Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Next Big Thing

Yes, I have blogged!

And we can thank lovely Irish writer, Johanna Leahy for this auspicious occurrence as she’s nominated me for ‘The Next Big Thing,’ a blogosphere initiative where bloggers reach out to new readers, introduce you to some of their favourite writers and reveal a bit about their own writing before passing on the baton again… You get the gist?

In her own words, Johanna describes herself as a "Serial-expat, ambitious writer, living in Kuala Lumpur with 3 kids, 4 guinea pigs, and a Danish husband. Obviously not in order of importance." She's currently working on her second novel, “The Stolen Child”, a story set in two time periods – the 1960s and contemporary Ireland. It's about a young woman forced into a Mother & Baby Home to have her baby, the child ultimately taken against her will to be adopted in the US. Forty years later, her son, whom she has kept a secret, turns up on her doorstep. His appearance has far-reaching consequences for the two sisters who didn't know he existed and for their mother who has never recovered from losing him. It sounds just my cup of tea!

Johanna also invited our mutual friend, Sharon Naylor (talented writer and very funny blog alert) whom we met on an Arvon course a few years ago so we're blogging alongside each other today. Sharon is working on her debut novel, Legal Ade, the story of Adrian Pritchard, a hapless man who has long suspected that life as he knows it might well be over. He is overweight and hypertensive, the family business is teetering towards bankruptcy and his wife has run off with a biker. After a disastrous break at a French spa he forms an uneasy alliance with two women. Carol and Angie are temporary exiles from a tough London estate. They have many secrets, not least those large men with violent tendencies on their tail. After being mistaken for their accomplice Adrian is forced into events he doesn’t understand, and it all seems to hinge on exactly who and where is the mysterious “Frank”. As the differences and similarities between he and his companions emerge, Adrian realises with dread that it might be up to him to save the day. But he`s not sure he`s up to it…

And so now on to my questions:

What is the working title of your book?
Ahh, straight away I’m smiling. This novel started off as ‘Living in the Past’ but following a couple of adverse comments about the title I changed it to ‘Mothers Love.’ However, this year I sent it on the Romantic Novelist's Association New Writers Scheme and my wonderful reader said it wasn’t strong enough. It needed to convey the long-held family secrets and maybe have the word, ‘past’ in it. So guess what? Yep. ‘Living in the Past’ is back. It just shows you should trust your gut instincts, although don’t be too surprised if an agent or publisher changes the title anyway ;-)

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Can you believe, Nicky Campbell! I’ve always been fascinated by people and their lives; where they’ve come from, what shaped them, and the paths they have taken. Having a very complicated family set up and past myself.(For more see THIS blog.)I’ve enjoyed watching the series ‘Long Lost Families,’ hearing the tales of how families are torn apart and how sometimes people keep secrets from even those close to them to protect them, and themselves. And I’ve always wanted to write a ‘gritty’ novel. I adore the writing of the ‘Angry Young Men’ – the likes of Stan Barstow, Allan Sillitoe, Nell Dunn etc and anything that resembles kitchen sink dramas, and so the two aspects gelled together well.

What genre does your book fall under?
Commercial Women’s Fiction. A section of the book is a war-time romance but it definitely isn’t romantic fiction. It has the theme of love running throughout but it’s about many kinds of love; the love between mother, daughter, father, lover and the nature of truth and the fierce drive to love. I’d like to position it as a Book Club read.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’m afraid I don’t see Hollywood actors in any of the roles. My main character would be easy to cast if the wonderful Dame Thora Hurd were still alive. I can hear her voice narrating the story of the old lady as she lies in a hospital bed looking back over her life but Maureen Lipman would be my second choice. The ‘young' Maggie just wouldn’t work with Anne Hathaway’s version of a Yorkshire accent (sorry – I loved her in ‘One Day’ but the Yorkshire accent was none existent) so I’d want authentic, spirited, feisty Yorkshire characters like Helen Baxendale for the lead and seeing as her husband, 'Bertie,’ is from Sheffield I reckon Sean Bean would be perfect. Well, any excuse for a photo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Living in the Past is a love story but it’s also a human story about how families can sometimes hide the biggest secrets from each other; the lies they tell to protect others and themselves and how secrets, however well intentioned, bring only pain but how forgiveness transcends all hurts.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three months. Trouble is that was three years ago and since then it’s had three further re-writes and I’ve ground to a halt over the last eighteen months since I’ve been crippled by writer’s block.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Hmm. I’m not sure. I would like to think if you like Louise Voss or Elizabeth Bucan, you’d like this but in all honesty, I think the reason this novel is different is because I’ve found my writer’s ‘voice’ and simply written the kind of book I enjoy to read. So I’d probably best let the reader decide.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Easy. My Nan - the most formidable, difficult, but kindest, biggest-hearted lady you could imagine. Oh yes, and a very complicated past. Also I spent my formative years in Pudsey, Leeds, so everything about the novel lends itself to a Yorkshire setting – wartime, life in a small town, textile mills, back to back terracing, and Yorkshire people and how they call a spade a spade.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Nostalgia. Life in the Second World War. Growing up in the sixties and seventies. Yorkshire folk. And making you think about people and what makes them do some of the things they do.

