Monday, May 30, 2011

You know it's working when it makes you cry

I was writing the latest book last night - as part of the mega in-the-bunker rewrite - and I reached a point where it clicked.
It does that some times... writing. It just clicks. I had sat down to write that particular scene several times over the last few days and just couldn't find the right words so last night I sat down and said I wouldn't move until it was done. It was a short scene - a letter in fact - but it felt like an enormous hurdle because it had to be just right.

So anyway, I sat and I wrote, and those 300 words took about an hour and a half and by the end I was crying because the woman who wrote the letter (Betty) seemed so very real and my heart actually ached for her.

Does that sound mad? Does that sound as if I am finally losing the plot? Those who don't write don't always get how our characters can become as real to us during the writing process as if they were sitting in the same room.
There are characters from past books who have never left me. I wonder how Daisy is getting on? Did she and Dr. Dishy get their happy ending? Did Grace have another baby? Are Beth and Dan deliriously happy with baby Lucas? Are Aoife and Tom Austin now sitting in their yardin drinking a cold glass of wine while Maggie watches CBeebies in the house?
I wonder how Detta is, and Ruth and Ciara. I wonder did Ciara get the great job she dreamed of?  And I wonder how Darcy is doing... where her problems resolved?

You see, all these people they live in our heads while we are writing them - while we are shaping their lives and their thoughts and their actions that you can't just switch off.

And I don't think I'll ever forget Betty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's the perfect week

So this week It's Got to Be Perfect hits the shelves in paperback. It's a lovely book - honest. Funny, a bit risque in places, ultimately about friendship and the goals we set ourselves in life. It has a fabulous pair of pink bridal shoes and a gorgeous bridesmaid dress. And a VERY hairy man.
It also deals with step parents, and wannabe parents and scared they are never gonna be parents...
It's the most traditional "chick lit" book if I've written (if we are to put labels on things) and it was a book I absolutely loved writing. Perhaps that doesn't sell it to you... my own review of my own book. It's a bit like asking a mother to critically assess her own child.

Woman's Way did say it "really is like a hug in a book" - so that's something...

But here it is... with a gorgeous blue, summery cover and I hope you like it. And share that you like it with your friends. And if you don't like it - just keep it to yourselves, or maybe even tell a wee white lie that you did. G'wan. Just for me.

Anyway - it's released from its current resting place in a Baldoyle industrial estate on Thursday and over the next week or two will be distributed to Eason, Tesco, Hughes & Hughes, Amazon and all wonderful independent book shops everywhere.

I thank you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In the bunker

Right now I'm in the middle of pretty intensive edits of my fifth book 'The 30 Something Crisis Club' which is due out in September.
With a tight deadline and a determination to make this the best book I have written to date, this has become the most intense writing experience of my life.
I feel as if I should be holed away in a bunker sitting in front of a dozen computer screens all containing various versions of the work in progress which I glance between while swivelling on a very swivelly chair. There should be silence. And darkness. And a wee hatch which opens every now and again to allow in a fresh supply of wine and chocolate. If I smoked I would imagine I would be chain smoking through this entire experience.
Instead, however, life has to go on as normal around this mega writing fest. The full time job still needs the attention a full time job requires and my children still require the care and affection of their mother. The dishes still need washed and the toilet still needs cleaned and Tesco still needs visited once a week for supply buying purposes.

Instead of my darkened room I write on the sofa. Or at my desk in work at lunchtime. I write to a soundtrack of Fifa 11 on the DS (thanks to the boy) or Mr Tumble on the telly (thanks for the girl). I take nappy changing breaks, and baking buns with the girl breaks and driving the boy to football practice breaks.
I have a constant inner dialogue between a case of characters running in my head - which is both slightly schizophrenic in nature but also slightly exhilerating. I spent more time with my laptop than my husband. I can hold no conversation which does not include the words "edits" "book" or "gah" in them.

In the last three weeks I have written 25,000 words in my "spare" time. I am both buzzing at the thrill of an increasing word count and exhausted with the effort of it.

But this morning I sent the first 25,000 words to my agent who responded with a triple "Love it" declaration... so hopefully, just hopefully, I'm doing something just right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random conversations with the Girl - Part 2

So we're in the car and she's chattering.

