs and I’d have Gok Wan onside to be my personal wardrobe consultant. However he would be banned from making any reference to bangers - mine or anyone elses.
A string quartet would be playing music softly in the background, lulling me into a deep state of relaxation and I would have my very own cinematographer on hand to make sure no unflattering camera angles were filmed. (I believe Mariah Carey does indeed have such a person in her entourage - which is genius if you ask me).
As it stands though I think I’ll have to lump it with my tap water and the only soothing music I’ll get to listen to is Today FM on the long drive to Dublin.
In honesty I don’t really mind. I’m still at the stage were I spend my time in any TV studio thinking “Oh flip me. I’m going to be on the telly” and hyperventilating with excitement every time any vaguely recognisable TV presenter or newsreader walks past. You should have see the cut of me the first time I had a chat with Julian “off of UTV”. I almost asked him to do one of those Corrie intros.
But still, maybe one day I’ll get my butterfly confetti and when I do I’m sure I wont mind at all if anyone thinks I’m mad as a box of frogs.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear Marian.... (a review)

The residents of 66 Star Street in Dublin are all being watched… but by what? Maeve and Matt seem happy enough to anybody looking in, but behind the facade is a truth that neither of them wants to be made public. Katie and Conall have a love/hate relationship, but how will the arrival of TVgardener Fionn affect their relationship? Lydia lives with Polish men Andrei and Jan, but can’t stand either of them… not to mention the problems Lydia is having with her own mother as well. And Jemima lives with her lovely dog Gurudge, but is sure she feels the presence of something hanging around the house of 66 Star Street. Just what, or who, is watching these people? And will the secrets that bind them ever come out?

Dear Queen Marian of Keyes,
I write this with blood shot eyes and a thumping headache. I didn't get to sleep until very, very late last night you see. Because I was reading your book - that one, there in the picture.
I had bought it as soon as it was released, just as I have done every time one of your books has been published since I discovered you when Rachel's Holiday was out. That was a long time ago Marian. A lot has happened since then. I've grown up into proper adulthood reading your books. I have been inspired by you. I even started to write books myself because of you.
And now well, I have my very own publishing deal and books of my own. In a completely non-stalkerish way, I feel like I know you.
So I feel we can sit down and talk - woman to woman, author to author.
The thing that I loved so much about your books in the past is that they could make me laugh out loud and not give a damn. Sitting on a ferry to Holyhead? Didn't care. It was too funny to hold in.
Sitting in a room at a party where I was being very unsociable? Didn't care. Needed to find out what happened next.
I loved your books. When I grew up I wanted to write like you. I almost wet my knickers with excitement when it was rumoured Rachel's Holiday was going to be made into a film. Jimmy Nesbitt, for the record, would make an excellent Luke.
But you see, a couple of books back you changed. And it kind of threw me. How could you change Marian? After all we had been through? How you start writing about more serious things (not that addiction and depression and all aren't serious but you wrote about them in a way that didn't feel serious... Brilliant, educational but not dark..)
I devoured This Charming Man - loved it. (Had a few reservations about the diary style writing) but declared it your best book ever. And then I sat back and it troubled me a little because it didn't feel like it was a Marian book. Yes - it was perceptive as always. Yes - it was witty and near the knuckle and not afraid to  deal with dodgy subjects.
I liked that. (Although, between us, there was a fair amount of gnashing of teeth because I was just putting the finishing touches to a book that had a domestic violence storyline weaved into it and well, ya know people will insist on trying to say I'm the new you and accuse me of being a copycat and all. For the record I'm not. I'm the first me. You are the only you.)
But it was definitely grittier, and that damn serious word.
So anyway, I waited with baited breath for 'The Brightest Star in the Sky' - and it intrigued me. From the outset I wondered who these people were and was I supposed to care for them? I liked Maeve and Matt - just so as you know. And Katie too. Lydia I liked, but she would scare the shite out of me if I ever met her in real life.
By about page 200 I was hooked (sorry to say it did take me a while) but I had a sinking feeling, Marian because I knew something big and, well, serious, was going to happen.
And it did.
And it was perhaps the most powerful piece of writing I have ever read.
I felt physically sick. I felt shocked me to my core. I felt I wanted to make it better. I felt I wanted a glimmer of hope and then, you see, you did it. It gave us that hope - that new beginning.
And this is perhaps the crux of the matter. Your writing, the last few books, have been a sort of new beginning - an evolvement of your writing. You grew up - as did I and it was unfair of me to expect otherwise.
I'm glad you did. I loved the book - and it's one that will stay with me for a very, very long time.
My verdict to any of your readers who just aren't sure about whether or not to read this? Go for it. Just expect more than you have before and open your eyes to the power of a story which will touch your heart beyond words.
Marian, I am sorry I ever doubted you.


So it is done and I'm reading through

And dealing with a few minor inconsistencies here and there until - 50 pages from the end - I discover an extra Friday.
There we have it, my characters enjoy one perfectly fine Friday and then wake up the next day and do Friday all over again.
So much happens in those last few chapters that I don't know how I'm going to rework it to make it work and my head hurts a lot.
Oh I realise I've given another character just two weeks to fall in love. TWO WEEKS? Maybe because I wrote the fecking book over the course 14 long and painful months it felt like a helluva lot longer than two weeks.
Does anyone fall in love in two weeks anymore?
If you did - lemme know!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh Happy Day....

