Thursday, December 29, 2011

Post-Christmas Slump?

So Christmas is all over for another year – the preparations, the excitement, the cooking and decorating. And I think I’m suffering from post-Christmas “slump”. I even thought it was Wednesday today, so I must have missed a day in between there somehow, but I’ve been rushing around doing stuff for so long now, one day here or there doesn’t seem to matter. They all pass in a blur. Does anyone else feel like this?

I enjoyed Christmas, of course I did, but it’s all over too quickly I think. All that food you cooked – gone in ten minutes flat. Presents – opened in a flash and squirreled away, leaving the tree looking a bit naked. But to be honest, I have to admit I love the preparations more anyway – the run-up to Christmas is the magical time for me. Starting at the beginning of December with the lighting of the first Advent candle, then shopping for presents, sending cards, baking, cooking and present-wrapping as well as buying the tree and decorating the house, it’s all such fun! The build-up is the exciting part, not the actual day itself.

In a way, it’s a bit like writing – the pre-writing time is so much more exciting than actually working on a novel. I love that moment when you first get an idea for a story and it starts to tease at your brain. The characters take shape in your mind and you spend hours thumbing through name books (or looking at baby name websites) trying to find the perfect names for them. You do some research, start a new file, try to think of a great title for your story. Then you sit down and type, getting carried away.

Before you know it, the book is finished and it’s all over! Post-book “slump”? Yes, but luckily not for long, because the great thing about books is that you can start another one straight away if you want to. Unlike Christmas, which only comes once a year, you can write as many books as you like – well, thank goodness for that! Actually, come to think of it, I have this great idea so what better way to beat the post-Christmas doldrums? I’d better get writing ...

Happy New Year everyone! Hope 2012 is a brilliant year for all of us!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Whatever you like to do this Christmas, whether you like to hide out from the revelling hordes......

... or wonder at the beauty of all those decorations.

Whether you think wrapping presents is sometimes more fun than receiving them.....

..... or you can't wait to get ripping into them.....

.... we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas, from me, and from all of The Heroine Addicts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas on a Deadline

I'm out of practice with writing to deadline.

I haven't really had a hard and fast one for a long time...not for fifteen years, in fact, when I working to complete Named of the Dragon to fulfill my two-book contract with Gollancz. That was the first time that I'd ever sold a book before I'd written it.

With all my other books, I've signed my contracts after finishing the manuscript, which means I'm used to writing to an ever-shifting deadline of my own creationif I need a few more months, I just re-set the goalposts and keep going, so I never have to hear that famous "whooshing sound" that Douglas Adams used to claim his deadlines made as they flew by...

But this time I signed contracts first, and so I have a deadline, and not only can't I move the goalposts, but I have to watch them getting closer, day by day.

Which isn't terrible, by any means. I love this book I'm working on, the writing's coming well, and there are few things I love more than spending time within my story. But...

It's Christmas.

And this year, since I'm working to a deadline, I've been spending more time in my writing room, and letting everything else fall behind.

My Christmas cards (the paper ones) are sitting on the kitchen table, waiting to be signed and sent. I only got the tree up this past weekend, and I still don't have my mantelpiece cleared off, so we can hang our stockings.

Normally by this time I'd be well into my Christmas movie-watching spree, but this year all I've managed is Love, Actually.

I've felt like I've been chasing after Christmas all this month. I'm having to do everything in fits and startsa moment here to wrap a gift, a moment there to put my little birch-log reindeer on the porch, but never time enough to truly catch the Christmas spirit that I wait for all year long.

And then tonight, as I was rushing out to buy, of all things, dog food (having spent the day too wrapped up in my novel to remember that I'd used the last tin yesterday), I found myself for those few minutes driving past the houses in our neighbourhood, all lit up with their Christmas lights, so beautiful against the darkness, and the radio began to play "Christmas is Calling" by Roch Voisine, and all of a sudden, well, there it was: Christmas.

The feeling I'd waited for. Fragile and perfect.

The Grinch knows whereof he speaks. Christmas will come, whether I'm on a deadline or not. So this year it may not be the wallowy sort of a season I'm used to, with time to indulge, time to read, time to visit. I'll still find it, moment by moment.

What moments make Christmas for you?

(Come back Thursday, when Christmas will be even closer, and Julie is posting.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Wish Lists

In the Coady Clan we still write out Christmas lists for what we want for Christmas. This is a way to ensure there are none of those useless presents every year and that everyone gets what they want. Every year from the age of 8 until... *mumble mumble* I have had a pony on the list. It is the leftover Christmas wish of my younger self. It is the continuity and also the family joke that I am sooooooo deprived because they never bought me one.

