Friday, July 31, 2009

It has been a week of day-trips

We've been to Belfast Zoo - where all the animals apart from the wasps seemed to be in hiding.
We've been to the Riverwatch Aquarium at Prehen - where I didn't freak out at the fish despite my pathological fear of the feckers.
We've been to Redcastle - where the best thing I can say is that the children were happy. (Me? Not so impressed. The baby changing facilities constituted a work top.... is this really the best we have to offer visitors?)
We've been to the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh which was lovely and tres chic and made me hanker for life in a log cabin with a porch to set a swing on.
And we went for lunch in a snazzy restaurant.
It has been a fab family week - made perfect by reading and writing in the evenings and even a night out pass for me where I went to my parents house, got a little blotto on a bottle of wine and slept over in their spare room.
Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gratuitous baby photo

Here's the girl - pretty in pink at 21 weeks old.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The greatest reminder

I had yet another sickness bug this week - and spent Thursday getting reacquainted with the bathroom floor and the basin which was my closest companion during my pregnancy with Cara.
I felt awful. I threw up so much the capillaries around my eyes burst and gave me some interesting purple freckles.
I think, over the last four months or so, I have forgotten just how awful I found my last pregnancy. How throwing up was a daily occurence - how the sickness never really went away and how I had to take several medications just to get through the day.
I have forgotten how tired I was and how run down I was (although I can only think the severity of the bugs which had knocked me for six over the last few months has to be something to do with the fact my nutrition for the last year has largely revolved around cornettos and custard creams...).
But if there is any greater contraceptive in the world than remembering - vividly- the hell that is Hyperemesis (and believe me, it is hell) I'd like to know what it is.
Never again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Random conversations with the boy - part a jillion and one

Tonight, J asked for an apple.
Unusually he asked me to peel it.

"Mammy, can you make it baldy?" he asked....

Organised Chaos

Recently, I have come to realise that my life is lacking a certain routine and organisation.
Now, while it is perfectly acceptable to wing it for a while when you have a newborn, there comes a time when you have to pull yourself together and get some control over your days. Otherwise, it's just a long slide in a daytime telly addiction and, before you know you it, you are behind with everything – be it housework, book writing, child bathing or any such little or large things.I'm also starting to approach my return to work – something which fills me with both a mixture of joy and fear.
The joy comes with the prospect of being able to eat my lunch without a child clinging off me, the return of adult conversation to my life and the excuse to use my brain for things more taxing than remembering when the baby was last fed/changed/burped etc.The fear comes at the very thought of trying to juggle it all again.
I could juggle it with one child – just about – but with two it could all go horribly, horribly wrong.So, I decided to be very organised in advance and bought myself a diary from a company called Organised Mum which allows me to list what me and all my family members are up to and when. There is a very nifty monthly planner section, a section for shopping list and even a Christmas budget planner.
To my absolute delight there is even a section where you can write a wee "To Do" list, complete with boxes to tick when the assigned task is completed.And – as the big wain in me was delighted to discover – it comes with lots of stickers.So, on Tuesday night, delighted with my purchase and my new super-organised self – I set about filling in birthdays, marking (with stickers!) when the car tax was due and when the boy will return to school etc., I even wrote in my best, neat writing - which is not as easy as it sounds after 10 years of shorthand writing in the name of journalism.
By 10.30 pm, I was sitting, glass of wine in hand, feeling really rather smug.And yet. I could not shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. I started to run through things in my head and mentally tick things off my list. (The diary doesn't start 'til the end of August…).
All my children (and yes, I know there are only two of them and they should be easy enough to keep an eye on - but the boy in particular is a sneaky wee blighter…) were at home and in bed.
The bottles were washed . The bills that were due were paid (which made me weep a little). I had just finished the copy-edit of my third book (I refuse to miss a chance for a plug) and I was on top of reading a new book for work related purposes.My house was even vaguely tidy and the washing machine was whirring nicely in the background.This was me – super organised. Possibly the only thing I had left to do was sleep – but sleep is pretty much a foreign concept these days so it never features on any to do list – be it in paper or in my head.I congratulated myself. I allowed myself to sit back and watch some telly. (The Insiders on Channel 4 – which I can't decide if I love or hate with a passion).
In fact, it was only as the opening titles started that it dawned on me what I had forgotten and I'm sorry to say, dear reader, it was to write this column.
Since I went on maternity leave, I have dedicated Tuesday nights to column writing, so why it slipped my mind on this occasion I have no idea. Except that, perhaps, my brain has melted completely and my ordering of the Organised Mum diary was very well timed.I tried not to blush as I recalled how just earlier that evening I had tweeted (that's posted on Twitter to those who don't know) that I was now very organised and a wee bit smug.
But, when I think about it, it's no wonder. We, women, (and yes, I'm playing the battle of the sexes card once again) have so much going on, it is no wonder that, Organised Mum diary or not, sometimes things slip through the net. Between the balancing of home, work, children and other family commitments we would be superhuman if sometimes – just sometimes – things did go just a little bit wrong.
At least that is what I'm telling myself – I may not be the organised or superhuman mammy I thought I was, but I'm just like every other mammy out there and each and every one of us should sit back and pat ourselves on the back.

