Tuesday, 30 November 2010

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

...(dare I say it?) Christmas.

Oh yes. Not only is it snowing, in a charming, fluffy, Pinewood studios way but, dear blog readers, I can smugly reveal that I have survived my first assault on the shops, and even have a stash of carrier bags under the bed to show for it. Yesterday* saw the annual concert of the Young Voices Choir (not to be confused with New Voices, which I have constantly done over the past couple of months, much to the irritation of my daughters and no doubt editors and other writers to whom I've conversed on the subject of the recent M&B contest) at the MEN arena in Manchester in which the daughters’ primary school always take part. Over the years this event has become a sort of seasonal starter’s whistle in my mind; the children are whisked away to warm up their vocal chords and us mums are deposited in the centre of Manchester with an entire day and a whole lot of extremely yummy shops at our disposal. As a campaign veteran (the t-shirt worn by daughter #3 yesterday says Young Voices 2003 on it and has been worn by both sisters) I now know that it’s a mistake to slip into Harvey Nichols champagne bar too early, so held off until we had more bags than we could comfortably carry and had spent more money than we could comfortably afford (and had tried on more perfume in Selfridges than was perhaps quite sociable. But at least it meant we could spread all our shopping out nicely.)

After the shopping and champagne comes the squeezing carrier bags into the narrow tiered seats of the arena and watching 6000 children sing their socks off. I have actually used the little circling device on my computer to show you where daughter #3 was, but you can't even see the circle. She's in the last section lit by white light, next to the blue-lit one. See her? Yes, there! Isn't she gorgeous?

There's always a moment when the children start to sing and the hairs on the back of your neck rise. This year it was their version of Cyndi Lauper's True Colours that set me off. Sniff. I knew that second glass of wine was a mistake.

(I was too busy reaching for the tissues to record that bit, but did remember to whip my phone out and find the camcorder function a little later. Here's one minute of World in Union. In the corner of the screen you can see the fabulous light up balloons we took so the children could spot us!)

Anyway, after getting back at midnight last night and waking up to thick snow this morning, today has had a funny kind of suspended-reality feeling that has been most un-conducive to getting stuck into the next book, and most conducive to getting stuck into the stash of posh Harvey Nicks mince pies I bought as presents. Oh dear. (Am clearly very closely in touch with my inner cavewoman and compelled by a primitive instinct to lay down winter fat to keep out savage cold. However, since cavewomen were not burdened with the task of buying three thousand Christmas presents or fitting into jeans, I probably should pay more attention to my outer 21st century writer-with-a-deadline-and-half-a-stone-to-lose and step away from the HN foodhall bags.)

On a positive note, I have managed to do a bit of light packaging up, so books will be on their way to Kristy, Ruth, Joanne, Denise, Janette, Kelly, Joanna, Mary, Amanda and Amanda. I don’t have as many copies of Her Last Night of Innocence as I’d thought, since on closer examination the box that I thought was filled with them contained a number of translation copies too Japanese Spanish Aristocrat anyone? Or Greek Powerful Italian? If you'd like a book in any other language let me know and I'd be delighted to send you one if I have it.

Right, had better pile on a few more layers and brave Siberian conditions to go to the post office. Am already looking like a cross between a teletubby and an extra in Dr Zhivago, however. Hope I don't meet anyone I know. How's the weather with you?

*was, in fact, Monday, but since I have the kind of goldfish brain that can't retain information like how to upload stuff from phone to blog this didn't get posted yesterday. Sorry!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why Blogging isn't Remotely Like Riding a Bike

It’s funny, but when you don’t blog for a while you kind of forget how to. Lying in bed this morning, mentally running over the things I had to do today (buy hay for guinea pigs to insulate them against forecasted arctic weather, buy Galaxy Cookie Crumble chocolate for me for same purpose, work on outline for next book, hunt down missing mugs in daughters bedrooms) I realized with a tiny jolt of shock that I hadn’t blogged for ages - so long I'd kind of forgotten how to.

Usually the silence in the aftermath of a deadline means my brain has left the building along with the book and I've done nothing interesting enough to report to my own husband, never mind the blogosphere at large. However, on this occasion I don't even have that excuse, since last week I went down to London and spent a lovely afternoon drinking tea with my editor and talking books, projects, possibilities and Kiera Knightley (not sure how we got onto that subject) before going to gorgeous RNA Winter Party. Abby Green had found us a gem of a hotel in the shadow of Big Ben, a stone's throw away from the luscious library of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers where the party was held and Heidi Rice joined us for a drink and a plate of fish and chips (literally - one plate, 3 forks. Classy girls, us.) in the bar downstairs before we sashayed round there. Met up with Natalie Rivers, Fiona Harper, Sharon Kendrick as well as a handful of lovely M&B editors and numerous fantastically cool people (Hello Rachael! Hello Jude!) I had a long-awaited chance to catch up with Margaret James, whose delicious book The Silver Locket was responsible for making me so unsociable on holiday at half term. All in all it was a really good evening. (I'm choosing to blank out the painful five minutes when naughty Abby and I were completely incapacitated with giggles over some of the titles on the library shelves. Honestly. I'm 40 not 14. She is a Very Bad Influence. I'm going to get my mum to write a note saying I'm not allowed to be her partner again.)

Moving swiftly on (and assuming a serious, professional expression) I also have book news. Tristan and Lily’s story – Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride is coming out in the US in January 2011 under the far nicer title The Society Wife, and the other day the UPS man brought me a big box of author copies. So, if you’re in a part of the world where Tristan and Lily haven’t previously ventured drop me a line (including your postal address) via the website sometime this week and I’ll put your name into a draw for one of five books.

I should also mention that Her Last Night Of Innocence, which is a December release, is now available in the UK. You might recognize this as the work formerly known as The Book That Would Not Die, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog (or as regular as you can be when I only update it once every Preston Guild) you might remember how much fun I had writing it (clue: a bit less than being tied to a chair and forced to watch wall-to-wall Hollyoaks for seven months) By the time it was finished I’d lost all perspective on it and thought I might just quietly ignore its release date. However, I’m not sure that’s either very mature or, as a professional strategy, very impressive, so – heartened by the fact that it’s been in the no 1. Spot on the M&B website for the last couple of weeks I’m going to crack open the box of copies that’s lurking under the sofa in my office and a send few of those out too. Email me with your address if you’d like one.
(*Warning: Please don't be fooled by the cover. At no point do Cristiano and Kate while away the evening with a hand of cards, nor is Cristiano in the fourth form at school, despite appearing in his uniform on the front. )

My final piece of exciting news is that I have finally summoned the confidence to end a miserable two-year relationship with my last vacuum cleaner, and yesterday, after prolonged lobbying from the daughters, replaced it with one of these.

The theory was that even they might be moved to take an interest in dust-removal with a machine that’s pink and has eyelashes, but actually it’s so lovely I want to play with it all by myself. The guinea pigs will just have to shiver a while longer. I’m off to hoover under my bed.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Where was I?

Book is in. House is a mess. Outside it appears to be Autumn-on-the-cusp-of-Winter. Have no idea how or when this happened, but it's all most upsetting. In the manner of a confused elderly person I shall turn up the heating and retreat back to the world of fiction, where there are no dinner money reminders or toothpaste-encrusted basins to clean.

(Am often struck by the irony of longing and longing for a book to be finished, counting down days/nights/words to The End. And then feeling totally desolate. Ho hum. Some people are never happy.)