Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I am sitting in the mountains looking at blue skies and snow. It's magic but I shouldn't be sitting I should be skiing....the best laid plans and all that. I twisted my knee in a way it wasn't meant to go yesterday so I'm off the slopes and just looking at the beauty around me.
Liz Fenwick grinning through the pain!

This is not all bad as I have more edits to do on A Cornish Affair which are due mid January, which is now looking very close...

So even bad things can have positive outcome (we do this in our novels all the time!).

As I write this, I am hoping that as 2012 closes and 2013 begins the future will be filled with good things for us all. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

A double Xmas tree for us this year!

Or “god fortsättning as we say in Sweden!  That literally means “good continuation”, which is a bit weird I guess, but I suppose what they really mean is a continuation of the Christmas cheer and I’m all for that!

Just because the massive meal has been consumed and the presents opened doesn’t mean the fun is over.  To be perfectly honest, the time after Christmas is one of my favourite parts.  I don’t think I really relax until Boxing Day when I can finally stop cooking and rushing around, and just enjoy.  Enjoy the peace and quiet while family members who are no longer over-excited check out whatever they were given.  Enjoy leaving everyone to fend for themselves food-wise (we have enough leftovers to feed an army I should think!).  And enjoy some me-time - sleeping, reading or watching the DVDs I got.  In fact, just chilling.

The weather outside is typically British – rain, rain and more rain – but it doesn’t matter.  I have my family around me, the house is nice and warm and I don’t need to go out (apart from dog walks, but even those are short since my dogs don’t like to get their paws wet).  I may have suffered just a tiny pang of envy when my mum told me they have more snow than they know what to do with in Sweden, but although it would have been prettier if the lawn outside had been white, I don’t really mind that much.  I definitely don’t envy them all the snow shovelling they’ll have to do and I’ve never been very keen on winter sports either (too lazy).

It’s been such a busy year for me, I almost feel guilty for not doing anything and just sitting still.  But it’s wonderful at the same time and hopefully it means I’m refilling that well we’ve talked so much about on this blog.  I refuse to think about my own writing at all, leaving it to my subconscious for now to turn over plots and characters without letting them bubble to the surface.  Instead I’m concentrating on other people’s books and so far I’ve read two that have been waiting in my TBR pile for ages.  I thoroughly enjoyed them both, and I have a teetering stack of more waiting ... total bliss for a bookworm like me!

I hope you’re all chilling as well, enjoying the leftovers and lasting Christmas cheer.  I wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year for 2013, the Chinese year of the Snake!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Today I have to bake a cake.

It's my son Fecklet's* birthday this weekend, and like the very popular and utterly spoilt rotten kid he is, he's having not one but two parties, which means he needs two cakes. Today I'm making a chocolate sheet cake with chocolate icing, and Saturday I'm making vanilla cupcakes with jam.

I have done a lot of cake baking since becoming a mum, and especially over the last two years since Fecklet has started school. It seems that cake is required for nearly every school occasion, and last summer I won second prize in the PTA Bake-Off with my Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream, which was to be honest one of the greatest achievements of my LIFE, so I now find that I have a bit of a reputation to uphold as a baker.

Even so, I'm beginning to think it's become an obsession. When I look back over my Twitter feed and my Facebook profile, I don't see photos of parties or shoes or my kid: I see pictures of cakes that I have made. Lots and lots of cakes.

only second prize. I was robbed

whoopie pies (Maine style)

my Extremely Pink birthday cake

I even coloured this sugar myself. such a nerd

cupcakes for girly weekend

obsessed! I am obsessed!!

(It's really no wonder that I've also had to take up running.)

Anyway at this point you are probably thinking I'm going to discuss how baking a cake is like writing a book. But you know what? Baking a cake is NOTHING like writing a book. When you bake a cake, you have a recipe. You follow it. And then you have something nice to eat. The whole process takes a couple of hours and is quite relaxing.

When you write a book, there is no recipe. You take horrendous chances and a lot of the time you are terrified. You spend a year of your life on it, pouring blood onto the page, and at the end, you may or may not have something that you ever want to show anyone. It's very hard work and is not relaxing in the slightest and you don't even have any cake to eat at the end. Instead you have to proofread it.

I'm pretty thankful I don't have to write two books for Fecklet's birthday. Cake baking is way easier.

*His real name isn't Fecklet. I'm not that weird.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stories...and being late

I was supposed to have posted on Sunday...sorry. Christmas and stuff...

Over on my blog I was talking at little bit about the new Peter Jackson film of The Hobbit (which I LOVED) and the lovely Sue Guiney comment that for three years attending the new Lord of the Rings films had become a family ritual for them and that had me thinking about how stories read, told and seen bond families together.

