Archive | August 2009

The White Cuckoo lays another egg

I have some news about the Cuckoo. Remember, it’s the novel I wrote in a crazy, manic attempt to banish the writing blues during May this year? (See previous blogs).

I have never been much of a romantic fiction reader. I prefer a good crime, or thriller – can’t be doing with all this slushy romantic stuff. I used to titter at my mum’s favourite books, but then secretly take them all on holiday and enjoy the feelgood reads. (Ohmigod, I’ve never admitted that before!)

I think every writer should have an ideal reader sitting on their shoulder: an actual character they are writing for. With me, it’s my mum. I am writing solely for her, knowing that her type of books were my grandma’s, and my great aunt’s. In fact, my mum’s paperbacks were always well worn and passed around amongst her friends until they ended up at my house, dog-eared and tea-stained, with a ‘you really should read this, our Anne … it’s such a lovely story.’ Mum could never get to grips with Ken Follett, Jeffrey Deaver or William Boyd and I remember her throwing her hands up in horror when she saw Dennis Wheatley in all his dark glory lurking under my coffee table. She would stand at the kitchen sink, or turn around while hard at it over the ironing board, iron in hand, and tell me all about the books she was reading. She’d describe the characters, comment on their shortcomings and give her opinion on which hero was her favourite. I didn’t realise at the time just how much I was taking it all in.

I wrote ‘The White Cuckoo’ for my mum. I just poured my heart out and wrote a romantic novel especially for her. I wish she was here to see it.

I submitted the Cuckoo to the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme a couple of weeks ago, and as my friends at work will testify, I had my tongue firmly pressed into my cheek and a cynical smile on my face on the day I posted off the manuscript.

I heard today it’s got a second reading! I’m ecstatic, to say the least. Apparently, only about ten manuscripts each year get a second reading.

I can’t believe I have actually written Romantic Fiction!

I’ve learned a lesson, I think. I actually feel quite ashamed that I used to make fun of mum’s favourite books. Since I’ve been writing seriously, I’ve been reading some of her favourites and I’ve actually got to know some of the authors through facebook and at Caerleon.

I always imagined writers of Romantic Fiction to be all girly-girly types – belonging to a club I could never be a part of. You see, I’m not a pink, fluffy, Barbara Cartland type of woman. I hate wearing make-up. Long fingernails get on my nerves when typing, so I cut them off with scissors. I fall over in high heels, doing a fair impression of Dick Emery’s ‘Mandy’ and want to stick my fingers down my throat at sentimental films and suchlike. I’ve never watched The Sound of Music, either.

But underneath I am all woman. I must be.

Please can someone give me some lessons?



I think I must be in serious need of a psychiatrist. This time next week I shall be in Ibiza and I have loads still to do. I had my Saturday all planned out and this is how it went.

1. Get up early, have a leisurely bath and then hit the town centre before the crowds.
2. Walk briskly past the library.
3. Marks & Sparks for new underwear to take on holiday.
4. Walk briskly past Waterstones.
5. Zoom into Boots for holiday toiletries.
6. Walk briskly past Waterstones.
7. Look the other way when walk past extremely tempting display of luxury choccies in Thorntons.
8. Walk briskly past the library
9. Wave to colleagues in the tourist information centre (to be polite) but not to pop in for a chat (which might appear rude)
10. Back home by 10 am at the very latest.
11. Pack cases for holiday.
12. Clean oven, fridge and the cupboard under the kitchen sink.
(Middle son is house-sitting Daughter will feel sorry for younger brother and will cook their dinner every night in my kitchen. Daughter’s fridge and cooker are always much cleaner than mine. Daughter will tutt and puff and will probably put something up about my mucky oven on facebook. So you see, that is why I must clean my oven, fridge and the cupboard under the sink.)

This is what has happened so far.

1. Slept in until 8.45 am.
2. Watched BBC News while idly checking through documents in travel wallet and eating bowl of porridge.
4. Went on facebook to see if daughter on-line so I could tell her good news.
5. Just had a little browse on facebook and then read all the comments on Novel Racers
6. Visited Debs’ blog and left a comment
7. Daughter rang. Spent 10 minutes or so on the phone.
8. Visited Mother X’s blog (a bit worried about her because she sounded down the other day)
9. Looked to see what the temperature was in Ibiza
10. Logged into work e-mails and answered a couple of urgent ones (you stupid cow, Annie – it’s Saturday for goodness sake!)
11. Visited own blog and decided to write a post about prevaricating when the ONLY day I have to get ready for holiday is today!

At work yesterday

I made a huge, long ‘to do’ list of things I needed to do before I finish on Wednesday night. I made another list of things other people need to do while I’m away. I made another list of things I needed to do as soon as I get back from my hols. Made coffee. Checked e-mails for the entire week to see if I had not dealt with anything I should have done. Found one I had originally opened on Monday morning, groaned, and then shut again. Dealt with it. Offered to help someone out from another department (WHY?). Checked all room bookings for meetings while I’m away. Checked food ordered for meetings while I’m away. Replied to a thank you e-mail I’d just received regarding a meeting I had last Monday. Got one straight back. Replied. Got one back. Replied. Got one back. Replied. Got one back. Made coffee. Wrote two letters. Crossed off two things on to do list.

Then it was lunchtime, and all I had done was written two poxy letters!

Now it’s 10.50 on the only day I have to get ready for my holiday and I’m not even dressed.

Now, just had a great idea for Novel Number Five. Must jot it down … otherwise I’ll forget …

Things I Have Noticed About Writers

I haven’t a hope in hell of adding anything constructive to Debs’s brilliant review of Caerleon so I thought I’d share ten of my little observations about writers – mostly gleaned during my week in Wales.

1. All writers are extremely clumsy and drop/spill/throw/trip over/bump into things everywhere, all the time.
2. Writers do not appear to know left from right and have absolutely no sense of direction, wandering aimlessly through wrong corridors and getting distracted by other writers at every turn or in every doorway
3. Writers’ bags are all very heavy – without exception
4. Getting food into a writer’s mouth without spillage is nigh-on impossible (gravy on white skirt, beetroot on yellow top, lasagne on sleeve, superglue-like substance in hair, something white and slimy on sandal and something sticky in handbag – and that was just the first day)
5. Packing a case with suitable clothes is a definite no-no for a writer. A gloomy weather forecast, torrential rain and chilly temperatures ought to, by rights, equal more than one long-sleeved top and something more substantial than open sandals. I felt quite uplifted when I discovered there were at least a dozen other writers in the same predicament!
6. Writers don’t always carry pens. I couldn’t quite believe this until I was asked by someone if they could borrow my pen – and guess what – I didn’t have one!
7. Writers tell fascinating stories and then forget (a) what time of day it is, (b) what course they are supposed to be on, and (c) what their husband’s name is
8. Writing is classless, ageless and some writers are very witty and funny indeed (I’m not one of them)
9. Published, successful writers make it all seem so easy – and it’s really not!
10. Writers take their shoes off under tables.
11. Writers are all very nice people and make friends easily
12. Writers, without exception, display varying degrees of contempt for numbers and can’t count to save their lives. (Oh dear, I have twelve points – well, never mind – it’s near enough).