I did it. I typed those magical words.

And Jumping in Puddles got a corking review in Ulster Tatler. Hurrah!! x 1000000000000

Monday, November 23, 2009

No no...

It's not finished.
I've written 112,000 words.
That's 2000 in excess of targetted word count.
But it seems my characters don't want to give up just yet.
I'm hoping it will be finished tonight or tomorrow. I cannot describe how much I need to type the words "The End". I have loved writing this book. I have been more daring with it, and had more fun with it than any of my other three. I have lived in my characters' lives for a year - I have spent more time with them than with my new baby daughter. I am more excited about this book than any other - but I NEED for it to be done now.
Madzers R Us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Save Our Friends... shameless plugging!

I've recently heard about a very fabulous organisation who  make big cuddly toys (really big, the blue Whale is mahoosive) and well, everyone loves cuddly toys - don't they? Especially at this time of the year and all.
Even better everything is produced under Fair Trade conditions, which is fab because child labour (outside of me getting boy to tidy his own room) is a Very Bad Thing.
They have four sub-categories of toys - Polar Friends, African Friends, Rainforest Friends and Ocean Friends. (Sadly they don't have "Mammy's favourite drink Friends... cuddly bottle of wine anyone?)
 Everytime one is sold, Save Our Friends makes a donation to a wildlife conservation charity, these being The World Land Trust, The Marine Conservation Society and Born Free, so it's really a charity gift that you can cuddle. Champion.
The big deal at the moment is that they are giving away one toy a week for the next four weeks.  So what's the catch, I hear you scream? Well, it's only wee you know - all you have to do to be entered into the draw is to become a fan  on Facebook, and then get yours friends to become fans. And then the new fan posts a message on the wall saying 'Hi, I became a fan, Claire Allan referred me' (Or indeed they use your name, otherwise I'll be entered in the draw a jillion times).
Both referrer and referree are then entered into a draw and one lucky bugger wins a toy. As the very annoying Meerkat says in the ad "Simples".

So here is linkage for easier use

Merci beaucoup (although officially I'm now very against speaking 'en francais' because of that incident)

The disgrace that is Rebecca Stevenson

I have never claimed to be a perfect mother. In fact I doubt such a thing exists. Most of us are just chugging along trying our damndest to get through the day.

I sometimes lose the head. I have been known to let a roar on the odd occasion. On other occasions I have praised the Lord when bedtime has rolled around and I have been able to sit down, head in my hands and sob quietly into a glass of wine - grateful that we have all made it through another day.

I have surveyed the destruction in my house and remembered the days pre-children when the floors were clean and the sofa was not held together with toast crumbs and yoghurt.

There have been long darks nights when I have contemplated leaving the husband to it and walking out so that I could check myself into a nice hotel for just one night’s uninterrupted sleep. Oh the thought of no five year climbing on top of me to tell me his dreams at five in the morning or a baby deciding to wake me with her dulcet babbling at three. Bliss!

Long gone are my day dreams of a romantic dinner a deux with George Clooney in a quaint Parisian cafe. My biggest dream these days is being able to go to the toilet without an audience of inquisitive children who do not understand the concept of personal space.

Let’s face it, being a mother may bring untold joy but it is also hard work. We all know that going into it. But when we decide to be parents we must also decide, on some level, to take our oil.

Sure we can whinge if we wish about the lack of privacy and lack of sleep we must endure but when we choose to become parents we choose to take on certain responsibilities and there is no excuse for neglecting them - no matter how stressful the day or how worn out we are.

I write this in a fit of rage after reading about mum-of-four Rebecca Stevenson who left her children - all under the age of four - while she went out on a 24 hour drink and drugs binge.

Police were only alerted to the children’s predicament when a neighbour saw the eldest child (just four years old) shouting from a window “Where’s mummy?”.

Her youngest child - just three months old - was lying in a soiled nappy, covered in his own sick in a urine soaked travel cot with not even a blanket around him. His four year old sister had tried to mix a bottle of baby formula to feed him to stop his cries.

This scene absolutely breaks my heart. And it’s not from any sense of smugness that I’m a better mammy than she is, or from any failure on my part to understand how difficult being a parent can be.

I know it can be tough, and exhausting and stressful. I know what post natal depressions feels like. I know what it is like to experience full on panic attacks at the responsibility of it all. I know what it feels like to forget just that little bit who you are any more and long, just that wee bit, for life outside of mammyhood.

But what I don’t understand is how any mother can walk away and leave four babies (because in my book four is still a baby in the grand scheme of things) to fend for themselves. My five year old goes into mad hysterics if he hasn’t noticed I’ve gone up the stairs and he can’t find me for all of 30 seconds (hence me always having an audience in the loo) - never mind if me and his daddy were to bugger off for 24 hours leaving him to tend to his own needs and the needs of his baby sister.

I don’t even want to think about how scared those children must have been. The thought of a three month old crying in hunger and distress for hours on end with no comfort makes me feel physically sick.