Sorry for the silence

I'm redesigning my blog - adding in links where you can read extracts from my books, find out what what I'm up to and just general stuff and the like.
You might find things moving about - and new things appearing - and eventually this will become my

So, forgive me for the silence - I hope it will be worth it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Random conversations with the boy - part a jillion

This is an overheard conversation between the boy and his older cousin - who was sleeping over in our house last night.
To set the scene I had told the boy he would have to wear his PJs to bed and not do his usual "nudey rudey" routine.

A (My niece): We have to sleep in our PJs because you can't see my doobies.
J: What are doobies?
A: The big things your mammy has.
J: You have nice doobies, A.

I have a strange relationship with my books

It really is a love/hate thing. When it's going well and I'm writing without even really thinking about it, I love my books. I am immensely proud of them.
When I see them in print for the first time, all with their shiny covers I feel almost as proud as I did the first time I saw my babies.
But there are times in the process when they drive me mad.
I'm just finishing yet another edit of Jumping in Puddles, due for release at the end of September.
Let me explain, very briefly, how it works - or indeed how this book has worked. First I sent the first 44,000 words down to Poolbeg when I felt very stuck and the lovely Paula Campbell suggested a few changes - which I took on board because she knows her stuff and in fairness the book was pretty ropey at that early first draft stage.
So I finished the MS and sent it down again and Paula suggested some more (minor) changes which once again I took on board and worked into the now third draft of the piece.
Then it went to the editor, Gaye Shortland, who basically scores it all with red pen and sends it back suggesting a few more changes etc. Now this is all standard. This happens to every writer. But there is a part of me that always feels like a crappy schoolgirl when it happens to me. I don't do red pen particularly well. I feel as if I'm being graded - but I push my feelings aside and work through it again and then return it to the editor.
At this stage I feel as if I have the read book 5000 times and feel a little bored of the fecker.
So then I get emails, with minor queries (What are parish savings? Where is the phone in Liam's house... small continuity issues etc) and I work through it again and then do a final read through.
And it goes to the typesetter.
And then, oh joy, I get to read it all again in a few weeks looking for more mistakes.

Now I do love the book. And I do think it is good. But at this stage it feels like a clingy child attached to my legs shouting at me for attention when all I want to do is watch Corrie in peace.

Now come the end of September when my book is presented to me, all clean in a shiny cover and well behaved, I will remember all those things I love about it and will be like any proud mammy.
But for now - just five minutes peace, please.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A little video of my babies

I sometimes look at my children and my heart fills with pride and I think "I made this"...
Other times I want to run for the hills... thankfully the nice times outweigh the tougher ones.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My wee sister is getting married today

I'm waxed, plucked and shaved to perfection.
I'm just about to head out to the hairdressers.
I have a beautiful dress hanging in my mums with perhaps the nicest pair of shoes EVER to wear (which will probably cripple me...)
I will be wearing a pair of Trinny and Susannah magic knickers which will cut off the circulation to my legs.
I have all the nicest accessories and was up to late last night packing a bag for us (baby and boy and us + day at a hotel = lots of stuff...) and making sure the children had decent things to wear and silly little things like clean socks.
I've packed spare batteries for the camera.
I have painted my nails - feet and hands.
I had a trauma finding a suitable pair of long shorts for the boy yesterday.
I may have bought a completely unnecessary princess dress for the girl.
I'm doing a reading. Which I WILL fluff, because there is a reason I'm a writer and not a reader.

