In which I am full of good intentions and Slimming World rice pudding

April 4, 2011 at 7:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Following on from a half-good weekend (one full day of editing*, one day of wishing I was editing whilst cooking roast lamb with a simmering migraine), I have set myself the challenge of working for one hour per day on the novel. One little hour. How hard can that be, huh? Additionally, I am once again going to step on the Wii Fit Balance Board and terrify the poor thing.

So, my day went like this:

– Get home from work, ignore kettle, ignore Jeremy Kyle, ignore washing up – pull out the Wii Balance Board and fire it up. My Mii is not so much sleeping, as comatose. When I resuscitate it, the Wii tells me comfortingly that it is my 1050th day, and that my last workout was 453 days ago. It tells me happily that I’ve gained two pounds since then. TWO POUNDS! Not bad, not bad. It also tells me that I’m obese, and it has to invent a whole new category because I’m lardier than any human being it has ever encountered. It sounds reproachful. It is not a happy bunny, not at all. Then it puts on its most disappointing noise and remarks that I’ve not achieved the target I set for myself. Quel surprise. In fact the target came and went quite some months ago. Cheerfully set myself another target for three months down the line. I’ll show it. It will be begging for my forgiveness when I return to it every day for a week, and when I am several stone lighter. It will hardly be able to detect me, I shall be that feather-light. I shall float down upon it. I shall be at risk of vanquishing gravity altogether, and floating out of the window.

– Do 16 minutes, according to the FitPiggy, of which is ten minutes on the step whilst watching Jeremy Kyle.

– collect son from school, head to supermarket, purchase bag loads of fruit and veg, and a big Persil non-bio because it’s half price, come home, half-unpack shopping, cook dinner, eat dinner, fart around on Twitter for an hour while son plays Lego Star Wars.

– and now I’m here! And I have my official Hour to spend working on my novel! And it’s 20:36 already and I’m yawning…

Tomorrow, I shall do my Hour earlier, before I get too tired or busy on other things…

* my story and I’m sticking to it

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Still procrastinating, but oh well…

March 31, 2011 at 6:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Feeling alarmingly positive today. I’ve been getting up extra early all this week with a view to getting work done at the Day Job, so that I can concentrate harder on writing when I get home… unfortunately the result of getting up at 6am (which is still 5am in old money) is that I’m ready for bed by 8pm. Nevertheless, the Day Job is going very well at the moment and it’s making me feel all shiny and buzzy with excitement, which IS going to rub off on the editing process.

I am looking forward to this weekend; one whole uninterrupted day of editing, followed by one day with a good old chunk of editing interrupted by cooking a roast lunch. I confess, though, I was looking forward to this afternoon: my son had ‘cinema night’ at the school, which meant I didn’t need to collect him until 5.15pm. Given that I usually finish the Day Job at 2pm, what did I do with these blissful three and a quarter spare hours?

– stayed at work an extra hour to finish things (didn’t finish things despite best efforts)
– went to Sainsburys and bought food and other random things
– came home, unpacked shopping, emptied and re-loaded the dishwasher, put a roast in (and why not? It’s Thursday after all), put shopping away and Farted Around (technical term) on Twitter, Facebook and various other amusing sites.

Did I open my ‘Second Draft’ file? No I did not. And I suspect Genevieve and Dylan will have something to say about it next time I’m brave enough to go in there and try and get them to talk to me.

No, really, Elizabeth – that does sound a bit mad.

The weekend beckons, full of promise. To keep myself inspired, I’ll share the first of some pictures of the beautiful River Medway…

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Back to the keyboard

March 30, 2011 at 1:25 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve had a very busy few weeks in both the writing world and in the real world (can’t quite think of the writing world as being real, yet – bear with me). I had a great time at the York Festival of Writing at the weekend and got to meet some wonderful writery people. I think it does the soul of a writer good to be in the company of other writers, if only for a short while – it certainly did me a lot of good. I met a lot of people with works-in-progress and it was very exciting hearing about their plots and what their hopes are for their novels.

If I met you there and I didn’t get a chance to collar you with my contact details, you can email me, or find me on Twitter. Let me know how you’re getting on!

The real world has been very busy, too, and in amongst all this I am trying to find time to crack on with editing The Revenge of the Tide. I must confess it’s been well over a week since I even opened my ‘second draft’ file. Whenever I leave it for anything longer than a couple of days it gets harder to get back to it – it’s like receiving an email from an old friend and wanting to reply straight away, but other things get in the way and before you know it so much time has passed that it becomes awkward to respond. I can feel my characters sulking because I have abandoned them to their world. I will need to spend time with them before they’ll talk to me again.