What sickens me most of all however is that for this crime Stevenson received only a 20 week suspended prison sentence. Loathe as I am to come over all Daily Mail, that sentence is simply not strong enough.

Regardless of what may have been going on in Stevenson’s life at that time there was no excuse for her actions. There is never an excuse for a wilful neglect of children so that a parent can drink themselves into a stupour - knocking back shots of Sambucca - while their children scream out for attention.

When she left those innocent children to fend for themselves, she forfeited her right to freedom and she should have been locked up - and yes of course given the appropriate support to rebuild her life. But her rehabilitation seems to have been given more weight than her punishment and in a case where four young childrens’ lives were put at risk this is beyond acceptable.

Her children, like all children, deserve to be loved and looked after. They deserve to feel safe and secure. They deserve to have their basic needs of food on the table and clean clothes on their backs met. How dare Stevenson shirk this responsibility?

Tonight when I go home I’ll probably still be thankful when it is bedtime and I can have some me time with the husband and a glass of wine but I’ll be even more thankful for the fact that my children have parents and extended family who love and care for them so deeply.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How did this happen so fast?

No, it's not finished yet

You know how every now and again I go a little mad. And that, true to the name of this blog sometimes I am a bit of a madzer. (Which is my new favourite word thanks to Marian Keyes’ ‘Brighest Star in the Sky’ gdansk...)
Well some days I’m more mad than others. And sometimes that madness is simply just feeling a bit hopeless and down and wanting to crawl into a wee ball until the prozac starts working again.

Other days this involves wanting to drink a substantial quantity of white wine while talking random shite on Twitter.
On other days I get into a whole “what’s the effing point?” frame of mind. And by that I don’t mean I’m for the bridge (as we would say in Derry) or the like just more that I think I could quite happily live out my days in a wee two roomed hut (one general living area, one toilet facility) in the wilds of Donegal with no internet access, no phone and not a single mention of a deadline or a novel.
I would happily go properly nutso. I wouldn’t cut my hair or shave my legs. I probably wouldn’t even wash. I’d lie in my pit all day and stare at the sky and count the clouds or something equally untaxing. I’d eat nothing but toast and drinking nothing but the aforementioned wine, which the boldest child in the village will have to bring to the mad woman in the woods as his punishment. He or she would quake in their wellies as I proferred a gnarled hand out of my hut towards him or her.
I’d uncork the fecker with my teeth and drink it through a straw to be cosmopolitan.

I’d only venture to the big smoke once a year to buy a new cardigan and some Jimmy Choos (see, proper madzer) during which outing I would speak only in an Italian accent.

Everyone who would listen would be told of the time I wrote books - and people actually bought them and my children would deny they ever knew me.

Ah, good times.

Can you tell this book is getting to me?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anyone for a bestseller?

My very lovely and supportive friend Fiona Cassidy (real name Fionnuala McGoldrick) has not only had her first novel publishing by Poolbeg this month she has only gone and secured the number 6 spot in the Irish Mass Market fiction chart!
Go on ya girl ye! As we would say up North.
I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the book before publication when I was asked by the lovely people at Poolbeg to read it and provide a cover quote if I so desired (I did desire, as it happens).
Anyone For Seconds? is a quirky, moving and wickedly funny read about the trials and tribulations of a step family. Very loosely based on Fiona's own unique family set up with the lovely Philip (seriously, he's lovely and tres, tres supportive), it is a MUST READ and while you are it, JUMPING IN PUDDLES  (which I actually just mistyped as HUMPING IN PUDDLES which is a whole different kind of a book) by yours truly is still out there and looking for a home!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There comes a stage...

... towards the end of every book, when you almost completely lose the will to live.
I liken this stage - when you are a mere coupla thousand words from the end - to transition (that delightful stage in the labouring process when you want to lie on the floor and cry while screaming "I can't do it.... I just CAN'T do it").
Because you know the next bit is tough. You know in the next bit you really have to push yourself. But you can't push yourself too hard. You have to be measured. Rushing the next bit leads to an unhappy ending (in literary terms a disappointing finish/ in childbirthing terms a few tears and the need for a stitch in your fandango).
I'm at that stage with book 4. I am tantalisinglg close to holding my new baby in my arms and marvelling that I made it all my own self and isn't it just the most beautiful book you ever, ever saw?
But in being tantalisingly close I am also at the stage where I want it to just to go away. Whose stupid idea was it to write a book anyway? If I ever, ever mention writing another book you are to kill me. No words are ever allowed near me again. EVER.
If only there was a literary equivalent to an epidural....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Random conversations with The Husband

It's not hard to see where the Boy gets his sense of humour from.
This morning I received the following text:

Have I upset you? Have I done something to annoy you? Please tell me what I have done. Is it really that bad? Do you not love me anymore? Tell me what I can do to make it right again.

I phoned him wondering what on jebus he was on about.
Turns out he thought I hadn't bought him any Ginger Nuts yesterday.
I had. They were just hiding.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Random conversations with the boy

This one came from the boy's Auntie Emma.
The boy's latest obsession is WW1 and WW" following any and all discussion of Remembrance Day etc.

