Where Next?

There’s a lot of displacement activity going on to avoid editing my new book, I’m afraid. Every day, I promise myself to pick it up again. Tomorrow, I will do it. Promise.

This morning, it was so beautiful that we had to take a walk before the rain set in. Then it was time to put away the garden furniture and clear more of the garden, mindful that this will be the last time we do these things. If all goes well, I keep having to repeat this phrase to myself.

The house we have chosen will suit some of the furniture that I had thought of recycling, so I am almost done with putting items on gumtree and freecycle. With charity shops closed again, it would have been difficult to manage this move without freecycle and I really enjoy giving something to someone who wants to look after our old treasures.

So what are we in the process of buying? I can now reveal that it is a Victorian village school. When I wrote Ella Midnight and the Mystery of the Missing Nose last year, (which has acquired a second 5* rating I notice recently, despite no marketing), I never expected to buy a school in the next village to where the book was set.

I understand that the house comes with the old school punishment books. They will be interesting to read. I wonder if they will inspire another story?

Let me add some context to the picture you may have conjured in your mind of a couple of dark dreary classrooms and a toilet block set across a small yard. Yes, our lounge is one of those small classrooms, with parquet flooring, a large wood burning stove, a double-height ceiling and a large rounded gothic window. Old school bookcases line the gallery above. I am so looking forward to having my own personal school library after decades of work as a school librarian. I mustn’t get carried away. It’s small, a miniature library, but nevertheless …

Aside from the lounge and gallery, everything else is super modern with an enormous kitchen dining, living area overlooking the garden.

I suspect that the garage across the yard, which is not suitable for vehicular access, was, in fact, the toilet block. I has odd levels inside. It’s large and has storage rooms off. Could it be converted into more accommodation or perhaps a gallery for local artists’ work? That’s an interesting prospect. With the broads only 5 minutes walk away, I can see lots of opportunities for new paintings and photography arising.

I have to stop myself from dreaming too much. Until the papers are signed, it’s too dangerous.

40 West Somerton Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from Dreamstime
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A New Beginning

Lockdown again. We could sink into a feeling of will anything get better? It’s been a horrible year in so many ways. However, last week showed that change was possible. What a nail-biting week it was – for us in more ways than one.

Yes, the presidential election was the most important positive result for the world in the last four years. We are allowed to hope again for decency to return, for the climate, for healing, as Joe Biden so eloquently said, for human rights. If only we had the same hope in Britain. I worry that we will sink lower before we can hope again here.

For us, personally, we made a quick trip to Norfolk to beat lockdown and house hunt. Our house sale is progressing and we faced moving out in January with no clear idea of where we were going to live. A property came up on Sunday that made my heart flutter. I have seen loads of bungalows which all look fairly similar. Was this what I wanted? Being consigned to drifting into a safe environment, winding down, becoming dormant. For my husband’s sake, I thought it was. His health is more precarious than mine.

Our son-in-law had other ideas and began to talk us out of that mindset. So we viewed four properties on the Monday. A 1930s police house which held reminiscences for my husband as he grew up in one. It left me cold, a square brown box where the ground floor did not work and never could. Next, a modern dormer bungalow with two upstairs rooms. Spacious and overlooking fields but next to no garden. A garden is important to us both and there’s always the threat of creeping development taking the fields away and encroaching on the property. Third, we saw a large 1970s timewarp at the end of a country lane. It was cheap and ripe for renovation, said son-in-law. True, but not by us. I could see through the avocado bathroom, the heavily patterned wallpaper and carpets – it had never been decorated since it was built, but it could never flow as a house – it was too badly designed from the outset.

Finally, the one that popped up on my phone on Sunday. Reader, I walked in and fell in love. It lies on the other side of this wind turbine, only a mile from our daughter. We can walk down country lanes and across fields to visit. The sea is a mile away, the broads 5 minutes walk away. I can’t quite believe it, but where I was almost dreading leaving my home of thirty-five years, a house we fell in love with also, now I am excited. I sense a new beginning. You can wait until next time to hear about our surprising new home. In the meantime, all my fingers and toes are crossed to see if it works out in this time of uncertainty.

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What a Difference a Month Makes

Wow! Four weeks on my new medication and I have no pain. While walking is still a little slow, I have a new lease of life. Steroids have given me a big boost but when the dosage reduces will I feels as good? I hope so.

The diet is progressing although no further weight loss as yet. As steroids make you put weight on, at least I have avoided that. Today I was thrilled to be able to remove a ring from my finger which wouldn’t budge in the summer, so I think things are improving and my belt goes in several further notches, another good sign.

It got me thinking about older age before the advent of the NHS and modern medicines. What a trial it must have been to be suddenly struck down with no likelihood of improvement. A grim prospect indeed. We must do all we can to support the NHS, our parents’ gift to us at the end of WW2.