It can be the antidote about Grandma having too much sherry and face-planting in the trifle, which makes the family howl with laughter with just he words sherry and Grandma (no, it never happened with us but ask me sometime about the rental car in France...). So this is an example of something that happened, was shared, repeated and enjoyed.

But thinking about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings...I read them in my early teens and found an early opportunity to share them with my children. Then had the opportunity to 'see' them with my kids, creating a tighter bond between us. I know each one of us takes something different from the stories but we share the experience.

I love how telling stories, reading stories or seeing stories can unite a family or even strangers. Yesterday in the cinema there was a conspiratorial air as we all took out seats...we were there to become a part of something, to leave the everyday and be swept away....simply magic.

As we are in the season when one of the greatest stories is celebrated, I hope that the season binds you tighter to your loved ones and that you share the love with the world.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pre-Christmas Creativity

I'm a day late with this, because when I went to post this yesterday I found Anna's post so moving I thought it ought to stay up an extra day.  And my own post felt very trite in comparison, but here goes ...

As an author, I guess I come under the heading of “creative people”, even though I’m only making things up in my head.  But I’ve always admired those who do some form of art or crafts, and would love to join their ranks, at least occasionally.  That must be why, in the run-up to Christmas every year, I suddenly have the urge to be über-creative and do things with my hands!

The itch starts at around the end of November, when I dig out the little Christmas tablecloth I started embroidering about four years ago (or was it five?).  I was all enthusiastic to begin with – I always am whenever I start a craft project of any kind – but as it took much too long and wasn’t finished for that first Christmas, I lost interest and have only added a few stitches each year since then.  So I get it out again, determined that THIS year is going to be the one when I finish it off.  (Trust me, it won’t be.)

Then it’s time to send out the Christmas cards, and I think “wouldn’t it be nice with home-made ones, perhaps a collage with the dogs in Santa hats or something?”  But as the dogs won’t sit still with anything on top of their heads, I can’t take the photos I want and the whole idea goes down the pan.  I don’t even contemplate any other form of card-making after that because I know it will look amateurish and I’ll just bin the lot and head for the charity shop to buy cards.

But there’s always the baking – my absolute favourite part of Christmas preparations (and that's a craft too, isn't it?)!  Saffron buns, Swedish gingerbread cookies, cranberry bread and sweet aniseed loaves.  Now these I do finish (although an inordinately large proportion of the dough for at least two of those things ends up inside me before they reach the oven).  Is there anything more wonderful and tactile than dough?  And the great thing about baking is it doesn’t have to look perfect, it just has to taste good!

Making Christmas candy is next, of course, another task I love.  It brings back memories of cooking with my grandmother who was ace at anything in the kitchen.  And it’s extremely satisfying when you have boxes of Christmas treats stored neatly in the fridge, don’t you think?  Then they’re ready for when I finally get to relax after present opening and read a book from the pile that will (hopefully) have been brought by Santa.

Last, but not least, there is the present wrapping.  I may have admitted to mild OCD in past blog posts, but when it comes to wrapping, it turns into full-blown obsession.  I can spend hours selecting just the right box, paper and string for every present and even though I know they’ll be ripped apart in two seconds flat, I don’t care – I so enjoy making them look pretty!

None of this has anything to do with writing really, but I think all this creativity might unlock the author part of my brain at the same time.  There’s a lot of time to think as you sew/bake or whatever and it’s relaxing too.

So now you know what I’m doing for the next couple of weeks – hope you’re all enjoying the preparations too!

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Very Big Thing

Well, actually he's Quite Small, but Hugely Enormous in impact on our lives.

We're adopting a little boy.  He's two.  We met him last week, and he came home to live with us yesterday.

While I know we're actually the same people we were before, I don't feel the same.  Up to a week or so ago, I felt flawed and broken, set apart from other women.  Incomplete.  I felt defined by the number of years we'd been trying to have a family, the surgeries I'd had, the injections, the examinations, the embryos who'd perished, the so-early-they-barely-count pregnancies I'd lost.

Sometime last week, in between saying thank you for a bogie he'd passed me, laughing at Daddy being commanded to sit and play building block towers, changing a poopy nappy and exclaiming appropriately at Peppa Pig, someone hit the reset button.  Suddenly, almost overnight, I didn't feel like a woman missing something, but I woman who'd unexpectedly, undeservedly, been handed something Extra.

I still find it hard to shake off the number of years thing.  As of my birthday next April, it will have been ten years.  Count them.  TEN YEARS.

But that's only a number.  He's a whole little boy.

And that's a Very Big Thing.

(The above post is very much my own feelings and perceptions, and not meant as comment on ANYONE else!  Sadness - and happiness! - is always personal.)