So they were chatting.
"My daddy was telling me all about the big ship which the captain sank to stop it getting captured," Joseph said.
"Which ship was that?" Auntie Emma asked.
"The battleship Primark," Joseph answered

Sssh! It's only 6 weeks 'til Christmas

Much as I want to bury my head in the sand and deny it, the evidence is there for all to see.
The decorations are going up in the shops. The jingly jangly exceptionally annoying music is starting to blast out from instore speakers. The queue to get into Smyths car park is not for the faint hearted and the television is filled with a thousand and one ads about making this Christmas extra special.
Bah humbug - I guess I’m going to have to try and get in the spirit of the festive season then.
The thing is, in my head it is still June or July. My brain refuses to acknowledge that we are actually in mid-November and that the big date with Santa is hurtling ever closer.
Joseph repeatedly asks me how many days are left to Christmas, or how long it will be til we go and see Santa in the Richmond Centre and i wave him away. Sure, we have ages yet. There is no way we are on a six week countdown. No way at all. The schools have only gone back for the love of God.
When a friend told me in early September that she had all her presents bought and wrapped and even the wains’ Christmas clothes in I scoffed. I thought she was perhaps off her rocker and come December when the children inevitably changed their mind about their Santa lists she would left with a mountain of useless toys and headache the like of which would render her unable to function on any level other than crying in a corner and mainlining gin and tonic.
Now I’m a little bit jealous of her forward planning.
The season of goodwill? No, I don’t think so. For the majority of us mere mortals out there the next six weeks will be a manic, headspinningly busy series of disasters and stressful situations.
It’s a rare woman who can keep her head while all around are losing their’s - especially when that losing it occurs in Smyths over the last Ben 10 Alien Force Voice Changer. or in Sainsbury’s over the last turkey in the deep freezer.
We will spend the next few weeks trying to eek out from our children what they want from Santa while issuing a loop of “If you don’t behave you’ll get a bag of ashes” warnings as they work themselves up into an increasing frenzy of excitement.
We will then spend the following weeks trying to remind them of what they asked for and assure them that they do actually still want it and no they don’t actually want the shiny new toy which has just caught their eye. We will come up with elaborate reasons as to why they absolutely can’t change their mind. (Mine is that Santa took pre-orders this year so had everything in mega early).
Then we will try and clean the house so that it is fit to house a sparkly tree which will drive us demented within three days of going up.
We will try and make it to school Christmas shows, parent teacher meetings and Christmas parties all the while looking interested and trying to not at all look harassed. (Last year I mucked that one up entirely and showed up for the parent teacher meeting a whole week early. The teacher must have thought there wasn’t a chance for the boy after that).
And we’ll organise presents for kith and kin - spending money on things no one actually wants or needs for the sake of handing something over on the big day and not looking like a stingy fecker.
The more organised out there will home-bake some Christmas treats - maybe mince pies and Christmas cake. Me? I’ll buy some in Tesco, but not too early. I don’t want to make the annual mistake of getting the Mince Pies and the Celebrations in at the end of November and then having to buy a whole new set come the middle of December.
And believe my my most hated tasks of all the Christmas tasks is the pre-Christmas grocery shop. It is never pleasant. In fact, in most cases it is down right ugly. It might be a little cliched to talk about fighting over the last stalk of broccoli or the last bag of potatoes but I have seen it happen. The world goes mad with gluttony and greed and the whole peace and goodwill to all men notion goes flying out of the window. People forget year in and year out that the shops no longer close for a few days. There are shops open on Christmas day itself. There is no need for anyone to assault anyone else with a carrot and a bag of brussels.
It is worth it though, I suppose. I have to tell myself that. And when, in six weeks time, I’m sat in front of the fire, glass of wine in hand and enjoying the quiet after the storm, I’ll feel content and pleased with myself. Then I’ll promise to be just like my friend and have it all done and dusted by next September.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm an auntie (again)

Hopefully I'll post a picture later but the latest addition to our extended family arrived at 10am this morning.
Darcy Georgia Bo - pure gorgeousness - was delivered at home by her very brave mummy this morning.
I cannot say how emotional I feel. I knew going out this morning that the baby was most likely on the way and I was like a cat on a hot tin roof in work - so much so that I had to leave. Every fibre of my being was telling me I needed to be with my sister so I drove home, opened her front door and just at that very moment Miss Bo was born.
She is precious. So very precious. And now my own girlchild looks like a gigantic monster.
But I'm delighted to welcome beautiful Darcy to our family.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Who Wants it all? Not me!