When and how will it be published?
One day. I hope. I’m fortunate to be over the first big hurdle and already have an agent waiting to see the finished MS. How lucky am I? I met Jane Judd when I came second at the Festival of Romance Convention New Talent Award in 2011 but as I mentioned earlier, since around that time, writer’s block has hindered progress due to personal circumstances.

Well, I think that completes my questions. Sincere thanks again to Johanna for enabling me to talk about Living in the Past. It’s a rather special novel and I still get a huge buzz writing about it so the hunger isn’t lost to see it through to fruition once my head has cleared. And to Sharon for keeping me company today (and sometimes in the wee small hours on Facebook!)

In the meantime I’ll keep working on my other novels and non-fiction ideas but for now, pass the baton to my chosen writers who all have the potential to be 'The Next Big Thing. We are all sisters in words. And so it goes...

Check out their blogs and watch out for their ‘Next Big Thing posts:’

Where to start with fellow Romaniac, Laura E James? Rock. Kindred Spirit. Dear friend(even when she gives me a kick up the butt!) Laura is knocking on the door of publication and I don't think she'll be long until it opens.

Next is the gorgeous Nikki Goodman, a fellow member of the Romantic Novelist's Association New Writer's Scheme who I've become friends with and is an extremely talented writer. Oh yes, and we share a mutual love of wine too!

And last but by no means least is a cyber friend who I haven't yet had the pleasure to meet - Sue Jackson. Sue's a writer and journalist and has written several novels which she is seeking representation of. However her latest novel, FOUR LEFT FEET was awarded Highly Commended in the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance in November 2012 and is currently being read by a literary agent so she really could be The Next Big Thing!

Until another day
Bye for now

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Through the Wilderness II - Life as a singleton

I know there’s no need to make excuses for my sporadic blogs but it’s hard being a single parent, trying to juggle everything, especially with my health limitations.

The best way to describe life is domestic chaos, although that hasn’t changed much from when the ex was here as he spent all week in London and I had it all to do then. But in addition to the housework, washing, ironing, mum's taxi duties etc, these days there's also house and car maintenance, re-cycling trips to the tip, lawns, hedge cutting, getting the wood in etc, and I’ve yet to master how to put up a curtain pole!

Having main parental custody of my sons I confess there are times when I crave to sleep for a hundred years or run away – perhaps to somewhere spiritual like India. Of course I can’t. This is my lot and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And it’s only as I write this I see the progress over these last eighteen months. I no longer play sad songs or go through old photos, crying and wailing. In fact, I’ve found it helps not to look back too much. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ve learnt from the experience but refuse to dwell. Feeling sorry for myself or being bitter won’t help. Living in the past is corrosive and every minute spent picking at the scabs of old wounds is time wasted on ME and my life and plans, and moving forward.

There are no regrets that I gave my ex his first chance six or seven years ago when he had his first affair. I have no anger or bitterness towards him or his girlfriend. Any tears I shed are not over him. Best of all I feel free; happier than I have for some time that I no longer have to look over my shoulder or play second best. There’s no more feeling insecure or as if I’m going mad. I see the positives - I’m in charge of the remote control, can keep the electric blanket on all night if I wish and eat what I like when I like. My ex wouldn’t let me have a second dog so guess what I did when he left?

Yep, I got a second dog, courtesy of my dear friend, Snailbeach Shepherdess,and he’s the best thing we've done. Meet 'BRUNO'...
Sadly our old boy died a few weeks later but Bruno has helped fill the gaping hole he left for all the family.

Perhaps it’s the indecent amounts of red wine I still consume (some things never change) but I don’t seem to beat myself up anywhere near as much as I used to. I accept I’m only human, even though on occasions I’ll put my knickers on over my tights and don a Wonder Woman top! The house isn’t a show home. The lawns may not be perfectly coiffed like they were in the ex’s day. I might not be a good mother but I’m good enough. I do my best.

