Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Midweek Crisis

It started when I was writing Her Last Night of Innocence, and the Midweek Crisis has become a bit of a phenomenon with me now. This is how the first half of my week goes.

Monday - get home from school run, look around for work avoidance excuses, clean floor, make toast, sort laundry, trail upstairs and put music on. Open ms document. Turn music up. Write.

Tuesday - come home from school run, ignore kitchen squalor and ironing pile. Race upstairs. Open document. Write.

Wednesday - Wake up thinking about book. Snap at children at drop of a towel in pre-school run madness. Come home feeling guilty and bad-tempered. Go upstairs. Try to write. Fail spectacularly. Read back over Tuesday's enthusiastic outpouring and feel jaw drop with horror at how wrong it all is. Open up new document, entitled 'Real, Proper Actual Book This Time, Not False Start no 572' or something similar and write 4 sentences on it. Stop writing. Panic. Open up another new document entitled 'Outline no.48' and begin yet another summing up of Facts, this time adding in the mini-epiphany which will alter the course of the plot completely. Or not. Hyperventilate. Practise stress-managment in the form of internet 'research'. Make tea. Search house for chocolate. Re-read everything and realise Tuesday's version was, in fact, better. Apart from wrongness. Open up new document... Repeat in a loop until school pick up time.

Why? What is it about Wednesdays? If this goes on much longer I'm going to lobby my MP to get them abolished.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Society Wife

I thought that, while I'm busy emptying out the contents of my brain and conducting a fingertip search on them to find the missing link in my current book, I'd do a little mini-post about the book I have out in the US this month. It's called The Society Wife, but if the people on the cover look oddly familiar it's because this is The Book Formerly Known As Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride, which came out in the UK in September 2009. Ages ago! So, if you're reading this on the other side of the Atlantic and have only just come across the story, you can read a bit about how it came to be written here.

I've mentioned lots of times before about how I always write to music (sorry, neighbours) and I think part of the issue I'm having with my current winmp (that's 'work in not much progress') is that I just can't seem to find songs that create the right mood. I didn't have that problem with Tristan and Lily. I loved the music I listened to when I wrote that book, and it seemed to work its way right into the story. This was the first song on my ipod soundtrack, which really influenced the mood of the first chapter.

This song was also on my playlist, and by some happy coincidence, when I watched the video on youtube I discovered it had been shot in the Barcelona square outside the church where Tristan and Lily get married, and the hotel where they stay on their wedding night. The children in the video made their way into the book.

Other songs on the list included Enigma's Gravity of Love (which mentions both towers and doves - both of which are significant in the story - and has a very saucy video) Remember when it Rained, which made me think of Lily remembering her night with Tristan, This Woman's Work by Kate fabulous Bush, which so beautifully summed up Tristan's regrets when Lily is in hospital. I have to say at this point, it's not the most cheery book, and that's definitely reflected in songs like Sia's Breathe Me, which I listened to a lot, and 9 Crimes by Damian Rice. I love this song, and when I listen to it now it always makes me think of Tristan and Lily.

Now, if only I could find similar magical musical inspiration for what I'm writing right now. The way it's going at the moment perhaps Dead in the Water by David Gray might be a good place to start. Does anyone else find music is an essential part of the writing process? And (slightly pleading voice) have you got any top song tips?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Staving off the January blues

Recently I was reading somewhere (needless to say my goldfish brain can’t remember where) about the psychological benefits of keeping a ‘gratitude journal’. Apparently the small act of writing down three small, specific things daily for which you are thankful boosts feelings of positivity and contentment and can significantly reduce stress. Now, I have slight issues with the ‘daily’ part (as regular followers of this blog might not be surprised to hear) but I’m all in favour of the stress relief thing and the increased positivity, especially when everything outside is the colour of sludge, there’s a big, Christmas-tree shaped space in my sitting room, I have a book due far too soon and all of my clothes seem to have shrunk by two sizes. Here’s my specially-extended-to-cover-all-of-January gratitude list...

  • We escaped all the horrible viruses going around over Christmas. The school car park is full of stories of turkey and Prosecco being replaced by Neurofen MaxPlus and Lemsip, and children too poorly to take much interest in whether Father Christmas had been. (Have noticed though that none of the people relating these tales have the same problem doing their jeans up as I do. So if you were afflicted with Festive Flu perhaps that might be worth noting in your gratitude journal…??)

  • I’m thankful for my sisters-in-law. I have three brothers who are married to three warm, funny, kind, talented (and beautiful, but I’m prepared to forgive them that) women who I’d absolutely want as my friends if my thoughtful brothers hadn’t gone one better and made them into family. So I guess that means I can also say I’m thankful for my brothers too.

  • On a similar note, I’m thankful for and to all the readers who email from all over the world and invariably say things that make me glow inside. (V important when on the outside skin has taken on the colour and texture of ancient parchment and only glows after two glasses of wine drunk while sitting too close to the fire.)

  • ...And leading on from that… I’m insanely grateful to all you lovely American ladies who bought The Society Wife and put it at no 2 on Borders last week and no 82 on the USA Today list. Inside positively incandescent when I discovered that!
  • Being horribly shallow, I was thankful for/excited about the bottle of Cristal Champagne He brought home from work just before Christmas. I’ve read about it, mentioned it in my own books (though can’t remember if the mentions stayed in through copy-edits, actually) and admired its pretty packaging in the posh wine shop window in town. I’m also thankful that, being a complete philistine, I couldn’t tell the difference between that and Sainsbury’s finest. I'm calling that a saving of £200 every celebratory occasion.
  • Just Dance/ Just Dance 2 on the Wii, both of which appeared under our tree this Christmas. Much hilarity, although trying to keep up with Teen Dancing Queen daughters is a sobering reminder of my age. Although, who would have thought He would turn out to be such a hot MC Hammer impersonator, or that after 20 years I'd still be finding stuff out that I didn't know about my husband?
  • I’m thankful that, due to my utter flakiness in seeing through my new year resolutions for 2010 I am saved from having to think up more for 2011. And that the house and the fridge are both empty now and, positive energy duly recharged, I can finally get down to some proper work.

So, does anyone actually keep a gratitude journal? If you did what would you put down for today?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Cold Turkey

I am trying very hard to adjust to life without chocolate for breakfast, all day drinking, mornings spent in bed, afternoons spent on the sofa watching films, and foraging for leftover-based meals requiring no planning or cooking at all. Frankly, it’s not going well. Might have to go back to bed with the box of Hotel Chocolat Caramel Angels sent to me by the gorgeous Kate Hardy until school pick up time.

I'll leave you with a picture of the gingerbread house the daughters and I spent all of Christmas Eve painstakingly constructing. (If you look carefully you can see where the jelly tots have been removed from around the window. Honestly, did my children learn nothing from the story of Hansel and Gretel?)

Happy 2011 everyone. How was the holiday for you?