I have been reading a fair few books on my wish list as the library are still offering free reservations.

Today I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Written from the point of view of Aunt Lydia, Baby Nicole and her half-sister, June’s lost child, it takes the story several years into the future. I think you would have needed to watch the TV series as well as the first book because she interweaves the story around the whole. I am wondering whether a new TV series is planned because this book may impact to its detriment if you know how it all turned out. However, I did find it an interesting read.

My new read is I am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak. While I loved the Book Thief, I couldn’t get on with his next book but am enjoying I am the Messenger so far. It is about a young man who is chosen to do good things, at no little cost to himself. It feels allegorical with a hint of Coehlo.

In the midst of reading, I am deciding what to discard after 35 years of living in a house which shortly we will be leaving. I try not to be sentimental because we are likely to rent until deciding where to live and I want to take as little as possible. Having cleared my mother’s flat a few years ago, I know that I want to minimise the headache of what to do with decades of clutter. It’s going to be a new start in every way so I need to leave the past behind. How hard would you find it? Do I really want to take a 12 setting Japanese tea set carried by my dad from Japan to England for my grandmother 94 years ago? No one wants them anymore and it’s never used. Even the tea set I bought in the 80s is never used. There are so many items that have gone out of fashion, lost at the back of a cupboard, pristine but unloved.

Which items do you never use but still hang onto for sentimental reasons?

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Growing Old Sucks

weddingIt’s a long time since I posted, almost two months. I have been waiting for feedback on my new book and was happy to have the summer off writing and editing. However, for the last month, I have learnt more about growing old than anything else. Fifty years ago, we married, so that’s quite a milestone and I am grateful we made it. Many don’t.

I used to pride myself on running up stairs and launching myself out of a chair, so it came as a bit of a shock, almost overnight, to find every movement involved preparation to mitigate pain. Standing up requires thought and once up, a weird balancing act to stay standing, then a swivel and a few stumbles before walking with a hip waddle. I realised quite quickly that I had seen these same movements from my disabled sister-in-law, a very sobering concept. Climbing stairs has become one step at a time and to be avoided where possible. That bungalow, we have been dreaming of,  looks very appealing, if only we could sell our house.

What has brought me to this sorry state, something I had never heard of, Polymyalgia Rheumatica. Luckily the diagnosis was straightforward, a simple blood test and yippee, it can be treated. Classic symptoms, which I have, are pain in hips, shoulders, neck and upper arms. For added interest, I also have pain in the backs of my knees. Walking does help, ibuprofen makes that possible. My treatment with steroids begins tomorrow, however, and this is a big, however, the danger is it may push me into diabetes. I now have the added issue of avoiding all wheat based products, including pasta and also rice and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Although cutting out bread and cakes about two months ago, pasta and rice, I have just stockpiled these in case of a no deal Brexit. A complete rethink of diet is called for. fruitI think with some guilt and also loss of the lovely golden wedding weekend, two weeks ago, when I indulged myself with rich food and wine. I will have to retain that memory of Ferrero Rocher cheesecake for a long time.

My local medical help is fabulous and I like the telephone calls from my doctor and nurse rather than sitting in a waiting room to see them. I know I have much to be grateful for, living where we do, a few yards from a promenade by the sea, shops within an easy distance, a husband who is cossetting me.

I hope the next time I post, I will have more positive news, receding pain, pounds dropping off, and a sold house – keeping my fingers crossed for that second viewing in a couple of hours. Now all we have to do is to avoid the virus. Stay safe everyone.

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Ramblings Between Edits

Although the summer seems to have gone on for ever locked as we are in our own little world, August 1st marks a turning point. The fine weather, if we are lucky will carry on for two more months. How will we cope with the uncertainty of a winter still shielding ourselves from the outside world?img_20200801_075540 Who knows? There is time still to take enjoyment in early morning walks.

At least I have had my hair cut, and very safe it felt too with masks,  hand sanitiser, visors and distancing, but I fear my pedicure next week will be cancelled following the latest restrictions.

My lovely editor sent my book back with a long list of changes. Lockdown made me too self-indulgent. I can see that now. The book will be leaner, cleaner and lighter. I had allowed a certain despondency to to creep in to what is essentially a love story. It’s still going to be dark in places. People, after all, live through difficult times, but we also need hope. Beta readers will have to wait for this improved version.