C: "Mammy, my go to the doctors"
Me: "Really?"
C: "Yes. My go to the doctors."
Me: "Oh dear. What's wrong?"
C: "I'm a just a bit sad."

She's 26 months old.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Did you ever get one of those days?

You know that saying you see on novelty signs hung in taxi offices and Chinese Takeaways and the like "Good morning, Let the Stress Begin"

well today has been one of those mornings.

First of all I was woken from a lovely dream where I was Kate Middleton and was stinking rich and planning a wedding.Then I went downstairs to find the baked ratatouille I had prepared last night had disinigrated into a wee dish I like to call "smelly mulch" and had to be binned before I took a dose of the mad bokes. Then on the school run we were held up by a burned out bus smouldering its acrid, toxic smoke all over us.

Work, when I arrived, has been "interesting" - and by "interesting" I mean - stressful.

BUT, instead of falling down under it I'm going to accentuate the positive with

  • Singing in a choir - which is remarkable given my lack of musical talent but there really is safety in numbers and the craic is good.
  • My increasingly snuggly big boy who, despite being seven, still loves his mammy.
  • My increasingly funny wee girl - who this morning listened to my singing and said "I like that song mammy. Again!" which I don't think anyone has ever said before, ever, in connection with my singing.
  • Last night's episode of Glee in which Mr Schuester was looking particularly handsome. This makes me shallow but shallow works for me right now.
  • The 3lbs which I managed to lose last week - go me!
  • The 21,000 words of edits I've managed to do in the last three weeks which I, personally, think makes this book the best I've ever written.
  • The plans I am making to have my hall and landing painted which, given that the walls currently look like an aftershot from a dirty protest is a very good thing indeed.
  • I'm on my holidays soon!!! Whoop Whoop! Of course I'm holidaying in my house, editing the book, but I berluddy can't wait all the same.
  • It's my tenth wedding anniversary next week and we've not killed each other yet!
  • You, lovely readers, for being lovely.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Wigs and fake tans? Not for my girl

As the mother of a young daughter there is a fear, deep rooted in my heart that one day she will turn to me - big blue eyes shining - and say “Mammy, can I do Irish dancing?”

It’s not that I object to our national dance and I certainly don’t object to her learning how to do it. My fear, dear reader, lies completely and totally with the all encompassing culture that comes with it.

From the dresses, the wigs, the fake tans, the made up faces - there is so much about Irish dancing that screams to me that we have taken a beautiful form of dance and exploited it to a grotesque level. (I will write the rest of this column hidden under my desk awaiting the barrage of abuse from Feis mammies and dance teachers alike).

Not that long ago I watched ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ - which is a programme shown on Sky about the American beauty pageants. Children from newborns are up and carted around the States, primped and preened, taught to perform, leggered in fake tan and put on stage to impress the judges.

The programme had me cringing. I felt for the wee critters who so desperately wanted to win.

I felt horrified at how they were dressed up like mini adults in their ballgowns and wigs, with tiaras and extravagant hair pieces.

I doubt many of us will forget the images of little JonBenet Ramsey - the six year-old beauty queen who was murdered at her home in 1996. Dressed in clothes more befitting of a Las Vegas show girl, with hair teased and tossed like an extra from Dynasty - it all looked so wrong.

Watching ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ I wondered what kind of childhood these youngsters must have to spend their weekends and holidays competing and practising and trying to impress people constantly. This is no lifestyle of an occasional competition in between running about playing and having the craic with their friends. This was full on obsessive competing. At first I sagged with relief that we didn’t do that kind of thing here in Ireland. Sure we let our wains be wains, I told myself.

And then the Feis came to town again and I was reminded, by the smiling pictures of bewigged, fake-tanned, grinning dancers that maybe we do have our very own version of the American pageants. Irish dancing may be intrinsically linked with our culture and heritage but, let’s be honest, the culture which has grown around it in recent years most certainly is not.

I would have a blue canary if my daughter asked me to buy her dress at the cost of hundreds to dance in (and from what I hear ‘hundreds’ is a conservative estimate). She has natural, beautiful curls herself. If she asked me to buy a mammoth wig at a mammoth cost to make her ‘look better’ she’d get short shrift.

