Thursday 7 December 2023

Launch, Landlady Hat and Lainy to the vet....

Apologies for a long blog absence, but I know most people follow me on social media, so please do that if you’re wondering what I’m up to!

But for those of you who haven’t heard, the launch of Lainy’s Tale was great, though this year I was a lot more nervous than I usually am. Knotted stomach, fatigue, that sort of thing though there was a lot to organise and obviously when you self publish, the onus is all on you, the writer, rather than having a publisher or agent to spread the load.

However, it was my SEVENTH book launch, I realised, so I should be an old hand at it by now. The Princess Pavilion in Falmouth is a great venue; there’s a bar, it’s dog friendly, there’s plenty of parking and everyone could sit down, which is a bonus after a certain age, and friends from the Ukulele Orchestra of Constantine played in the background for us. Everyone agreed it was a fabulous venue and a lovely atmosphere.

Since then, I have been sending off books, checking Amazon sales, sending press releases, taking books to various local shops and wishing I had enough time to write.

Soon that will happen as my editor and I are having a Zoom tomorrow about my next book, Hunger. I knew it was much too long but couldn’t see what was wrong and she has some radical ideas. I think she’s absolutely right but it will mean a lot of rewriting… and a second and third book out of it all. As I said to M the other day, “At this rate, I know the books I’m going to be writing up till I’m nearly 70!”

He looked at me and smiled, said, “you’re fortunate to have guaranteed employment.’

“Well,” I pointed out, “I do employ myself..…”

In other news, I have my landlady’s hat on so am ordering cooker, new front door, new carpets and underlay together with a new paint job on the top flat ready for the incoming tenant in two weeks time - no pressure there, then…

Also, Lainy has to go back to the vet for her booster. Three weeks ago she would NOT let the vet anywhere near her, despite us sitting on the floor with treats for half an hour. This time Lainy has had anti-anxiety medication (which so far shows no sign of working), I have a pot of chicken which solves most dogs’ problems, and taking a friend to feed chicken to Lainy in case I have to give her the injection. (I believe in having PLan B.)

Wish me luck….(This picture was taken a few days ago...)

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Fringe festival and Lainy's Tale

I hadn't realised it was so long since I've written a blog post, but life has been exceptionally busy what with final edits of Lainy's Tale, typesetting and last minute edits, and all the admin that goes with that and organising the launch of Lainy's Tale, which will be on 22 November at the Princess Pavilion in Falmouth from 6-7.30pm.

I receive printed copies of the book tomorrow so that's well in time for the launch, but not in time for the Falmouth Fringe Festival which took place in Falmouth last weekend. It was run by the Writers Collective and sponsored by Hermitage Press and St Austell Breweries and a huge amount of work was put in by Sam Stone, who was there overseeing it all - so a huge thank you to her and the sponsors.

Due to having Lainy at home, and Twig when my partner arrived with her - it's not good to leave dogs for more than 3-4 hours - I wasn't able to attend many other talks, but I interviewed Jane McParkes about her cosy crime A Deadly Inheritance, and she interviewed me about The Rescue and Lainy's Tale and both events went down very well - we all laughed a lot which is always a good sign, and we had full house for both.

It was a real joy to meet other authors such as Jane, Roz Watkis, Kate Ryder, Paula Rooney, Liz Fenwick and others and I'm only sorry I couldn't attend more talks. Next year, maybe.... But a big thanks to everyone who came and I hope they all enjoyed it as much as we did.

And now it's back to more admin for Lainy's Tale, marketing and edits for Hunger.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Love is a many shaped thing

It always interests me, the fact that "Romance" is so often derided and sneered at, looked down upon as a genre of film/boook/play, when we all need to love and be loved. Furthermore, it is one of the most powerful emotions we have. People have been shot, hanged drawn and quartered (look at Henry VIII's wives), drowned, driven mad (Gaslight) and many other tortuous ways of ending a person's life when the other party involved thinks that it's over or love is unrequited, been cheated on, etc.

But enough of the gruesome stuff. There's enough of that going on in the world and I for one need cheering up. So I thought I'd look at the ways in which I, and my protagonists, experience(d) love.

