So at long last I took delivery of my author advance copies of Two Fridays in April; two sneak-peek copies earlier in the week, direct from the publishers, and my official box of books from the printers this morning: GREAT feeling seeing it ‘in the flesh’; even though this is number eleven, it’s still as thrilling to hold it in your hands for the first time as it was holding my first baby, The Daisy Picker, back in 2004. The past week has been a flurry of pre-publication marketing thingys and setting up interviews and getting my new haircut to go with my new book (OK, that last one was sheer coincidence!) Here’s the box that arrived this morning:
– and here is the book, in its rightful place on my ‘wall of fame’:
– and in other very exciting news, I’ve been invited onto TV3’s Ireland AM programme on March 24 to talk about the book! My first telly interview as a writer! And a local shoe shop, Greene’s Shoes in the Crescent Shopping Centre in Dooradoyle, have kindly sponsored me a pair of shoes to wear for my telly gig!
So it’s all go – and in the meantime I’m ploughing away with the third Roone book, about a third of the way through and going well. The title has been sorted but I’m under STRICT INSTRUCTIONS not to say a word for a long time! Wonder will I manage to keep my gob shut!
And now I must dash, off to Lanzarote on Sunday for a three week writing break – just me and the laptop, and my running shoes – so I’ll miss seeing my new baby when it hits the bookshop shelves here, but I have a small army of faithful friends who have promised to let me know the minute they spot it! Do spread the word – I’d be delighted, and most grateful.
Hope everyone is well and happy. Remind me to tell you about the stuff I’ve been doing in connection with the random acts of kindness movement – no time now. I’ll leave you with the dedication page of Two Fridays in April, and I will tell all when I get a chance:
Yoo hoo everyone – apologies for the looooooong silence since my last post; I’ve been working frantically to get Two Fridays in April all done and dusted, bit complicated timeline-wise so lots to keep an eye on – and finally it’s passed out of my hands for the last time as a manuscript. Next time I lay eyes on it it’ll be a real live BOOK!! And I can reveal that the official publication date is March 5, so it should be appearing in an Irish bookshop near you around that date – or if you’re from further afield it’ll be popping up on Amazon and other online selling places. Dying to see it in its finished state – sadly I’m still waiting for the go-ahead from the publishers to reveal the cover, so for the moment you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s lovely, and the minute I’m allowed I’ll flash it up here, promise.
No rest for the wicked, though: I’ve already plotted and started the next – and I hope you’ll be pleased to hear that I’m following on from One Summer and After the Wedding and taking my third trip to the island of Roone (just can’t stay away). The difference with this one is that it’s set in the middle of winter – around Christmas actually, and it’s due to hit the shelves in the autumn, my first time to have two books out in one year. I’ll be ready for a nice long holiday after all this writing!
In other news I’m back at the running lark – and this time I might even stick it out. I started in November and have been following weekly schedules that Patrick, a running-mad friend, has been setting for me, and so far so good. I’ve worked my way up to 6 mile runs, and in a few days I’ll be taking part in my second official race. The first was on St Stephen’s Day and was a 5 miler (I think I came 4th last), and this next one is 6 miles. I’m working up to a half-marathon in May, already registered for it so I can’t back out – having slight palpitations at the thought of running over 13 miles without stopping, but I’ll give it my best shot!
Now it’s late and the bed is calling – I have a 3 mile run to do in the morning – so I’ll say goodnight, and hope 2015 is treating you kindly thus far. My two resolutions for this year are to commit more random acts of kindness and to succeed at the running. Fingers crossed on both fronts, particularly the first. We need more kindness in the world…….
Oh dear, oh dear, I’ve neglected you all unforgiveably…..do try and forgive me though, because in my defense I was busy with the next book, which hopefully you’ll enjoy when it finally sees the light of day next March! The good news is that I sent off what I’m HOPING will be the final draft last weekend – phew. Of course it’s not the last I’ll see of it – it’ll go to the copy editor who’ll cast her beady eye over it, and in a couple of weeks it’ll come back to me with her input, at which time I’ll have to go through it again and see what she has to say, and what changes if any she’s recommending. When that’s done it’ll be sent to the proofreader (who just happens to be my brother, a freelance copywriter whom Hachette use!) and back to me again for the last time. I swear I nearly know the books off by heart by the time I’m done with them! I usually think ‘thank God that’s the last I’ll see of it’ when I’m handing it back for the final time – and then when my box of advance copies arrives a few months later I can’t wait to open it!
Really hope you like the new one – I’m quietly pleased with how it’s turned out. The challenge I set myself at the outset (I always try to make a new book a little more challenging than the one that went before) was to confine myself to just two days, two Fridays to be exact, both of them in April. I have four main characters, all connected in some way with one another, who tell the story in turn. And now that it’s all done (bar the checking as above) I’m really dying to see it on the shelves, and to see what reaction it gets. March seems like a lifetime away, but it’ll come eventually. And I know I promised ages ago to show you the cover – I had seen it and liked it, and was waiting until it was officially signed off on before going public with it – but I just heard a few days ago that it’s being totally changed – and the good thing is I really love the new one, I think it’s much stronger than the old one, so I’m a happy bunny. It’s still being tweaked, but I’ve been promised a final version VERY soon – and you’ll be the first to see it, I swear! (Well, maybe after my parents!)