If she wanted clattered in fake tan I would tell her to catch herself on and come back to me when she is 16... or 30... or some altogether more suitable age for wearing make up and Fake Bake.

Children, from no age, are traipsed around the country and further afield where they dress up and dance and look for that same approval from their peers. Entire childhoods, it seems, are caught up in this Feis, or that championship and who has the nicest (read that as ‘most expensive’) dress or biggest wig.

For those who think I have a problem with competition I do not. Competition can be healthy. Our children, of course, have to learn that sometimes they will win and sometimes they will lose. But as is the case with the American pageants - sometimes it feels to me as if not enough credit is given to our young people for just “doing their best”.

Hobbies are, of course, to be welcomed. We hear a lot, again, in this city about young people and anti-social behaviour and how we should have alternative activities available for our children. This I welcome wholeheartedly - but does it have to be so over the top?

Can we not just have girls in simple dresses dancing? Can we not just show off their natural, youthful beauty and their natural curls? Can we not calm down on the competitive element and allow it to be more about having fun and getting some exercise and embracing our heritage?

We don’t need the fuss. We don’t need the obsession.

We absolutely and catagorically do not need to dress our little girls up like glorified Barbie dolls (and believe me I’m not even getting started on the hip hop dancers and their costumes because I wouldn’t know where to stop)?

The beauty should be in the dance - in the natural movement of the girls dancing and displaying their technical skills. It shouldn’t be in ornate dresses and overdone make up.

And while we are letting our girls look natural, can we let them act naturally as little girls do as well?

Let them play and have fun and, if they want to, let them take part in the odd competition.

Above all this remind them time and time again that doing their best is more than good enough and that they are successful just as they are.

Monday, May 02, 2011

No bravado... but trying again

Every few months I write a blog post and thus follows a few months of "yay, go me! I'm losing weight" posts.
I may, or may not, post a wee sidebar to this blog detailing the pounds dropping.
There may be before and during photos.
I will inevitably at some stage say "I feel as if I'm really, really going to do it this time."

This time I'm not going in with that bravado.
But I am going in.
I need to lose weight. I am, thankfully at least, still 11lbs lighter than my heaviest non pregnant weight. I am, however, erm, four stone heavier than my lightest adult weight.
Disgusting, isn't it?

Now there are certain mitigating factors

  1. I've had two babies - therefore two pregnancies have taken their toll.
  2. For the last 10 years, until very recently, I've been taking SSRIs (antidepressants) which can increase your appetite and make losing weight more difficult.
  3. I have also, due to vertigo/ migraines etc been taking other appetite increasing medication on and off.
  4. I am a gorb who loves food.
Now, if I could get a food replacement patch to stick on my skin, I would. If I could buy a wee inhaler yoke, or an electric chocolate bar which gives the same high as those electric cigarette doodahs then I would. If there was a "gorb yerself" replacement chewing gum or lozenge, I'd give it a go. If there was a Gorbing Cessation Clinic, I'd go along... but there isn't you see.
The fact is I have to eat. It's not like giving up smoking where you can survive without it. Sure the withdrawal is shite and it takes a lot of willpower but you don't need to have have a wee puff three or four times a day just to keep alive.
I have, in recent weeks considered many options. Stomach stapling. Lighter Life. The Cambridge Diet. Dukan. Gastric Banding. Celebrity Slim. WeightWatchers and Slimming World.
I should say that I believe most of these work - whether or not I think all of them are good for you is another issue. WeightWatchers is definitely a winner on all counts with me - but I just can't face it at the moment - the pointing, and the calculators and the working your life so you (meaning me) can spend more of my 'party points' on wine.
So I'm going back to a GI approach, which worked wonders for me in the past.
We shall see. I'm not expecting wonders this time. I do not dare to hope that this time I will do it. But I will try, one day at a time - one hour at a time if necessary. I am definitely looking at things one lb at a time.
So, three days in, I'm trying and there will be no bravado this time - just the odd mention of how I'm finding it.
And if I find it works, I'll be sure to let you know.
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