I quite like the cut of Kirstie Allsopp’s jib. In another life I would have quite fancied having her job - and it’s not only because she gets to work alongside the rather handsome Phil Spencer who I have a bit of a crush on.
She’s sensible. She’s successful. She’s really very good at what she does - from selling houses to decorating rooms very nicely indeed. She wears stylish clothes and she’s not a size 8. In short, she is the kind of woman I think I could be friends with without feeling intimidated. We’d go for lunch somewhere fancy with china plates and a distinct lack of straws and paper napkins and she’d tell me where she buys her clothes and then she would help me transform my house into something with an ounce of style.
Of course, the fact that she might introduce me to the lovely Phil Spencer would be but a mere bonus to the equation.
And then we would sit back, all talk of ‘Location, Location, Location’ cast aside, and talk about what we women really want to talk about. How the promise that we women can have it all is a big, fat, stupid lie which is responsible for making a generation of women demented with feelings of inadequacy and depression.
Speaking to Closer magazine this week the mum of two (she has a three year old and a one year old) said that many women struggle to raise children while pursuing a career.
She added: “I resent women in the public eye who look glam, do glamorous jobs and try to pretend they have it all when they don't. You can't have it all without help.'
'It puts pressure on all mums. Even as a 'celebrity mum' myself, there is now a huge expectation that you'll have a natural birth, get your figure back immediately, take naturally to motherhood and continue a successful career. It's rubbish.'
As a woman not in the public eye I have to say it’s not just celeb mums who feel these pressures, Me - and those friends of mine with children - all feel it. There is no sport in this world more competitive than motherhood.
I doubt there is a mother in this world who has not been made to feel as if she has to justify her parenting or lifestyle choices. Stay at Home Mammies immediately get wound up if someone dares to suggest they don’t work for a living. Working mums feel their heckles rise if someone suggests they shouldn’t have had children if they weren’t going to look after them themselves.
Competition starts right from the moment of conception. Morning sickness is these days seen as a sign of weakness. When I was puking my anatomy several time a day while battling hyperemesis with my last pregnancy, I even had it suggested to me that I must have not wanted my baby and my sickness was a reaction to an unwanted pregnancy!
I’ve been told I didn’t have a natural birth because I had a shot of pethidine while in labour. Some women like to boast that they managed to get through the experience without so much as a suck on the gas and air as if it somehow makes them superior to any woman who required more help.
I even saw one eejit argue that taking pain relief in labour was akin to injecting your baby with heroin and that “if it hurt you must be doing it wrong”. No matter how “right” you do labour, I have yet to meet a woman who said it didn’t hurt.
And then we go home - no week spent resting and recuperating in the hospital any more - and we get on with life. We are expected to host visitors, make them tea, have home cooked meals on the table every night and have a house fit for the poshest relations to drop in unexpectedly.
Our children are expected to be seen and not heard - yes, even in these modern days you will get many a disapproving look if your infant lets our a roar in Tesco.
Going back to work (for those of us who do) is a further minefield - one where you have to plan your days with military precision, where you have to keep track of appointments and milestones and plans for birthday parties as well as put on a professional exterior appearance and try not to call anyone “honey” or “sweetpea” down the phone or, worse still speak in a babyish voice.
You become almost schizophrenic with exhaustion - trying to remember if today is a mammy day or a work day and all the while wondering when on earth you are going to find the time to clean the skirting boards this side of Christmas. My wains have nothing to fear from the Swine Flu they have been exposed to more deadly substances just crawling around the living room floor.
Kirstie Allsopp is lucky though - she has employed a nanny and a cleaner. I have a very accommodating aunty for childminding duties and a husband who isn’t too bad with a mop - when pushed. But most of the time I’m just trying to get through the day and thinking that I don’t want it all. What I have, right now, is more than enough for any mere mortal to contend with.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The laptop is dead, long live the laptop

It's official. There will no Lazarus style ressurection. She is dead. Defunct. No more.
How I shall miss her with her unworking up page key and her slow whirring and taking three and a half years to load anything. How I shall miss that well worn mouse pad, the keys which were actually starting to lose their letters.
How I will recall first editing RD&T on it, then writing FLM and JiP and most of book four on it.
But the book was saved, so that's a plus point.

In other news I have just been exceptionally busy. Press and publicity is still the order of the day and I'm been working like a maddun in the background trying to get stuff organised. I even had a photoshoot last night for The Mirror. I had my hair done, fake nails applied and even false eyelashes - which I fear may have creeped up my face at one stage. My children were involved and dutifully dressed in their Sunday best - except the baby is teething again (two teethies and counting!) and had drool all down her top. The boy just flapped around like a seal.
Should be gorgeous. Claire "four lashes" Allan and her children, Drool and Nutcase.

I'm also packaging up books to send out - for review and other things. I'm donating my entire back catalogue to Visit if you can, leave a quid or two even.

And I'm working...
And cleaning my house.
And generally doing a very good impression of a headless chicken.

Four eyelashes are the least of my worries.

Monday, November 02, 2009

They say it comes in threes....

So first my laptop died.
My laptop with the new book on it.
It is still dead. And the book is still on it. And it was supposed to be finished by now - but I can't even remember where I left off to write on, and even if I did I have no computer on which to do so.
So I will write during my lunchbreak in work.

Then my landing window started leaking water - in perhaps the heaviest rain of the year so far. So we have phoned a repair man and are awaiting his call back. I'm not good with waiting. You may have figured that out about me by now.

And then this morning the husband (who does exist) drew my attention to the strange burning aroma coming from our kettle. So, we're gonna have to get a new one of those (which I would do in my lunch break, but ya know, the writing thing gets in the way).