This is why I need contact with writery people every so often – non-writery people will read the above and think me completely mad….

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Living with the Fear

February 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve got a wonderful whole day to myself – a rare treat – and just for a change I’m not procrastinating. Well… not really.

Spent this morning holed up in Caffe Nero, my favourite Sunday Morning Emergency Writing Venue (you know I’ve procrastinated too much when I’m in there at 0830 on a Sunday), considering name changes for one of my main characters in The Revenge of the Tide.  Managed to unravel some plot issues there, too. Wrote lots of notes, along the lines of “Why?” (underscored three times) and “Where did he get the money FROM?” (underscored twice), and “What was he DOING there?” (crossed out altogether). Don’t worry folks, I’ll get there.

After that I wandered up the road to Sussex Stationers British Bookshops (which in my youth was called Bredon’s Bookshops, I’m sure I haven’t imagined that – one of my favouritest and bestest shops, and now it’s on the way out. Grrr to the economy) and bought lots of greetings cards and a couple of books.

Then I came home to a lovely quiet empty house, and I find myself contemplating things to talk about on Wednesday with Lesley Thomson. Lesley and I are speaking at the Wisewords Bookgroup at the Luxe, Spitalfields, as part of Women’s History Month on Wednesday 2 March – as well as giving readings, answering questions and generally chatting, we are going to try to keep to the subject of ‘Women in Crime’: the changing role of women in crime fiction.

I found a very interesting article from the Guardian concerning Ian Rankin’s suggestion that women writers (and, oddly, lesbians in particular) write the goriest crime fiction – I’d forgotten all about this, but it was interesting to read all about it again. In particular, I was drawn to this paragraph:

Women are simply more used to living with fear than men. Whether we allow it substantially to limit our lives or not – and the majority of us do not – being born female means that, no matter how empowered we are, we will usually be less physically powerful than the men around us. We know we are more likely to be harassed at work, on the street, or even in our own homes, than a male of similar profile to us. That remains how it is, despite all the advances that feminism has brought. And because of this, I believe that women have a different relationship to fear, especially fear of physical assault.

It struck a note with me in particular because of a long talk I had with a friend at work last week. He’s been reading Into the Darkest Corner and said that although he’d been enjoying it, he’d found it hard to relate to the main character because it’s written in the first person and she’s female. I’m summarising what was an interesting discussion with some big generalisations here, but what he was saying that, as a man, he’s never really concerned about walking (or staggering) home from the pub late at night on his own; he’s never really looked over his shoulder or worried about who might be walking behind him. He’s never really felt vulnerable.

Maybe that’s why women relate to crime fiction. We are at various stages in our lives just that – vulnerable. Facing up to the fear of what might be, what might happen to us if we make unwise choices or disregard our own personal safety just to experience what it’s like to be free of fear, is empowering in many ways. I’m starting to see a theme in my own writing, even though my two main characters so far have been very different – that of fighting back. Catherine in Into the Darkest Corner and Genevieve in The Revenge of the Tide are both vulnerable but they both have the choice of giving in to it, or fighting back…

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Grammar Pedantry

February 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

I had quite a rubbish day at work today for a number of reasons, but it all came into sharp focus when I was reading a report this afternoon. Not only had the author liberally sprinkled the text with apostrophes in inappropriate places, there were several would ofs and theirs mixed up with theres. I must admit certain grammar and spelling errors wind me up, but I don’t normally find myself spiralling into fury over it. Having read through so much of it, though, the final straw came when I read a sentence containing the word ‘consummate’ when in fact the author clearly needed to use the word ‘commensurate’. I got so cross about it I actually found my heart rate was speeding up.

Then I realised that it’s probably a bit irrational to get so wound up by someone’s (genuine, probably) mistake and that the world won’t come to a crashing end just because someone can’t put an apostrophe in the right place. So it must be PMT. This happens most months – I get wound up out of all proportion by something ridiculous, then I finally work out that it must be my chuffing hormones again.