I manage my days by keeping busy and focused. I have personal goals - something to work toward and to look forward to. Just for me. You might have seen the challenge for World Arthritis Day I just completed (click on the Arthritis Care avatar at the top of page for details.) After all, a dream is just a wish without a plan. Most of my goals concern being published, especially the hope that one day when my novel makes it through the slush piles, the first thing I’ll do is hire myself a gardener and I'll force him to work so hard, he'll need to take his top off ;-)
Well, what else do I need a man for, other than to cut my lawns? Thank goodness for Ann Summers, that’s what I say! ;-)

Anyone reading this, facing the same predicament I found myself in eighteen months ago, please be reassured, it does get better. It’s not always easy manoeuvring the path of the singleton but if you stay strong and determined (and maintain your sense of humour,)and take every experience as a lesson from which you can learn, you will get there. As I’ve said before, the best revenge in life is to live well. Do the best you can. Be a fighter. You can survive. And you will come through this all the better, wiser and stronger. I promise.

Until another day


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Through the wilderness - part one

I know. I know. I haven't posted a blog for so long.

Guilty. But I also know you'll forgive me...

At last, almost eighteen months on, I think I'm getting there. I actually catch glimmers of the girl I used to be...
I knew she was there. Somewhere.

Next week I'll do a post about the trials and tribulations of being a singleton again after twenty-two years, how I'm faring and pushing onwards and upwards. But today, I've posted over on the Romaniacs blog All about how I'm progressing through the wilderness with my writing and managing to battle the writer's block that's crippled me for these last months...

See you again very soon
Until another day (next week)
Bye for now


ps - click on the highlighted Romaniacs word in the text or the gravatar on the side bar to visit the Romaniacs!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Finding 'myself' on-line dating

I've given myself one hundred lines as punishment for neglecting my blog:

I promise to write a blog soon. Life has rather got in the way but I'm getting there.

I promise to write a blog soon. Life has rather got in the way but I'm getting there.

I promise to write a blog soon. Life has rather got in the way but I'm getting there...

I'm sorry. I will write a blog soon. I know you understand.
In the meantime, I've managed one over on The Romaniacs Blog telling all about my experiences of on-line dating!

Why not grab yourself a cuppa and come over and see us. It is Friday after all, and the chocolate digestives will be waiting, if my Romaniac buddies haven't got to them first!

Until another day
Bye for now


(click the link above or the Romaniacs gravatar on the side bar to head over...)

Friday, 30 March 2012

Dear Writers. Can you Help?

It appears I’m suffering a huge dose of writers block.
Any advice or inspiration you could give would be most welcome over at The Romaniacs Blog
(Either follow this link or click on the Romaniac avatar on the right.)

Thank you!

Until another day

Bye for now

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Mother's Love

They say truth is stranger than fiction. If I wrote the novel of my life, no one would believe it.

About ten years ago, I had a letter out of the blue from two sisters which threw me into emotional turmoil. They had discovered from my mum that I existed and were desperate to let me know they cared and wanted to keep in touch. They went to extraordinary lengths to track me down.

However for me, pursuing contact with them meant considering a relationship with my mum and, at the time, Nan was still alive and it didn’t feel right. I didn’t bear my mum any malice. I knew she must have had her reasons for giving me up, but I had my own family and didn’t want my happy, secure life unsettled. Eventually I decided it was best not to open any ‘cans of worms’ and chose to leave the door on the past firmly closed, and turned my back on them all.

Nan brought me up from the age of two as neither my mum nor dad wanted me. Or that was what I was led to believe for forty years anyway. It wasn’t until Nan died eight years later and I saw my dad for the first time since I was a teenager, that I discovered things were not quite as I’d thought…
Mum gave me up because they’d split up and she was very young, and couldn’t cope. She thought I’d have a better life with Nan. And something else I didn’t know was that a couple of years later, when my mum wanted me back, a big custody battle started which made Kramer versus Kramer look like a walk in the park! Both my mum and her new partner, my dad and his new wife all went to court to fight for custody. In the end Nan won and legally adopted me. After that, she stopped my mum's visits as she thought it unsettled me. A few years later, Nan told my Dad I didn’t want anything to do with him, and that we were moving away to Leeds.

Hearing these revelations from my dad were devastating. All those wasted years. All that time of thinking my parents didn’t want me. But it was my sisters I couldn’t stop thinking about...