So no more. Thank you. Nothing else is allowed to break for at least a year and longer if at all possible.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

How I knocked the mad mammy into touch!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

RIP - Lappy the laptop

Although technically, she's not dead yet.
Just on life support.
Awaiting a brain transplant (please God).
But I fear she is gone. And I'll have to get a new one. I do remember hearing of one author who burnt out a laptop with every book - this one has served me three novels.
And I'm going to miss her.
And scream if I can't get my book off the harddrive.

Lesson for the day: Back up. Back up. Back up.

Another cracking review!

"Claire Allan is just getting better and better"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is it wrong....

That I'm eating a delicious salad for lunch and contemplating what chocolate bar I might treat myself to later?
All that and I'm preparing to interview Donna Hazelton who won 'Musicality' on Channel 4 several years back. I have interviewed Donna before and made an eejit of myself as I was a huge fan of the Channel 4 show. So I have to try and not do that "ohmygodiamtalkingtothatladyoffofthetelly" thing that did last time.
Maybe I'll eat the chocolate after.

Monday, October 26, 2009

She doesn't sleep

I mean. EVER.
She is awake. Always.
And chatting.
And I'm very, very proud that she can say da da da da da da and blow raspberries and just about manage to clap her hands together.
But I would love her to sleep.
Just a little.
And not say dadadadadadadada at 3 in the morning and keep saying it until it is time to get up.
I am very tired.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random conversations with the boy - the dangers of a silent letter...

Joseph: "Mammy, what's a Hoor?"
Me: (stunned) "A what?"
J: "No, not a hoor....(thinking) What's the word?"
Me: (momentary sigh of relief)
J: "No, not a hoor. A whore. Mammy, what's a whore?"
Me: "Where on earth did you hear that word?"
J: (with a roll of the eyes) "Everyone uses it Mammy. It's an American word."
Me: "Well, it's a very, very bad word. And you aren't to use it."
J: (Rolling eyes again) "It's not a bad word Mammy. It just means an hour later..."
Me: (penny dropping - the boy is learning to read... phonetically) "The H is silent Joseph. It's just pronounced Hour."

Hubby (who does exist) quite rightly pointed out that it could be worse. Joseph could well have told his teacher we were all getting an extra hoor in our beds this weekend.

I'm a viewer, get me out of here

I’m disturbed people. Very disturbed. It seems you see Ireland is getting a bad run of it lately.
As a nation of (supposed) singers and scholars, we seem to be letting ourselves down on a huge scale these days
And by that I mean that we have, to our eternal national shame, inflicted the walking parody that is John and Edward on the viewing public.
It was bad enough when we came up with the concept that was B*witched (really dodgy 90s girl group, for those who have locked that particular memory in the dark recesses of their mind) and put that bloody turkey through for the Eurovision. As if that weren’t enough to eternally mortify us as a nation and question the very foundations on which our cultural heritage stands we just had to push it that one, sad, unbelievable step further and let John and Edward out of the country and on to the public stage.
I’d like to say that they are probably nice boys who never did anyone any harm - but that could not be further from the truth.
They have harmed every one of us - because each and every Saturday night, internet forums, Twitter and Facebook go into overdrive with utter indignation that these two eejits have been allowed airtime on perhaps the highest rated show on television at the moment.
And of course judge Louis Walsh gets the blame because he is Irish (and he put them through) and there are shouts of favouritism a plenty. I can guarantee if John and Edward (who I do have nicknames for but which cannot be repeated in a family newspaper) were from the South of lovely England, Louis wouldn’t have wanted to know and would have laughed them off the stage with the rest of us.
So, the result of their ongoing “success” (and believe me I do use that word very loosely) is that we are damned by association. If they are the very best that this country has to offer in terms of singing talent you can only imagination - with a sickening sense of dread and humiliation - just how bad the worst we had to offer would be.
It is not only their serious lack of talent that has shamed us so, but their staggeringly overinflated sense of self importance. These are two young men who think the world owes them a living. They truly believe that they are talented - that they can sing and dance and perform on a world stage along with the best of them.
Their mammy has obviously never done them the very real favour of telling them to catch themselves on and concentrate on getting a day job (or at the very least not getting a thump for being perhaps two of the most annoying creatures on the planet).
You would have thought at the very least their mammy would have sorted out their hair. Which again brings me to the point that the UK’s viewing public - by dint of X-Factor and nothing else - now must believe we are all walking around this island with hairdos which make us look like demented Tellytubbies but for this, I also point the finger most firmly at Eoghan Quigg. Him and his £15 ‘Quiggy’ cut did us no favours, make no mistake.
Now I know the Xfactor is supposed to really be no more than a bit of craic, and that every year we know to expect one or two jokers in the pack. But one has to wonder why these jokers need to be Irish?
These baffoons may have the comedy factor but that is at odds with that the competition is supposed to be about - and that is finding real musical talent. I’m sure that John and Edward don’t consider themselves the big joke everyone else does - I’m sure they are skating along on their own wee planet congratulating themselves on making it to week three. I’m sure they were deeply proud of their absolutely cringe-inducing performance of ‘Oops I did it Again’ on Saturday night - complete with over-acted Titanic moment. It is perhaps unfair that at the age of 18 these youngsters are being thrown to the wolves like this - but then that would require me to feel sorry for them. And believe me, I don’t.
To me, and many, many others, the joke is just simply not funny. It never was. It was mildly amusing in a “look-at-the-state-of-that” way, but that was all.
These young men should have more self awareness. They should listen to themselves, look at themselves and catch themselves on.
And then they should do the exceptionally honourable thing by bowing out of the XFactor, signing up for a panto somewhere close to home and leaving the rest of us to get on with trying to save our reputations.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random conversations with the boy