First of all there was Pip. He was an interesting mixture - a solo adventurer, always lived on his own, always sailed on his own, until he met me when he was 56. Suddenly he decided he was going to share the rest of his life with me. Luckily I felt the same, though while he did, I didn't, hence my novel The Rescue.

He was a very brave man but also incredibly kind and thoughtful. Men admired him for his mad adventures, and his ability to tell a good story in the pub about them. Women liked him because he was charming in the best sense of the word. And having fallen in love, he wanted everyone to know it. He saw nothing unmanly in telling everyone about me, and would often say, "I love you this much," spreading out his arms. To which I would reply, "but I love you this much," spreading them even further - and on we would go.

I appreciate that few men are like that, but there are many ways to say I love you without actually speaking. I have so many pairs of earrings that say those very words. Meals and dresses, pairs of jeans and books.

But there are also those looks that say more than words ever could. Those tight, tight hugs. The kind gestures. Thoughtful statements. Meals prepared. Holiday paid for. Donation towards a secondhand car. Shower fitted. A hand holding mine at night.

Love is such a precious thing, and should never be derided in any form. We all express it in different ways, but every way is special.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Hunger and other eating disorders

I am lucky enough to have been one of the 46% of anorexics who have recovered. 33% partially recover, and 20% develop chronic anorexica, although these are statistics that I would take with a large pinch of salt. For anyone who is anorexic, or is caring for someone with the disease, I would urge you to read Hadley Freeman's excellent account of her own journey, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia.

So much of it rang true for me, and I realised a lot about my behaviour, even now. It's taken me many years to be able to eat in a restaurant (and I still often panic when trying to choose what to eat). I find it difficult eating with friends, though my circle of Friends I can Eat With is growing now, I'm glad to say. There are so many things that stood out for me, and this book has given me a greater understanding of my fears and insecurities. So I would urge anyone - maybe everyone - to read this book.

I ordered it from the library in part out of curiosity and in part as research for my novel HUNGER which will be out next year. I wanted to write about what it must be like as the mother of an anorexic (god forbid) but also the daughter, so we have Jess's diaries, written to her dead father. I wanted to give some insight into what this baffling and terrifying illness is like, and to give hope that there is life after anorexia. It was tough to write, but I hope it will be worth it. (There is also a love affair and plenty of dogs, by the way, so it's not all doom and gloom.)

I've also come across Hope Virgo, another recovering anorexic, who is behind the BAN THE SCALES campaign and is visiting Number Ten and having talks with other government departments as well as BEAT, the eating disorder charity, to try and make sure there is more help available. At present, if you have an eating disorder and need counselling or any in-patient treatment, there just aren't the beds available, and people are dying.

So this might be a depressing topic, but it's one I feel very strongly about, and I believe that the more people know about eating disorders, the more understanding there can be, and more help for those that really need it.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Balancing Act

Life is often a balancing act, I find. Trying to keep a good work/life balance or just good life balance can be really hard. And there are always those times when life tips me over, and I wobble on the tightrope, trying very hard not to fall off. I do, sometimes, and it can take a while to get back on again.

Bonnie Garmus, author of Lessons in Chemistry, gave a very good talk at the Poly in Falmouth a few weeks ago, and she said she found humour was a good way to add lightness to those dark moments in her book. (I find humour a lifesaver - where would we be without seeing the ridiculous in life?) Of course we need balance in our books, too. I wouldn't want to read a book where it was all gore and guts, or where nothing ever happened, or the characters were too black or white. And she achieves an excellent balance of underlining the importance of women being treated equally, celebrating women's excellence as well as their frailties, and wrapping it all up with some really engaging charcters, one of which was the dog, Six Thirty.

As a dog lover, and one who writes from a dog's point of view, it was gratifying to see how many of the audience adored Six Thirty - and if you did, there's a chance that you will LOVE Moll and Lainy in The Rescue and Lainy's Tail....