Amidst all this, we are selling the house we have lived in and loved for thirty-five years, which, in lockdown comes with its own set of rules. Viewers have to wear masks, are not allowed to touch anything, surfaces have to be anti-bact’ed before and after etc. We have to depart well ahead, resulting this week in our first trip to Arundel for months. The weather was poor and it seemed a reasonable place to walk around in cool, damp conditions. We also took a trip to Littlehampton on a brighter day, last visited on my last ghost tour. My husband had some paintings exhibited in a gallery there. He did sell one, so that’s one less of the many on our walls.img_20200729_104701

I see that another friend has the same idea to move closer to their son, in our case, grandchildren. The past few months have given us time to reflect on what is important. Although we had to give up on the idea of a year of travelling before we are totally cast out of our European freedom, we have learnt to take pleasure in small things.

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A Panster’s Life for Me.

I have been working on the blurb for my new book. This book is a departure for me because it’s set in the present day – well finishes in the first months of 2020, before lockdown. It’s modern but with references to past lives.

Having begun it more than a year ago, I wasn’t at all sure how the story would develop, how it would be structured and how it would end.  It’s a true pantser (i.e unplanned novel). It’s my favourite way of working. I like the writing to be spontaneous, enjoy working out the action on the page and letting ideas flow naturally. I have never written anything on a post-it note, nor have a plan, other than a few scribbles in a notebook. If I am unsure what I called someone earlier, I type xxxx, so that I can check later. I am not alone in working like this and have listened to talks by two other well known novelists who begin writing with no idea where the story will take them. I do need an idea to get me started and I am searching for a new one because, we could be in this ‘new normal’ for quite a while yet. A new project is out there somewhere.

The second main character, Peggy, in this new book, and the catalyst for change appeared as I was writing, and without warning. I think her story which is mostly written in the first person is amongst my favourite writing. Peggy is unable to speak after a stroke many years before. Her granddaughter introduces her to an iPad and it changes Peggy’s life. So when I found this image on Shutterstock it seemed perfect for the cover. shutterstock_1708867147The sea is also important in the novel as the action moves from the south coast of England to the east coast of Tasmania and New South Wales, with a few other places in between. Oh yes, and Melbourne gets a mention too. All the places I wish I could visit in lockdown.

I am hoping to send the book out to selected beta readers shortly while my editor does her work.

 

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My WIP has Flown the Nest

Yesterday, I pressed send to my editor. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that my new book is now within sight of being published in the Autumn. It has been read and enjoyed by one other person and will shortly be winging its way to a few other beta readers for their opinion.

I am beginning to think of the cover and blurb so it’s all systems go. It’s strange that a year ago I wondered whether I would ever have another book ready, but then this time last year, I had just said goodbye to my best friend and was watching my mother decline fast. Hard times indeed. Lockdown has been the fillip I needed to get me writing again.

I have been working on elevator pitches for my books and this one is for my latest book. Lost and lonely, a young woman sets out to discover family secrets and finds more than she bargained for, including herself.

I am still thinking of Tbluebird1he Bluebird Brooch for the title and I have found a photo for the front cover. I would like to see if the image of the brooch can be turned into the first letter of the title. It’s almost a T – what do you think? More importantly what will my cover designer think.

Considering I have done no marketing beyond the odd tweet, sales and reads of my other books have been steady. It will soon be time to move on up a gear as we come out of lockdown.

I am still enjoying my zoom sessions with my granddaughters. This week we have looked at 1950s inventions, toys of the 1970s – both parts of the school curriculum and a creative writing session this morning which had me gasping at the quality of description by the 8 year old and the inventiveness of the ten year old. Both budding writers I hope.

Next week, we have a socially distant readers’ group scheduled, the first not by zoom since March. How exciting to have some social contact again. I have been flirting with reading only because of the hideous RBdigital app which is all that the library offers. I have tried 3 books via the app, including Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light. After it had crashed and lost my page for the tenth time, I gave up. I tried it today on Chromebook instead of Kindle and it’s still hideous. However, I now have A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier and On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming in my inbox, both which I have long wanted to read, so maybe I should persevere. Wish me luck.

 

 

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Two Edits Down

The  great news is that I have completed two edits of my new novel. My editor is booked for July, so hopefully the book will be ready to launch later this year. I will be sending it out to a few beta readers to guage their reaction.

gold pen on journal book

Photo by Jess Bailey on Pexels.com

This book is a departure for me because it is set in 2019 with a few flashbacks to previous eras. I have found it quite liberating to write about the modern era. There is always research with any novel but not so in depth with a modern one. In some ways this has speeded up the writing process.  These last few months of concentrated work have made me fall in love again with writing, after a fairly barren year last year. So along with further editing, writing a blurb and thinking about a cover, I will be trying to work out a new project. While travel is off the horizon for the foreseeable future, this seems like a plan.

Marketing, however, has taken a back-burner, in that I have done none. It’s amazing and gratifying that I am still selling books.