Ate my way through half a box – a BOX – of Cadbury’s Flakes. You know, the ones that are supposed to go on top of ice creams. I didn’t realise it was possible to eat Flakes aggressively, but now I know. Anyway, that should do the trick…

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It’s been a mad week…

February 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Here I am, up on cloud twenty three, wondering if I’ll go up any higher, or whether I will just float gently back down to earth at some point…

On Monday the new Amazon Rising Stars for the first part of 2011 were announced – and Into the Darkest Corner is one of them!  It’s taken a while to sink in, but this is a tremendous honour and a huge vote of confidence in my debut novel. The progress of the Rising Stars depends on the number of positive reviews, so if enough people write reviews on the Amazon website the book could potentially win ‘Rising Star’ of the year! So if you’ve read it – and this is probably not the only time I’m going to ask you – please go to the Amazon website and write me a nice review! The books I’m up against all look like real corkers, so I sense it’s going to be a real challenge to beat them…

On Tuesday I was in London for Into the Darkest Corner’s launch party. Oh my, what a fantastic evening. Admittedly I’d managed to pack the room with just about every friend I could find, so I did have quite a supportive crowd, but I was a shaking bundle of nerves as I got up to read the passage we’d selected. It was hard to find something suitable that didn’t give away too much of the plot, and yet was still exciting and dramatic… and of course the exciting and dramatic bits in my book have all either got rude words in or rude bits. So I was very worried I would struggle to read it, or – worse – be overcome by a fit of giggles. Fortunately I got through it all right. And everyone clapped. Once I’d got down from standing on the sofa (shoes off) the nausea I’d been suffering from all day magically went away, so I really enjoyed the rest of the evening! It went very quickly indeed and it seemed like only moments later that people were saying goodbye…

We had a very nice final glass of champagne toasting the success of the book and then D and I headed back to Charing Cross with the lovely Jess and the lovely Mr Woodrow Phoenix… caught the train home, in bed by midnight, couldn’t sleep for ages, too excited.

Worn out at work the next day, but fortunately was mad busy which made the day go quickly.

Friday’s good news, as if all that wasn’t exciting enough: a really good book review by Sue Magee at theBookbag.co.uk. It didn’t start off too promisingly, since she doesn’t think much of the cover and she’d never heard of me (who has?) but it was just lulling me into a  false sense of insecurity because after that she said “within ten minutes, I couldn’t put it down”. The summary of the review says that Into the Darkest Corner is:

A powerful novel which deals with obsession and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Absolutely superb.

She gave it four and a half stars. This is very good. I am beside myself really, more than anything because her review showed that she really ‘got’ what the book is all about – not that it’s difficult to get into, or obtuse – but I was never sure whether readers would just get the general sense of fear and being trapped, without the rationale of the OCD which lies behind it. So thank you, thank you, thank you Sue Magee, you made me very happy!

And now here we are at the weekend, and I am back with a couple of hours to spare which I’m going to spend researching pole dancing and boat renovation again…

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Pole Fitness Level Two and Three

January 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm (Uncategorized)

As I can’t go to my usual class on Tuesday, I ended up going to Sunday’s class this week for pole fitness – which also gave me a chance to stay and observe the Level 2/3 class which follows on immediately afterwards.

Must confess I didn’t feel hugely athletic on Sunday – not that I ever do – but I’m glad I went now, not just because it gave me a chance to meet some other lovely Ladies Who Pole but also because I got to see what’s around the corner for those who make it to the end of the beginner’s class. Oh my goodness. I got a real appreciation for dancers in clubs and competitions because they make it look so effortless, when actually it really isn’t. Although the ladies managed to make moves like the Iguana, the Barbarella and the Angel look elegant, getting into them took some doing and I was glad I was just sitting there watching rather than posing at the top of a pole hanging on with nothing more than the skin of my inner thighs. There is also the dilemma faced by everyone, namely to chalk or not to chalk? No chalk, and your grip slips and leaves you splat on the mat before you’ve completed your spin. Chalk, and the friction between the pole and your palm makes a noise like the gates of hell opening up.  Sweaty palms are definitely not an advantage.

As for posing inverted at the top of the pole – you’ll know you’ve got there when you can do it without gritting your teeth…

I sat on my mat at the back of the class and drew little stick pictures of all the moves and poses – they happen at a much faster rate in the Level 2/3 class, let me tell you – and looking at them this morning some of them look anatomically impossible.

Ladies, if any of you are reading – thank you so much for tolerating me watching you all off-puttingly from the back of the room!  As a reward for all of that hard work I’ll share with you a video of a performance by Jenyne Butterfly. I recognise some of the moves from the Level 2/3 class, which means, ladies, that you are not far off being this good.