J: Mammy, am I a vegeman?
Me: A vegeman? What do you mean.
J: (frustrated) You know, a vegeman. My teacher is a vegeman. She told us at dinner.
Me: (doing some quick thinking) Do you mean a vegetarian?
J: Yes, that's it.
Me: Well a vegetarian is a person who only eats vegetables. (Wrong I know... but it was the end of a long day).
J: Well I eat vegetables, so that means I'm a vegeman.
Me: But you eat meat too.
J: Okay, well I'm a half a vegeman then.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writing, writing, writing

In the final chapters of book 4.
Obsessed with it.
Talking to the characters in my head at all times.
Plotting scenes.
Getting inspiration.
Trying to get finished.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogging from the newsroom

I forget how to write news.
I'm staring at an article of approximately 350 words which is absolutely perfect length for a newspaper article and yet it feels too short.
Where is the mystery?
Where is the story arch?
Where is the key revelation in the last quarter?
Where is the love interest?
Am I doing too much telling and not showing?
Am I supposed to tell and not show? Or show and not tell? I forget.
Must write in really short and concise sentences.
Must not say feck. Or arse. Or other dodgy words.
Must not make witty observations about serious matters - not actually in the paper anyway.

I have been a journalist for 12 years and a writer of booky type things for 3 years. How can I not know this stuff? Pah!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday night ponderings.

Sometimes I look at my son - and his wee legs which just dangle off the sofa cushions and no more and I feel exceptionally soppy
Does anything look as cute as tiny pair of trainers sat at the end of wee jeans while a boy draws brilliant pictures on a magnadoodle?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New review from author Mary Malone

And another lovely review for Jumping in Puddles is in!
Courtesy of author and reviewer, Mary Malone

Detta O’Neill returns to the Donegal Village of Rathinch, determined to help others in her hometown and make her existence matter. Guarding personal secrets closely, she sets up a support group for Lone Parents. Despite the chagrin and tut-tutting of nosey villagers, Detta’s weekly meetings become an escape for four people who, despite their differing circumstances, take solace in each other and share their innermost concerns.
Niamh Quigley is the envy of many. Her house is the biggest and fanciest in the parish, her two children are perfect miniatures of their parents and her kitchen – particularly her island which plays a significant part in her story – is to die for. But an unfortunate accident kills her husband, Sean, and Niamh is left numb and at variance with the world. Cleaning out her husband’s office forces her to look beyond the image Sean had portrayed and for the first time ever, she sees him for what he truly was – a lying, double-crossing cheat.
Ruth Byrne’s husband has run off with a much younger woman, leaving her to cope alone with three squabbling teenagers. But it’s not all bad and a small part of Ruth is relieved he’s gone. Joining the group for some adult conversation, she’s shocked to see ‘the younger woman’s’ husband is also in need of comfort and unlikely as it is, the two become firm friends.
Liam Dougherty’s mother is suffocating him ever since his wife left him and their daughter. Using the lone parents’ group as a means of weekly escape, he finds it difficult at first to divulge his feelings. He’s determined to win his wife back, seeing her affair as a temporary lapse. But spending time in the company of others shows him another side of life and makes him question the relationship he’d shared with his wife. For the first time in quite a while, Liam is contented.
Ciara Boyle is the youngest of the group. A single Mum at seventeen, she has kept the name of her baby’s father secret – even from her mum. Working in the local shop and serving her friends after school reminds Ciara about the choices her pregnancy forced her to make. And even though she finds it very tough going, she knows in her heart that her baby is worth every sacrifice. Meeting up with other single parents gives Ciara a purpose each week and she finds it easier to open up and take advice in the group environment.
All four and Detta find their lives become more and more entwined and soon the boundaries between group meetings and real friendship blur and their support goes to a much deeper level, dangerously close for a certain few.
Jumping In Puddles is a story tinged with personal grievance and sadness but Claire Allen’s natural ability to inject an appropriate amount of humour into the story - without undermining the seriousness of the trials of single parenting - adds warmth and enjoyment to every page.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We're oh so tired...

Everyone in the Allan household seems to be going through a serious bout of exhaustion just now.
By the time I finished work today I was as ratty as a bag of cats from tiredness and when I got to my mum's to pick up the children, they were also ratty. The husband (who does exist) was also grumblesome when we got home.
So the boy had a meltdown and I got him to bed promising to do his homework with him in the morning, while the girl has not even stirred since she went down which is very unlike here. I've had a shower and put my PJs on and am watching True Blood before hitting the hay myself.
So if I'm quiet, it's because I'm sleeping, or working or wanting to sleep at work.
Anyone have any hints for staying awake?