The zoom teaching is going well. This week’s project with the elder granddaughter was to write a newspaper article on the moon landing of 1969. I img-20200618-wa0000have now got the hang of how to share screens and work out the lesson plan with that in mind. My husband is going through a steep learning curve but he managed a lesson on Pop Art. I wonder what next week’s session will be.

By chance, I managed to buy Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell for the knockdown price of .99p instead of £8.99 on kindle this week. I am a third of the way through.Hamnet: SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION by [Maggie O'Farrell]

If this book doesn’t win every prize going this year, it will be a travesty. The writing is superb. I am absolutely loving it. I remember reading the Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and found it haunting. I will now try to read other books by her. She is a talented lady.

I have tried reading books offered online by the library service through RBdigital and given up because the software is dire. The formatting of the books is terrible, when you turn a page, it flips to random places, nor does it remember where you were. Maybe it’s kindle not liking that you are using an alternative or maybe it’s just a rubbish platform. I would be interested in what other people think.

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Creative Writing Challenge

I have been designated Creative Writing Tutor for my granddaughters this half-term. As I haven’t seen them since February, I jumped at the chance. With 5 books to my name and a sixth at the editing stage, the thought terrifies me as well. We’ll see how the first session goes this afternoon. It’s via zoom, of course. I know how technology is not ideal for children. It’s difficult to keep their attention at the best of times and I am reliably told by my youngest granddaughter that their mother is not as stern as her teachers. Perhaps I need to set some ground rules.

I have done sessions over Skype with children in India via the Granny Cloud.  The technology was often a problem but we somehow managed. We sang songs, I read stories and we usually made something together, a dragon, a spaceship or a Christmas tree out of cardboard, glue and scraps. The children were delightful and forgiving.  I hope my grandchildren will be the same.

So how did it go? It took a few false starts to connect and then sort out the sound. Something in my settings needed to be adjusted. Then we were away and I loved it. We have been waiting for their school to set a project which they haven’t done as yet. I, therefore, had to second guess what the children would be interested in. My duaghter had given me some clues.

img-20200605-wa0000I chose a day in the life of the Ice Age for the eight year old. She has to choose her character, find out about the animals, how they hunted, did they have fire to cook with, how they recorded their experiences (cave art) etc? She will create an Ice Age quiz on google drive, find out the symbols they may have used in cave art and write a page of story about her character.

For the ten year old, I asked her to write a letter to a friend about joining the Beagle as Darwin’s assistant. She went off to research the voyage and then we discussed the kind of things she might put in her letter, which she will type up and send to me.

They were both engaged, busy, with lots of ideas. I now look forward to reading the results and helping them edit.

I think the Granny Cloud organisers would be proud.

PS the school have now decided the projects for the half-term. The older one has 40, 50s and 60s. That covers a wide spectrum. The younger one has the 70s and 80s. We’ll see what guidance they give. I have lots to get my teeth into whilst I do my first round of editing for the new book.

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Reflections on Lockdown

I have read several posts about how people are taking the time to enjoy nature during this awful time. I am no exception. We who have gardens are so lucky. The thought of being stuck in a flat and worse in a tower-block flat at that would have me crawling the walls. img_20200520_155358

As we’ve been thinking about selling our house after thirty-five years and needing somewhere more manageable, this time has made me think about what is important. For me, I now know it is to look upon nature, if not my own garden, green fields, trees, the sound of birdsong and running water. We had been thinking of moving to a small city to take advantage of cultural activities and the convenience of good bus services. Now I would gladly live in a field or by a Scottish loch, as long as Supermarket deliveries are within reach.

The only noise I can tolerate above silence when writing is birdsong. Unfortunately, I sit here surrounded by builders. Two neighbours have chosen this time to have new patios or drives laid, resulting in angle grinders, hammers, drills and men shouting at each other above the noise. As soon as that is finished, the builders have returned to finish the house renovation behind which was abandoned a few weeks ago. Why is the screech of seagulls bearable but the constant thump of a hammer makes you want to scream?

img_20200520_142733Seaside walks are generally calming if taken in the early morning or late evening when dodging cyclists and dog walkers is easier. The prom is barely wide enough for 2 metres distancing at times, but people are generally trying their best and patiently waiting for people to pass safely. Yesterday, canoeists, sunbathers and swimmers made a comeback and the world felt normal. The beach wasn’t crowded, it rarely is here, another thing to be thankful for.

Last night we walked around eight o’clock and it was one of those special, magical evenings. The sea was a shimmering blue,  an opalescent jewel meeting a band of smoky pink on the horizon where the setting sun shone on white windmills far offshore, making them look like tiny lollypop sticks in a bowl of candyfloss. It’s hard to think of moving when you have moments like that. Perhaps we never will.

 

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