In which a fat girl climbs a massive mountain, is up for an award (and rants a bit about UKIP probably)

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog of late, primarily on account of how I have been On My Holidays in the Lake District where great rains did fall from the skies, but the hotel had a jacuzzi so I didn’t really mind. Due to the blog quietness there are now a number of things that I could witter on about and I’m struggling to pick just one. Therefore, with no respect to theme or any notion of coherence, here are a number of things that have occurred:

 

1. I climbed a Massive Mountain

Between the holiday rains EngineerBoy, who, when not engaged in manly engineer type activities, likes a bit of outdoors, made me go outside into the countryside and walk about. Here’s me at the top of a Massive Mountain (which EngineerBoy, quite wrongly, termed a small hill).

Atop a massive mountain

The climbing of the massive mountain was something of an effort, on account of how I am Not Thin. However, I made it, and I realised that actually despite the Not Thinness, I’m not that unfit. All the Zumba-ing and Bokwa-ing might actually be having some effect, just not on my overall girth. Ah well, I suppose fit is better than thin, although both would be even better still.

 

2. I have a new kitchen

And it is a thing of great wonder and prettiness, at least until the first time I spill something in it and stain the worktop. After which it will be ruined for all eternity, but for now there is much wonder and prettiness and baking.

kitchen

 

3. Sweet Nothing is up for an award

See how I saved that one for third, so I could appear all nonchalant and not at all giddy about it. My debut novel, Sweet Nothing, is in contention for the Joan Hessayon Award. I’m not expecting to win. There are 17 contenders in total, so as the woman who wrote a romantic comedy about a mathematician, I have to acknowledge that 1 in 17 isn’t brilliant from a probability perspective, but I get a trip to London town where I will wear clothes that aren’t pyjamas and drink wine and get to do my best impression of a ‘nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win’ face.

 

4. There are European Elections coming up..

… in which I am led to believe UKIP are expected to do marvellously well. I find this disheartening for a whole range of reasons (some of which I banged on about previously here). The thing I mainly find disheartening though, is the quality of political journalism at the moment. It feels like nobody in the mainstream media is actually looking in detail at any of the party’s stated policies and pointing out the claims and assumptions that are simply untrue. There are some really good sites online that do this sort of thing (eg Channel 4’s FactCheck blog) but they don’t form part of the newspaper headlines or the nightly TV news, which is where most people get their information. It is all very weary-making.

 

5. And an audiobook

Back in writer land, the other excitement of the week is that the audiobook version of Sweet Nothing is now available to pre-order as a download from Amazon. I’m ridiculously excited about this. An audiobook sounds very much like something what a proper author might have.

 

So mountain, kitchen, award, elections, audiobook. Those are the things that are going on around here, along with a switch to Friday’s for my ‘regular’ blog day. At least I’m intending it to be regular, but you know what I’m like. Anyway how are things with you merry blog-reader?

In which I offer a little whoop whoop for writerly firsts

Today is publication day for my chum, and fellow Truly, Madly, Deeply contributor, Nikki Moore’s debut novel, Crazy Undercover Love. In addition to offering a general ‘Whoop! Whoop!’ of congratulation in Nikki’s direction, the occasion also made me think about the string of firsts that writers experience in their career. There’s the first time you actually finish a manuscript, the first time you have the nerve to let anyone else read it, your first rejection, your first acceptance, your first publication.

Eachof those firsts feels like a goal achieved – yes, even the rejection. And each of them – yes even the publication – is followed by a realisation that there still an awful lot more road in front of you than behind and, worryingly, it does appear that quite a lot of that road is uphill. This can be disheartening. I remember being told by quite a prominent literary agent that being a published writer was like being on a treadmill. You have to keep going and keep going and keep going, a book (or more) per year every year without fail. This was 48 hours after I’d signed my first publishing contract. 48hours. That’s how long I got to wallow in the glow of thinking I’d achieved my ambitions before being reminded that ‘life’s a journey, not a destination’ and other equally discouraging platitudes.

