No, it’s still not finished…

Things have been busy, and strange, and sometimes, strangely busy. Perhaps I am making excuses? Either way, the WIP is still awaiting the first stage of completion. Soon, I promise myself; it is coming together.

In the meantime, we’ve been to Devon, and had a lovely weekend of doing not very much apart from lolling in a hot tub with a glass of red while watching the swallows weave across the sky. I like to think that if we didn’t live in Gloucestershire, we’d live somewhere in Devon; two very different rural idylls. We did also watch the amusing culture-kitsch that is Eurovision; I have to confess to being one who doesn’t take it remotely seriously; I would rather have liked Moldova’s two-tone rapping gnomes to win.

Along with the glass-in-hand type of lolling, goes losing-oneself-in-reading, and I did. I got well and truly lost in the late 18th Century world of Dejima and Nagasaki as evoked in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and since emerging, have been wondering what on earth I might read read next. To immerse myself immediately in everything else David Mitchell has written, would I fear be a distraction too far… indeed, since writing that last sentence, life itself has been a distraction too far – I’m completing this post over a week after I started it <hangs head in shame>. Well, I say ‘life’, what I mean is someone else’s life, 8 years or so of Stephen Fry’s, to be precise. Having read The Fry Chronicles – out now in paperback in a bookshop near you! – I have since stepped back in time with Colette’s Cheri… but I will be girding the metaphorical loins, and writingwritingwriting. I bloody well must.

In the meantime, the inestimably lovely Claire King has posted a wonderful cheerleading post that has filled me – and a GREAT many others –  with heart and hope and other helpful words beginning with H.

I’ll be in London for a few days over half term, with my daughter; another thing to look forward to, another thing to take me away from writing…

That’ll do.

Today I saw a superhero walking down the street

It’s one of those days, a good day that feels ever so slightly at an angle to so called ‘normal’ days. Real things feel more real somehow, and unreal things feel slightly surreal. Superman walked down the High Street, his muscle suit bulging, although the cape action was hampered by the insufficient breeze. All the people sitting outside Costa stopped talking to watch him as he passed. You see? One of those days.

So. April has been, and gone; the appleblossom is done with, the lilac is almost over. I had bunches of it scenting the whole house for days; heavenly! There are still some Easter eggs yet to be consumed; we’re working our way through those… and my daughter has at last gone back to school  – she had a very long Easter holiday, which explains why my self-imposed deadline has  been missed. Yes, the WIP is still in its formative first draft stage. BUT there are only three chapters left to write, including the one I’m writing at the moment. ALSO, I have had several moments of clarity, epiphanies if you will, those bolts of open-jawed whydidn’tIseethatbefore inspiration so invaluable to seat-of-the-pants plotters like me. So not only do I now know how it will end, but also when it will end. And I have an additional plot device to enrich the narrative detail with when it comes to the Second Draft. So you have before you a basically happy neophyte novelist.

There have been other matters that have contributed to the curtailment of writerly effort, family matters on a par with the Life stuff that scuppered writing last July. But these are now mercifully in abeyance, and that’s all that needs to be said about that. And while I’ve been writing this I have come upon a happy secret – somebody let something slip – but it isn’t mine to tell, and I promised to be discreet, but it is a truly happy secret, and just goes to show that today really is one of those days.

While I haven’t been writing, I have been reading; Lionel Shriver’s So Much For That, and now David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  If you’re looking for something new to read you could do a great deal worse than to pick up either of these titles. Both are tremendously good writers, and I have loved and am loving reading them. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Summer is rushing upon us for lack of rain and a surfeit of sunshine. And next weekend we’re off to glorious Devon again. Life is good.

Taking Stock, Part II

2010 is almost done with. 2011 almost ready to begin. And what have I done with the time that has been given to me? I’ve been angry, a lot. I’ve been ridden by the black hag-bitch Depression. I’ve had rotten miserable damned inconvenient back pain. I drove a petrol car for the first – and so far only – time – my husband was terribly brave – it was our first ever brand new car! (Yes, it’s still in one piece.) I had a wonderful time at a friend’s party, drinking Cosmopolitans, and owned up to the vodka hangover the next day. (Note to self, vodka hangovers are vile horrible things, even though Cosmos are delicious.)