Husband will put his suit on and go to the wedding.

Thus proves it is a man's world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The names are chosen

Thank you to everyone who responded...
There were so many great names and some have gone in a file for book 4 and subsequent books. Some are used in book 4 and indeed some were used in previous books.

Anyway - the name I chose was Robyn because it suited the character brilliantly.

Oh, and the edit is done.Merci beaucoup.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

There are moments which take your breath away

The boy and I decided to have a disco tonight.
We went into the family room (aka back room/ office/ toy dump) and put Spotify on the computer.
We found a few songs we liked. And I put on D: Ream's 'Things Can Only Get Better' and raved while he swung about my legs grinning like an eejit.
And then he asked me to find an Irish tune called 'Toss the Feathers' and we mock Irish danced our way through it, til we were both breathless with laughter and my pelvic floor was tested to the max.
And when that was done I found the song I used to sing to him when he was a baby and told him how I used to rock him to sleep on his rocking chair while singing it.
We played it. I sang it and he cuddled in and I thought yes, this is what being a mum is about. And there will always be room for him on my knee, even when he is man big and has hairy toes.
The song? A Case of You - as sung by Brian Kennedy with the immortal lines...

I remember that time that you told me,
you said love is touching souls
Surely you touched mine
Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wanna be my best friend?

Or at least the best friend of one of my characters in Book 3?
I've been asked to change her name from Ellen to something completely different.
Now it's over to you. You can choose your name, your friend's name, your daughter's name or make up one (A bit like in the Neverending Story when Bastian screams his mother's name to save the Empress...)

Now, there have to be a few exclusions - so can we avoid names which begin with the letter E, or names that are any way similar to the following names which are character names in Jumping in Puddles.


Character is a 30 something professional, who is lovely and compassionate.
Winner gets their name in the acknowledgements!

What worries me

.. is that it is 1.45am and I am still awake.
I am very tired, but I cannot sleep. I lie down, get comfy in bed and my brain goes into some weird hyperdrive and I feel awake. I get up - walk about a bit, start to feel tired, go back to bed knowing that the girl child will wake in approximately four hours ready to start the day with renewed vigour, lie down, brain wakes up, same thing happens etc etc.
My thought processes are simple (no smart comments at the back please)... first of all I think of the copy edit I've just started on Jumping in Puddles and which I have a week to complete - which leads me to the fact my sister is getting married in exactly one week and there is a LOT of wedding stuff to be done.
Not to mention she has two children who need looking after and I seem to be doing my fair share of the looking after while she does weddingy things which cannot easily be completed with her kids in tow.
Her daughter, who is 7, isn't a bother. She and J play together like mad thing with only occasional hysterics and falling out. Her son, who is 10 months, is a canny wee sausage. Now I'll state this here - I love him. I love the very bones of him. He is the squishiest, cuddliest, funniest baby boy in the world. But he likes to make you (by you I mean me) work for any form of positive feedback.
And he has a way of making me sing 'Wind the Bobbin Up' on a loop like a complete feckwit just to get one of his very elusive smiles.
Said smile would light up the universe so it is worth the wait... but my own baby girl (who is the most placid child in christendom) spends a lot of her time just sitting her chair looking at me with a "Sing to ME mummy" look of resignation on her face.
So, anyway, I digress.... after worrying about whether or not my ten month nephew actually likes me or merely tolerates me I am no closer to sleep.
So I decide to think about my house. And I spend ten minutes wondering what George Clarke off The Home Show would do if I gave him a cheque for 50,000. Would he be able to do anything? Feck knows, but I'd have to keep the original features in the living room and get a new bathroom. So I plan the new bathroom - and kitchen - and get ridiculously excited and wonder how on earth I could actually afford to do the work and then my brain turns to my writing once again and whether or not it is good enough to actually make me any of those lovely big cheques Marian Keyes gets...
So I resign myself to my bathroom never getting done.
And I start to think about writing - already having freaked out at the Jumping in Puddles edit I turn my attentions to book 4 - now called 'Finding Annie' and I start plotting out the next scene until I'm lost in a whirlwind of witty (I hope) dialogue and love interests and then of course I lie there thinking "I'm nowhere near sleeping, maybe I should just get up and write..." which I don't because I don't want to wake up (yes, the stupidity of that statement is obvious).
But I still can't sleep. So I give up and come down stairs and eat a Wispa (I have PMT, okay.... I needed the chocolate. Don't judge me!) and blog a little and then berate myself for not constructively using my insomniac time.
And I feel tired again.
It's 1.56am.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