By the way, in case you’re wondering what the snaps have to do with anything (and apologies for the quality – I’m a writer, not a photographer!) they’re different views of what I was looking out at from my bedroom window each day last week. I was spending the week in the wonderful writers’ and artists’ retreat that is the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan (www.tyroneguthrie.ie) where I go from time to time to get a bit of intensive writing done (and get a bit pampered too!) As ever I had a great time and was very productive – got the book finished there, which was the objective. All the rooms are gorgeous but I was lucky enough to be put into Lady Guthrie’s room, which is one of the best in my opinion, being located at the front of the house with a view of the lake. The weather was mostly good, but we got two foggy days when the lake literally disappeared! I’m a big fan of fog, though – I love the magic of it, the other-worldly feel it gives to a place. And I met a really interesting group of people, from storytellers to musicians to artists and other writers. Every week I spend in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is different, but none is ever dull…. And then of course there are the magnificent evening meals which are provided by a posse of extremely gifted local women…..it’s a real treat to go there, and I consider myself blessed to be able to.
Oh, one other thing – I’ve taken up running again. If you’ve been keeping tabs on this diary you’ll know I’m a very sporadic runner, keep stopping and starting (literally) but this time I might just last because I’ve enlisted the help of Patrick, a friend and enthusiastic runner himself who has sort of taken me under his wing. He’s making out weekly schedules for me, and I’m now on week 3, and so far so good. I’m running between 3 and 4 miles when I go out – and would you believe I’m quite liking it! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m loving it – not yet – but I don’t dread it, which is a major step forward for me. I’m quite slow but that’s OK – it’s enough for me to get to the finish without having to stop and walk. Watch this space – apparently I’m aiming for the half marathon in the Great Limerick Run next May – help!!!!
Hello all – here’s me busy at work, trying hard to come up with another bestseller! September’s been quite manic, but mostly in a good way. On the home front, two of my brothers have returned from overseas, where they live and work. Colm, a Redemptorist priest, has been based in the Philippines since his ordination twenty-five years ago. He comes home every couple of years, and a few of us have been out to visit him. The Philippines is a beautiful place, both in terms of landscape and people – I travelled there with my mother about 4 years ago and we were utterly charmed by the warmth of the welcome we received, usually from the poorest of the poor – typically, the people Colm spends most of his time with. (I wrote here about that experience, I was reminded of it in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which caused so much destruction there last year – scroll down a bit if you want to read it). Colm will be with us till the beginning of November, so we’ll have plenty of time to catch up. And because this year is his silver jubilee we held a celebration last week to mark the occasion – actually we had two – and invited all and sundry to join us. Lovely to spend some time with people you mightn’t meet that often, and a hooley is a great excuse to round everyone up.
Another brother, Ciaran, returned from California where he’s been living for the past several years – pic shows him and Colm walking in County Clare a few days ago. Ciaran’s planning to stay for a few months too so we’re having lots of chats around my parents’ kitchen table, or heading out for walks in the evenings. Interesting for Colm and Ciaran to compare the different directions their lives have taken: Ciaran is a computer programmer, living just outside San Francisco (he says his proper title is ‘computer architect’, but I suspect he’s making that up to impress us!) It’s lovely for Mam and Dad to have the boys around the place, and they’re fairly good at not making too much work for their hosts…I’m keeping an eye on that side of things – bossy big sister strikes! Of course Mam, being the quintessential Irish mother, just LOVES fussing over her sons, and does far more than they’d expect her to, but you might as well talk to the wall as try to stop her!
On the books front, I’ve sent off Two Fridays in April to my editor and agent, and I’m waiting now for their feedback. In the meantime, I want to pull out some children’s books I’ve written over the past few years for various age groups and have another look at them. I’d love to have another children’s book published – I’d particularly love to bring out a picture book for very young children – and now’s my chance before I have to dive back into Two Fridays in April to fix all the things I’ll be told are wrong with it! The cover is being designed as we speak – I saw an early version of it and it looks very promising, but I’m not allowed to flash it here or anywhere until it’s been finalised and approved. You’ll be the first to see it, promise! And publication date is March 18 – not sure if I knew that the last time I wrote here – so you won’t feel it….
For the non-Irish readers among you, our weather’s been incredibly mild, almost balmy, for most of September. The nights are drawing in, of course – it’s now getting dark around 8.00pm – but the central heating has stayed off most of the time, and I’ve lit my first fire today after the summer, purely because I took a TUMBLE earlier today – didn’t see a bump in the path, galloping along like I usually do, went SPLAT, mortifying – and now I’m feeling a little bumped and bruised and in need of some pampering!