In fact below is the list they got this year (including my commentary)

"Hello Dearly Beloved 'Rents

I have made my list and I've checked it twice. I KNOW I'm ALWAYS NICE!

So here goes (you might see some familiar requests from previous years)

1. BOILER - monetary donation (new in at number one this year)
2. PONY (this is a seasonal favourite - comes round every year much like Cliff Richard's 'Mistletoe and Wine')
3. Noise cancelling headphones (a trend for these seem to be creeping into the Coady Clan but proved their worth during some building work)
4. Rigby & Peller Gift Certificate (an uplifting addition to any Xmas list)
5. Sherlock DVD (BBC remake from last year) (new in this year but sure to be a regular returnee as long as the BBC keeps making them)
6. Bones - Season 6 (an old favourite - the Xmas tree would be lost without it)
7. NCIS - Season 8 (nothing says Xmas like Mark Harmon saying 'Ya think?' - be still my heart!)
8. Vintage Dress Clips (a sparkling entry at number eight) 

9. Kindle Light (to keep my reading going even in low light - i.e. when Mummy makes me turn my light out)
10. Filofax cover(Malden/Finchley/Aston) - Pocket sized - red, brown or black (going retro in my stationery) 

That is my top ten. If anything changes I'll let you know.

Love your VERY NICE daughter

But what do I truly want for Christmas? What is on my REAL Christmas Wish List?

I think it would read something like this:

"Dear Father Christmas,

I know we haven't spoken for awhile. Are you well? Back still giving you jip? 

If you happen to be in my vicinity on Christmas Eve I have rather a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with your name on it. Have a few glasses, tell a few tales... interested?

Oh and if you are in the area if you could just, maybe, if it isn't too much trouble... see your way to the following:

1. A Literary Agent (you know if you just happen to have one on the sleigh)
2. A book deal (they sometimes come with agents in a bulk buy scheme)
3. A film deal (I know this is a bit out there but what the hell... yes I have already been at the sherry why do you ask?)
4. Benedict Cumberbatch (in for a penny in for a pound! *hic*)
5. World Peace
6. Cure for Cancer
7. Rich man (if you can make number 4 rich it is a toofer)

Love and kisses

What would be on your Christmas Wish List?

Come back on Sunday to find out whether Susanna has been naughty or nice

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When A Book No Longer Belongs To the Author....

Now this is something I had been warned about...once your book is out in the wide world, well, it's no longer really yours. Your book becomes the reader's book. They create a 'new' book by bringing their experience, reactions and emotions to it.

So now THE CORNISH HOUSE is beginning to wend it's way out into the world via the uncorrected proofs, I am in a state of unease.What are people thinking? Love it? Loathe it? Killing themselves laughing at the typos....there are a few humdingers in there...

DH has read the book - and thank God he loved it. He would say that, but I have also known him long enough and well enough to know if he was lying. The best bit about him reading the book was to finally be able to discuss it with him. When he finished the book he stared at me in shock and this is what has been going on in your head...Umm, yup. He has had to look at me differently. He became caught up in the story and found it hard at time to remember it was his wife who wrote it. This, of course, is good.

It was also interesting to hear his thoughts as he knows the landscape of the book so well. He placed things in different locations, different pubs when I hadn't used a name, and responded to some characters and actions in an interesting manner. So he has proved a test case for me....

DH is not my first reader, but very few people have read the book...even some of closest writer friends haven't. I had never really thought about it. My mother has read it twice...helping with the typos and I think consumed by curiosity...what was her daughter saying. So DH is the first person to read it for pleasure without any other purpose....and now the list grows.....gulp. I need to let go and focus on the next book. I needs to be better than THE CORNISH HOUSE...the joys of being a writer....

How did/do you feel when you release a book into the world? As a reader do ever think that your version of the story will be different that of the writer's? I suppose in a way when a film is made of a book we experience this.....someone else's take on the 'our' book...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I want to fall in love ...

No, this isn’t an announcement that I’m about to divorce my husband or looking to replace him in any way, I promise. But I do need to find a crush because if I don’t, I can’t write my next book.