Elizabeth, the protagonist in Lessons in Chemistry was short on friends at the beginning of the book, but made her own "family" out of her select friends. And this made me think, as I often do, how vitally important friends are. My friends are my support network, and I value them all so much, so I hate if ever there’s been a misunderstanding, which there has been recently. Hopefully, we can restore that balance before too long.

On another writerly note, I went to the launch of The Red House by Roz Watkins last night, and what an amazing evening - as well as a Red House cake…!! It was lovely to meet some new writing friends and celebrate Roz’s new book in style.

So here’s to life balance, good friends and good books…

Thursday 1 June 2023

Books, writing and gardens - the importance of all three

One of the lovely bonuses of being an author is meeting readers, and other writers.

This morning I had a text from someone I met through our blogs. She lives in Penryn and is a very talented gardener, and wanted to buy a copy of The Rescue, so I said I'd drop one round as I sing in Penryn on a Thursday morning.

And what a fabulous time I had. Her oldest daughter is an avid reader and writer, and sat and scribbled with quiet determination while we had tea sitting in the garden. Having talked a lot about books and writing, we turned to gardens, something I've come to late in life, but I find it a really lovely antidote to sitting in front of a computer.

It's different from walking, which is about being in nature, but sometimes exploring, often with friends, always with Lainy. But growing stuff is almost meditative, I find, and I can see why my dad got so much pleasure from growing all our veg as well as loads of plants. At the moment The Fella and I are growing spuds, onions and carrots. The former two look good, the carrots haven't deigned to make an appearance. I've also planted broad beans which are, touch wood, looking quite healthy. The perpetual spinach isn't looking very perpetual at all, however, and the rhubarb disappeared without trace.

It was fascinating having a guided tour round Lou's garden - she knows so much - and I left with several Californian poppy seedlings. I then got home and Mel gave me some sunflower seedlings, so I've had a happy half hour potting them all up and feel content in the sunshine.

Now it's back to editing....but as I start again at Chapter 11, I am thinking how lucky us writers are to meet other readers, and writers in the making.

Wednesday 3 May 2023

Great Expectations or Hope but Never Expect

(I can't take credit for this photo as it was taken by a friend, but it was taken in Falmouth, so I'm sure he won't mind me using it.)

The trouble with high expectations is that they are not always met. And, of course, the higher they are, the more unlikely they're met.

Take a successful first book/album/poem/photograph/tennis match* (*fill in with whatever you will). Having a huge success earlier on can be crippling, for how can anyone live up to phenomenal success like that? It's a huge pressure, and enough to kill any creative instinct.

Similarly, but looking at it from the recipient's point of view, if you've read a lot of brilliant reviews/seen trailers/read comments online, the chances are you will have formed an opinion or expectations of what you're about to see/read/whatever. This has happened to me several times recently, with books that I'd really been looking forward to. In several cases, I really enjoyed the writers' previous books and was looking forward to getting stuck in. Opened the book and after a few pages, I wondered if I was reading the one which had been the topic of so much hype and enthusiasm. I checked. I was. So it must be me. What was I not getting? Perhaps it would get better after a few chapters? And so on.

Last night we went to see the film of Harold Fry. I loved both Rachel Joyce's books in this series and will watch anything with Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton in, so I knew I would love it. Admittedly the seats were uncomfortable, and it was cold in the cinema, so rather than losing myself in the story, which I'd been looking forward to, weeping copiously as normal, I shifted from side to side. Put my coat back on. Wondered what the time was. Whether I should nip to the loo now or later? You get the picture (sorry, terrible pun). And while I enjoyed the film I wasn't knocked over sideways as I'd expected.

Now a lot of it might be one of those phases I'm going through where I struggle to really get lost in a book. Actually no, I've just finished "Lessons from Lucy" by Dave Barry which I think should be compulsory reading for anyone over 50. Brilliant and wise and so funny. But I digress. A friend told me, several years ago, "Hope but never expect" which is very wise but can also be difficult.

So maybe the motto of this post is - Don't believe everything you read online (of course). But also, maybe, look out the lesser known writers/films/artists. (I've recently bought a few prints from lesser known artists and love them.) They are often just as good if not better. And you can have the added satisfaction of being the one to bring their work to a wider audience.....