Monday, October 12, 2009

I started back to work today

And it was tough going.
It was one of those things that simply had to be done and I love my career, honestly.
But I don't think there is every anything as hard as walking away from your baby knowing that your precious devoted time together is over. Chances are - as I am definitely not planning on any more children - that there will never again be any prolonged time when I'm home with the girl and her brother.
Now it is devoting what time I can after work to them and today was tough. The wee woman (a complete nosey madam) refused to sleep for her auntie today so when hubby (who does exist) picked her up she was almost comatose. By the time I came home she was asleep and woke only very briefly for a quick cuddle before passing out again.
Quality time my hoop.

Anyway - I'm very tired and emotional about it all so will post no more. But they say the first day is the worst. Let's hope "they" are right.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The boy's latest obsession...

is with Star Wars. Here he is as a Jedi, in the Millennium Falcon. Thanks to his Uncle Peter for photoshopping skills.

The mystery of the baby socks

We all know that socks like to go missing. That's pretty much a truth universally acknowledged - Cecelia Ahern even wrote a book about it (in a kind of roundabout way) - but baby socks - they take this disappearing craic to a whole new level.
Since the girl was born seven months ago I have about approximately 26000 pairs of pink/frilly/patterned socks. By my reckoning she should have the best dressed feet in the Northern Hemisphere and yet this morning can I find a single matching pair?
And I've emptied the washing machine, tumble drier and laundry hamper and hunted under the beds, and the cot and the bags of baby clothes she has already outgrown.
But there are none to be found. And it's a cold day.
And the baby is going to be barefooted - and cold.
And I'm going to have to spend yet more of my hard earned cash on socks.

I have a theory that when we eventually move out of this house - and empty it of all our possessions I will find 26000 socks somewhere having a party and looking at me like "What? We were here all the time, for the love of God woman."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Oh my God .... what an amazing review!

I'm actually in tears after reading this....from The Evening Herald (Dublin's biggest daily..)

I need a box of chocs and a girly story.
Look no further: a box of Lily O'Brien's best and Jumping in Puddles, the story of a group of lone parents in a Donegal village putting their lives back together.

Village full of gossip?
You have no idea. Ciara is 17 and won't tell anyone her baby's father's name -- not even her mam, who's helping her bring up the sprog. She has left school to work in the village shop, run by the local dragon.

Worst thing I can imagine.

Maybe, maybe not. Niamh is mourning her perfect husband. He's left her rich and living in their dream home, but she's shattered. And she is about to be more so.

And no one to talk to?

Until Niamh and Ciara -- and Ruth and Liam -- join Detta O'Neill's support group for lone parents, to the fascinated delight of the village. Ruth and Liam's spouses have run off with each other, by the way.


Liam is dead solid, an old-fashioned Irishman who likes his fried breakfast and his traditional values. All he wants is Laura back and his life the way it used to be.
Know the feeling.

Socially ambitious Laura and bossy bank official James, Ruth's ex, seem perfectly suited. But there's more to James than meets the eye. Ruth is a weepy, downtrodden type who's bullied by her bold strap of a teenage daughter, and worried about her sons.

Kids? These poor souls have kids?

The kids are the centre of the story -- the Loony Lone Parents (as they nickname themselves) grow into a strong group who help each other with their children and their changing lives.

Rattling good yarn?
If RTE has any sense, it will buy this and turn it into a fab series and sell it internationally.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Today I went shopping...

... and I'm trying not to feel guilty about buying some things for myself.
I do shop quite well - I'm quite the bargain hunter and have no problem at all buying stuff for my family or my house - but for me? Not so much.
However having just had some unexpected money come my way (just a wee touch mind...) I decided to treat myself to some things.
So I bought the new Melissa Hill novel and the new novel by Sharon Owens, which I can't wait to read. And then I bought a Kimmidoll which is a gorgeous wee thing which is very girly and not at all useful but she is said to promote self belief. And I love the notion of treating myself to something like this - my writer friend Keris treats herself to something similar for every book. So, this doll represents Jumping in Puddles.
And then I bought a lovely purple dress. Which makes me look about 6 months pregnant - but considering I look 8 months pregnant in everything else that's no bad thing.

Ah Strictly....

Yes, I have a favourite already... *swoon*

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

And just another plug...

For those who haven't bought Jumping in Puddles - here is the blurb

When Detta O'Neill returns to Rathinch - a village in Donegal - she is determined to make a difference. Bringing together four lone parents for a support group which has the old biddies of the village scandalised, she tries her best to build bridges and forge friendships among her charges.
Niamh Quigley's dream of a perfect life in the country was cut cruelly short with the death of her husband Seán. A woman on the verge of meltdown but with a kitchen island you might just kill for she has to find her way again without the man she never thought could hurt her.
Ruth Byrne was left high and dry when her husband ran off with a younger woman. But could his desertion have been a blessing in disguise for Ruth and her children?
Liam Dougherty doesn't think so. His wife is the younger woman in question and he would do anything to win her back ... or would he?
Which leaves teen mum Ciara Boyle. Everyone is just dying to know who the father of her child is, but does she have a good reason for keeping her secret to herself? Apart from being parents, can the group find anything in common? Can they find happiness and confidence again? And can Detta really make the difference she wants to make?
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