Like many other authors, I base my heroes on a real person’s looks, although obviously I make up their personality to suit my story. And just as in real life, it’s seeing them for the first time that gives me the biggest spark. Like falling in love but in an imaginary way. If I’m lucky, just the sight of this potential hero triggers a scene in my mind, which becomes the basis for the rest of the story. If not, I can at least use this instant crush feeling when writing about the hero and heroine meeting for the first time. And falling in love ...

Sure, I have an archive of photos I can flick through and I also have a pin board next to my computer with lots of pictures of possible heroes, but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Right now, I need to find someone new, a man I’ve never seen before, but who will set my mind off on an imaginary journey where he’s the hero and I’m the heroine. Someone who sets my pulse racing and makes me tingle all over when he looks at me (even if I’m only pretending he’s looking at me of course).

Actually, that’s not quite true – sometimes it works if I see an actor in a new role at the cinema, one where he’s different from normal in some way. Take Johnny Depp for instance – I loved him in the film Chocolat and could happily have based a hero on his character in that, but he didn’t do it for me in any of his other films. Then along comes Captain Jack Sparrow and “wow!”, there’s the spark again.

Some actors are definitely chameleons, while others play much the same role in every film (like Hugh Grant). That means of course that the Hugh type is only good for one starring role in my novels, whereas others can inspire me over and over again. Right now though, that’s not working either – I need someone brand new.

So does anyone have any recommendations? Any films I absolutely must see over the Christmas holidays? Please let me know because until I find him – THE ONE – my next book just isn’t going to get written.

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reasons to Write #2 - Pyjamas

Lately, while hibernating from writing, I've been thinking about the reasons we write (and the reasons we don't).

Lying in bed this morning, contemplating a day-job-free day, I started thinking about what attracted me to writing as a job of work. Certainly something about balance, which I've blogged about before. There's something there about creativity, too, which I'll blog about before long, and something about feeling connected, which is an odd reason for such a solitary profession, but which makes sense to me personally.

But this morning, writing from a netbook propped on my knees, which a cat either side of me, and one UNDER my knees (under the duvet!) I started thinking about pyjamas.

Lovely things, pyjamas.

Soft, squidgy, supremely touchable and huggable. Relaxed. COMFORTABLE.

I have long found it odd how much we'll put up with dramatically uncomfortable outfits in pursuit of style and glamour. I like pretty as much as the next gal, but at the end of the day I'm focussing on two things: getting OUT of the bra, and getting IN to the slippers.

And pyjamas.

I would quite like a job where the closest thing you get to 'office-wear' is a set of py-jams. Balanced, of course, by the occasional need to get glammed up for an RNA party.

That sounds like perfection to me, right?

So, okay, so far in Reasons to Write we have "Balance" and "Pyjamas".

This blog series is looking good to me....

What's your favourite 'work-wear'?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

comfort zones

Crows by Vlado, at

Sometimes, as a writer, you have to step out of your comfort zones.

Sometimes this is to do with what you're writing. Today, I wrote a 1000-word article for a magazine which actually involved real facts and truthful quotations. And I am here to tell you, I have a renewed respect for journalists. Writing articles is so, so much harder than making stuff up. For one thing, unlike fiction which just comes out of your head, you can get real facts wrong. For another, unlike fiction which is designed to be interesting, real facts have the potential to be a little bit boring and you have to figure out how to present them in an interesting way. Also, in an article you need a beginning and a middle and an end, but a different kind of a beginning, middle and end than in a story.

I was pulling my hair out by the end of it.

I've written a few short stories recently, too. I never thought I could really write a short story, but then I went to a workshop led by Sue Moorcroft, who writes and sells a ton of short stories, and she inspired me. But a short story is so...short. So much depends on every word. And whilst this is wonderful for a nitpicky writer like me, it's also sort of scary.

Sometimes you have to step out of the comfort zones of your writing routines. Usually, I write whilst flying by the seat of my pants, with little idea of where the story is going to turn out. But for this next novel, I'm planning it out first by writing a coherent, and hopefully interesting, synopsis. I wrote this synopsis this week (before I wrote the article...hmm, maybe that's why I have an extreme craving for wine and chocolate). It's an interesting experience, and I think it will actually help my composition process. But...

Yup. Scary as hell.

Sometimes you have to step out of the kind of books you write, into something different. Sometimes you have to make the leap from unpublished to published author. Sometimes you have to put something aside and start something new. Sometimes you need to step out into thin air, with only a hope that you'll land somewhere good to be.

Writing is never safe. To do it, you either have to be brave, stupid, insane, or perhaps a little bit of all three.

Here's to every brave, stupid, insane one of us.