I'd always known about them. When I was about nine years old I remember visiting my other Nanny and Granddad and my mum being there with a toddler and a baby in a carry-cot. She hugged me to her and cried and cried, and I wondered why she had given me away yet she’d had two more daughters.

My sisters were innocents in it all too. I dug out their letters which I’d kept from all those years ago and found their children’s names and my sisters married names, and I started to imagine what they were like and if only I could see them through a one-sided mirror, like in a police station. After about a year of obsessing about them, I decided to try and look them up.

Oh, the power of social networks. It didn’t take long to find them on Friends Re-united and Facebook. Then my best friend persuaded me to send them a message. A couple of hours later, their simple two line response came back. They were so pleased to hear from me and would LOVE to keep in touch. Within two weeks of being FB friends we spoke on the phone and less than a couple of months later, they travelled to South Shropshire to visit just a couple of weeks after I had major surgery.
Having met the girls, I wanted to contact my mum and ask her some questions. We only wrote one letter each before we spoke on the phone. A couple of months later, I met her for the first time. We laughed. We cried. Mostly she kept hugging and kissing me, unable to believe we'd found each other again.

That was last February; just over a year ago. Since then, mum and my sisters have been over to stay. I’ve been back to Hull (where I originated from) to see them and met their families. We speak every week and text each other most days.

When I discovered my ex’s second affair last June, they gave me unbelievable strength and support. His first affair, seven years ago nearly destroyed me emotionally and some of the decisions I made then to stay with him then were based on all my old insecurities. Pain and knocks to my self-esteem were preferable to rejection; my Achilles heel. But second time around, the old demons are gone and now, as well as having the best friends in the world, I have a mum and my sisters (as well as my dad, and a half-brother and sister and their families.)

I consider myself truly blessed and know I’ll never feel loneliness again. Part of me regrets that I missed out so many years of having them in my life but hey, it’s funny how things work out, isn’t it? Our relationship is natural. It feels as if we were never apart. Perhaps having children of my own helped me understand why mum made some of the decisions she did and understand how difficult it must have been for her. It’s taken a couple of years to come to terms with Nan’s actions too, but I've forgiven her. I owe Nan everything and had so much love and attention, I never felt disadvantaged for not having a mum or dad. Life would have been so very different had she not taken me in and adopted me as children’s homes in the 60’s or 70’s were not the best of places. Nan simply protected me, (and herself, of course.)

My sisters tell me mum has changed over the last year or so too. She is happy and carefree. Her eyes smile when she laughs these days because she’s free of the burden she carried for all those years, overjoyed to have me and my boys in her life again. Her family is complete.

There is nothing like a mother’s Love, and my Nan’s. How lucky I am to have had both.

Happy Mother’s Day to them, and to mother’s everywhere.

Until another day

Friday, 9 March 2012

I'm looking for Mr Right

All is revealed on The Romaniacs blog. Come and help me find an ideal man there, will you? (Click the link above or on the Romaniacs gravatar on the side bar)
Until another day Bye for now xx

Friday, 24 February 2012

It's me, me, me

I have the pleasure of being the last of The Romaniacs to reveal myself today. The Romaniacs are a fab, supportive group of aspiring authors and we're all members of the Romantic Novelist Association's New Writer's scheme. So please come and check us out if you haven't already, and give me some moral support ;) I'm blogging about dreams and determination...
Bye for now xx PS - Here is the link for The Romaniacs

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Apologies for my absence

I am still here, albeit positioned somewhere between the rock I crawled under a few months ago and the girl you now see frenetically waving above the parapet, trying to keep afloat. Ok. So I could give a hundred reasons why I haven't blogged for such a long time, but for those who follow me (is there anyone still out there? lol) you will know I'm a positive kind of person and I'm not going to blog and moan and depress you all with my woes of the last few months. Suffice to say I survived my youngest and my birthdays, the divorce process, various flare-ups, Christmas, New Year, my wedding anniversary, our old Labrador being put to sleep, my eldest being finished at work, three weeks out with some variation of the flu, and Valentine's day...
Monday 20th February is Decree Nisi day. Six weeks and one day thereafter, I will be a divorced woman. I am back! Almost. In the meantime, if there is anyone still out there who gives a jot, or anyone who's found this blog because you're a wannabe writer, check out my band of merry, rookie RNA writers - The Romaniacs
As well as my friends and wonderful family, these girls have got me through the last few months. So if you are in need of some inspiration or support, check them out. I WILL be back... Until another day, (hopefully not too far away.) xx