What else? I’ve written a lot, I’ve been rejected – and not just by editors – a lot, and I’m gearing up to go through most of all that again. I’ve watched my daughter begin to blossom from a little girl to a more sophisticated, complicated little girl, and am much amused by her frequent exasperation with me ; ‘mu-um’ is becoming a normal noise in this house. We have a lovely time together, mostly being silly, giggling a lot. I love giggling with my daughter – there will definitely be a lot more of that in 2011.

I’ve enjoyed glorious weather in Devon, and in Bulgaria. I’ve listened to music and let it take me to new places in my head. I’ve started this blog; that was pretty momentous, wondering if anyone would ever read it, and you are, and I thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into the void. Again, I thank you.

The snow happened – I’ve had my first ever white christmas – so what if snow was not actually falling from the sky in this neck of the Cotswolds? It was still beautiful, and as long as I wear my red wellies, I don’t fall over. Perhaps they are imbued with some sort of super-power…? (Sadly the thaw has set in, and all is now sadly dank and muddy where once it was crisply gleaming white.)

I made sloe gin for the first time, and I’m drinking some now – it is truly delicious and  without the vicious nastiness of a hangover next morning. I have learned that not all friendships are equal, that not all friends are worth the wait when they say one thing and do another, make promises and consistently fail to keep them. I’m better off without them. That lesson has cost me a lot in terms of hours and days of despair; time that I’ll never get back, and can bill no one for. That makes me angry, but que sera, progress is progress, and perhaps one day I’ll achieve some sort of equanimity.

So what’s coming in 2011? Lychees. Every year begins with lychees. Otherwise the only thing I can say with any certainty is that I’ll be turning 40.

Apart from that? Who knows? Bring it on.

On regenerating those little grey cells.

Every writer needs to do it at some point, just get away from the mundanities of so-called normal life – the importance of Getting Away From It All is not to be underestimated. My day-to-day process of living largely revolves around my small daughter, so to be honest anything out of the ordinary, even for half a day, can act as a tremendous stimulus to my brain. But a whole weekend away – in heavenly Devon – and in perfect weather, has been a rare and wonderful treat indeed. In recent years the only time I’ve had to myself to escape and recharge has been the occasional long walk up a particularly steep hill. It’s a worthwhile stroll though; the view is a lovely one, even in thick winter mist. In the thick of the January snows this year I went for an eerie walk after midnight – an experience I was able to use in the fantasy work-in-progress-that-has-temporarily-going-on-for-five months-now ground to a halt. But the walk helped. Seeing the valley in which I live smothered under that silent sky, while the brook rushed endlessly nearby, helped. Saying hello to trees and hills and clouds – or last weekend, the sea – blows away those cobwebs, opens up the pokier recesses of my brain to let in the light, and stimulates the creative juices. I’ve had all sorts of odd ideas in the last few days – whether they’ll amount to anything is really neither here nor there, the simple fact that new synapses are firing their random bursts of electricity is enough for me.

Music has always been a source of inspiration. Some music I find invaluable to write to – for example Howard Shore’s Complete Scores for The Lord Of The Rings are perfect whilst writing the aforementioned fantasy epic. And new music conjures new thoughts and feelings, or a new light to see them by. One character – the infamous Bellisa – even has her own playlist. If I’m going to make any headway in the task I’ve signed up for (the one that begins tomorrow – see previous post) I’d better decide which music will suit. In the meantime, I have felt moved to make a list of four letter words, scrawled so far across three pages in my current Moleskine. I know, I know, an odd response to three days away, but hey, that just goes to show the unfathomable workings of the mind. Or my mind, at any rate.

So how do YOU do it? What does it take to kick YOUR brain into gear? What gets your creative juices flowing?