In other exciting news, tomorrow is the launch party for Into the Darkest Corner… ridiculously excited about this. It’s going to be such fun!

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The Office of Letters and Light

January 27, 2011 at 10:02 pm (Uncategorized)

What a wonderful name for an organisation…  The Office of Letters and Light (OLL) is the not for profit company behind NaNoWriMo, and therefore directly responsible for me having written a book in the first place. I have a lot to be thankful to them for.

Anyway, they are extra-lovely now because they have featured me on the OLL Blog today!

It’s been a very exciting day in lots of other ways too, but I’ll save that news for now… watch this space for more…

 

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It’s all about the girth (apparently)

January 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm (Uncategorized)

At the risk of inducing titters in the audience, last night I was discussing pole width with Jane and Louise, the lovely pole fitness instructor ladies.

Apparently, it’s not about the size of your pole, it’s all about the girth. Poles in clubs are wider, which makes them easier for sitting on, but not quite so good for grip – since you can’t get your whole hand around the pole.

Control yourselves.

Actually I didn’t realise quite how dodgy all this sounded until I innocently broached the subject over Tea Break at work this morning and got several raised eyebrows. (Good job Matt wasn’t there really as I’m sure he would have had something to say about it.)

Following this of course we had further discussions about using the skin of your inner thighs to grip the pole, how dangerous it would be in these circumstances to have your flaps out, and how a wider pole could therefore be more advantageous from a gripping point of view.

And I shall say no more about that.

Last night at pole fitness (having once again almost killed myself with the warm up; there were bits that my legs just couldn’t do. I don’t know why. I told them to do the bendy-knee-to-the-floor-and-kick-back-up-again but they just flailed about) the ladies who pole did this amazing thing where they started with a Carousel spin and somehow turned around and morphed into a back hook spin, whilst still going in the same direction. Was mightily impressed.

After all that, I did actually do a little saunter round the pole, and whilst it was very nice, I did look silly and I won’t be doing it again. Probably.

 

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A very posh fish-finger sandwich

January 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Had a productive weekend, as is often the case whenever I write a To Do List. I invariably end up adding more things to the bottom of it than I actually manage to tick off, so these lists are often more trouble than they’re worth – but I felt better for it this weekend, anyway!

One of my ‘ticks’ was a little research visit to the Brands Hatch Thistle hotel. We went there in between visits to Morrisons (breakfast) and the Asda Stuff Shop (random stuff we actually don’t need, but it gave Son a chance to play the DS game he already has on a DS which was bolted to a display unit, and Husband a chance to stand for upwards of twenty minutes and stare at displays of electrical cable) – so not exactly en-route, in fact it was probably a 25 mile round trip – but it was a nice little visit nevertheless.

We partook of some massively expensive (having just had breakfast in Morrisons cafe, I should point out) but very nice drinks and sat and took in the general atmosphere. As part of my research, I needed to know whether the Gents’ toilets has a condom machine in it (I daresay they do usually but it was important to check) so I sent Husband in there on a research expedition and he came back to tell me that there is a general vending machine in the area outside the lavatories which also has things like toothbrushes in.

Which has made me wonder how many people find themselves unexpectedly staying the night at this place, which is in fact a reasonably smart establishment (selling fish finger sandwiches for the princely sum of £11.50 each).

I mean, such a vending machine would be useful in, say, a motorway travellodge or somewhere you might find yourself if you’d been stuck in a traffic jam for five hours and were too tired to continue with your journey – and therefore hadn’t come armed with a toothbrush and other essentials. But in a posh hotel?

Or maybe the vending machine is there for those poor souls who have come away for a planned conference or a wedding, open up their overnight bag only to find that they have forgotten to bring a toothbrush, or razor, or Pack of Three. And, to be fair, the hotel is pretty much in the middle of nowhere so you couldn’t just nip out to the nearest supermarket and buy your missing items there.

Ideally, I need a nice hotel somewhere en route between London and Rochester. The Brands Hatch Thistle, nice as it is, isn’t strictly speaking on a direct route between the two places; if there was a hotel at Bluewater, that would have been ideal. But there isn’t. Fortunately, though, the Brands Hatch Thistle serves a further purpose because it’s a smart place, and, perhaps more importantly, the restaurant is called Genevieve’s. This coincidence in itself means that the hotel has earned its place in The Revenge of the Tide.

Genevieve's Restaurant, Brands Hatch Thistle Hotel

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