In summer denial

I am wearing cut offs. And mules. And refusing to acknowledge the fact is is fecking freezing out there today. The boy is in long shorts and the wee woman in a short sleeved top (although with vest and socks and a blanket round her while she sleeps)
I have my sunglasses perched on my head - like a hair band - and I am thinking that goosebumps are the accessory for summer 2009.
Last week I lay in bed, sweltering in the soaring heat with a fan permanently pointed in my direction while a fever raged and I prayed for a reprieve from the heat until I was well again.
Well, I am well again.
So nice weather, please feel free to return. I promise not to wish you away again.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Stressed just a leeeetle

I'm having every classic anxiety dream on the planet just now.
Dreamt my teeth were falling out. I needed a wee and couldn't find a clean toilet. Was on holiday and had forgotten my passport and was driving without insurance.
All I need now to is have the "remember I didn't cancel the lease on my student flat and owe them 12 years of rent" dream to complete the set.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

This is brilliant for writers everywhere

A friend from another site (a secret site...oooooo eerrrrrr) shared this wonderful writing quote by Elizabeth Gilbert with me today.
Given my self pitying drone below, I felt it important to share this and to read it over and over.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write."

Good enough?

I'd love to know who defines what is good enough?
I'd love to know where my own personal perception of "good enough" has come from and why, after 33 years, two bestselling books, two amazing children and a host of other achievements I still feel simply not good enough.
I'm not sure what exactly I don't feel good enough for - except that there are days when it just all feels a bit pants and I wonder what I'm trying to achieve and whether or not I will ever achieve it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

I never found him sexy before...

...But now I'm mildly obsessed.

Yes, it's Dr. Nick Jordan from Casualty. Now, I wonder does he have a hairy back???

Not, of course that I like hairy backs but writing a love interest into book four (Now with the very working title of Finding Annie) I am starting to see a certain appeal to hairy men.

All this, of course - the Dr. Nick Jordan thing, the hairy back thing - could be a result of the high fever and general illness I'm enduring.

But there is something wonderful in creating a fictional love interest. Dr. Dishy in Rainy Days and Tuesdays was fun to work with - mixing in a little Luka from ER with a lovely bedside manner and a Northern Irish sense of humour.

Tom Austin in Feels Like Maybe was equally exciting to write. He was a babe. I'd marry him. Honest. And as for the dastardly Jake in FLM... I may not marry him, but I so would.... you know.... do stuff with him.

Jumping in Puddles has a rough and ready George Clooney alike called Liam and Finding Annie has a few men to choose from.

One of them might even look a little like Dr. Nick.... *sigh*

And yes, it's day 8 in the big flu house. The aches have gone. I just have a head full of mucus. Sexy... tres sexy.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Writing sex scenes is like eating a box of Pringles

Once you pop, you can't stop.
But you tend to over do it and feel slightly sick and a wee bit grubby afterwards.

More later...

Day Seven in the big flu house

And yes, Claire is still sick.
She gets bouts where she thinks "Erm, I feel an eetle bit better. I know what I'll do - I'll take an exhausted five year old to Tesco at 9pm (one hour past his bedtime) for the shop I couldn't do on Sunday as I was so sick..."
That sentence alone should be proof that Claire is still actually very sick and not at all better.
Tesco was not nice.
It was evil.
And Claire was that bargy mammy who shouts at her child and warns them they are in big, big trouble if they don't start behaving RIGHT NOW. (And Claire doesn't actually know if she shouted or whispered. Her ears are so congested that she can no longer judge the volume of anything...)
And then she nearly passed out.
And the child only grew more cranky.
And Claire ended up once again back in bed surrounded by at least 20jillion different medications (Fluoxetine for the madness, antihistamime for the hayfever, decongestant for the ear issue, antibiotic for the secondary sinus infection, ibufprofen for the pain, paracetamol also for the pain etc etc etc...) moaning once again.

All together now "oooooow. Oooooooh. aaaaaaaah".
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