So it’s important to take a step off the treadmill every now and then and remember to celebrate the distance already travelled. Take a moment to celebrate those firsts when they come along, and remember to take a moment to celebrate your first second novel just the same as the first first novel. And then you get back on the treadmill and you start again, remembering how damn lucky you are to be on treadmill of your own choosing, and a relatively civilised one at that. It has biscuits and twitter, which makes it a massive improvement on being on, for example, an actual treadmill which just has sweating and the constant danger of puking up a lung.

So welcome to the (metaphorical) treadmill Nikki. Hop aboard. You’re going to love it xx

 

You can buy Nikki’s debut, Crazy Undercover Love, as an ebook from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes or Sainsburys or pre-order the paperback here. Here’s what the blurb says:

When uber-feisty career girl Charley Caswell-Wright takes on the assignment as PA to the gorgeous Alex Demetrio, CEO of Demetrio International, she’s there under entirely false pretenses; to get her life back on track. Having lost the job she worked so hard to earn, she’s determined not to give it up so easily, especially when she didn’t deserve to lose it in the first place.

Mr Dreamy CEO is her only chance of clawing back her career – and her reputation. So she has to keep things strictly professional… boy, is she in trouble!

And as always, you can buy my debut novel, Much Ado About Sweet Nothing, here. Go on. It’s Shakespeare’s birthday week and it’s based on a Shakespeare play, so why not? I’m assuming you do all theme your reading according to the random high days and holidays that are marked in tiny print in the corners of your diary, don’t you? Next week, for example it’s World Health and Safety Day. I’m sure there’s lots of fun stuff out there we could read for that…

 

In which I think about the difference between real-life and makey-uppy

‘Fiction makes sense and real life doesn’t.’ The very clever and lovely Julie Cohen has just announced that to me out of my computer (via Writers’ Web TV – she doesn’t actually live in my computer, I don’t think). And that thought set off a little ping inside my brain because I’ve been thinking about that very question of the distinction between real life and makey-uppy a lot of late.

I’m currently working with my delightful new editor on the final tweaks to Sweet Nothing, which, barring last minute delays, will be out in the world next month. And I’m starting to think seriously, for the first time, about the fact that people might read it. Realistically, as it’s a debut novel by a total unknown a high percentage of the people who read it will be friends or acquaintances. And at least some of those people are going to read my story of a bickery and weirdly dysfunctional relationship between a nerdy thirty-something year old man and an artsy-literary woman, and they’re are going to look at myself and EngineerBoy and they’re going to make a fairly obvious assumption about where the inspiration for those two characters came from.

And when they do that I will huff and puff, and get offended and bang on about how it’s obviously fiction and it’s not based on real life, and I shall probably say that it’s shows a lack of imagination to assume such a lack of imagination on the part of the writer. And when I react like that I shall be at least half right.

But actually it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Those two characters absolutely aren’t based on EngineerBoy and me. I can’t, personally, think of anything more skin crawling than consciously and intentionally typing out the details of your most intimate relationships and then sending them to a beta reader and an editor and then out into the world. I feel faintly exposed just typing the notion onto this blog. Developing and writing those characters, I didn’t start by thinking about any real people. They, and all the characters, are absolutely the product of my imagination.

However, my imagination is absolutely the product of my environment. What I imagine about how relationships work is entirely borne out of my own relationships. All the characters I write are products of my overcrowded, butterfly brain. It’s all completely made up, but I can only make-up what I can make up and that is bounded by the life I’ve lived and the people I know. So it’s kind of a circular problem. The characters I write and the stories I tell are definitely made up and definitely aren’t based on real life, but they’re made up out of my imagination, which is sculpted and defined by my real life, and round and round and round we go.

So, if you are so kind as to read Sweet Nothing when it comes out and you think you recognise a person or a place or an incident, don’t be scared – I promise that it isn’t you, or at least, if it is, I don’t know that it is, so there’s no need to feel weird. And here end my random writerly musings. I shall return soon, when hopefully Michael Gove will have annoyed me in a new and interesting way and I’ll be able to get a proper rant going. I’ve not had one of them for a while…