Oh, one other thing. This most adorable little kitten has moved in across the road (here she’s asleep on one of my kitchen chairs – see her pearl necklace???) She comes visiting now and again, appears on my windowsill and mews loudly until I let her in. It’s made me really want a cat of my own again, after losing my two ladies over the past couple of years – not sure how long more I’ll be able to hold out without one. I was waiting until after the summer so I’d be more grounded in Limerick, and not heading off to the mobile home every so often, but I’m off to Rome in a week or so, and in November I’m heading to Lanzarote for a week, and I don’t like the thought of leaving a new arrival until he/she is well settled in….so maybe after Lanzarote I’ll have a look around. In the meantime, my new little neighbour will fill the gap nicely.
Right, time to stop, or I’ll put you all to sleep! Take care,
…well, not quite – but there’s been a distinctly autumnal vibe happening here over the past few days. BIt chillier, bit damper, bit greyer. And August not even finished yet: can summer 2014 be gone so soon? Seems to have lasted about as long as it would take to put a halfway decent dinner on the table. Of course I’m in denial, have no notion of lighting a fire or turning on the heating, at least until my calendar says September. Brrrr though.
On the writing front, the end is in sight for Two Fridays in April: another week or so till draft one is done, and then it’s back to page one to tidy it all up, another few weeks. No sign of a cover yet from Hachette, but should be coming soon. I figure by the middle of October I’ll be able to put the feet up for a week or two. Coincidentally, I’m going to Rome around then for a few days – nice. I love Rome, all those incredible paintings, sculptures, fountains, ruins. Not to mention the delectable pizzas, and the magnificent piazzas.
So the mobile home in County Clare has been packed up for another year, apart from a few one-night stays I’m planning in September, for walks and blackberry-picking and suchlike. I do miss the lovely view when I’m back home – the mostly dignified goings-on of the five cattle that spend the summer months in the field beyond the patio; the sparrows and blue tits and robins ducking and diving all day in the blackberry bushes that tumble over the patio wall; the vivid orange-red splashes of Montbretia growing wild on each side of the road that snakes down to the sea; and of course the Atlantic, a wide ribbon of it cutting into Liscannor Bay, a different colour every time you look at it. Wonderful.
But of course autumn brings compensations for taking summer away – crisp morning and evening air putting roses in cheeks, bowls of creamy soup in front of roaring fires, apple crumbles and spicy casseroles and mugs of hot chocolate. Great, now I’m starving. Excuse me while I raid the fridge. Oh, and autumn means a return to my Pilates and yoga classes, so yes, I’m allowed to raid the fridge (within reason).
Nom nom. Happy autumn to you. xx
‘A grand stretch to the evenings’…..I’ve always loved that Irish saying. As I type it’s 9.21pm and still fully bright outside. I have just mowed my lawn (it’s teeny – took about 15 minutes) and I’m about to hunker down and watch a Saturday night movie. What an action-packed life I lead…
Yesterday was a little action-packed: I went to Dublin to meet my new agent and my editor – two different meetings with a couple of hours in between which I had no problem filling in the shops. More window-shopping than actual though – this was my main purchase:
I never go to Dublin without picking up Percy. Anyway, my new agent is lovely. Her name is Sallyanne Sweeney and she’s Irish but works in Mulcahy Associates in London, and even though she looks about TEN she’s very much on the ball, and I have no doubt we’ll do great things together. And my equally lovely (and also very on the ball) editor, Ciara Doorley, is just off on maternity leave with her first baby, so great excitement there. I wish her all the very best.
It was my mother’s 86th birthday on Tuesday, so I cooked dinner for a handful of family. Mam is feeling a lot better lately – she’s been having a tough time of it with arthritis that struck out of nowhere and totally crippled her, but she’s taking all sorts of home remedies – cider vinegar, molasses, epsom salt baths – and they seem to be doing the trick. She’s still not able to bend – her knees are very iffy – which means her beloved gardening is out, but she’s not in pain and able to walk short distances, so she’s grateful for that. We’re heading to County Clare tomorrow to the little village where she grew up, to celebrate her brother’s 80th birthday. He’s a retired priest and living in the US but he comes home each year for a few months and stays in the house he bought for granny before she died. Should be a good one – Uncle Mike is very jolly. With the family commitments and my day in Dublin I’ve been based in Limerick all week, but I’m heading back down to the mobile home on Monday, hope the weather continues to behave.
On the writing front, I’ve passed the halfway mark with the latest offering, which is psychologically HUGE – I swear I sleep better every time this happens: it’s like my subconscious heaves a big sigh of relief and relaxes. That’s not to say I’m out of the woods, there are still thousands of words to go, but the hump has been scaled, and I’m coming down the other side. Wheeeeeeeeee! Oh, and I can reveal that the title has been agreed: Two Fridays in April. The cover is being designed at the moment and I should get a look in a couple of weeks, can’t wait.
Right, it’s movie and popcorn time. Hope you’re having a delightful summer (or winter), wherever you are
…and what do you know? It’s been pretty fine in Ireland for the past few weeks. Now when I say pretty fine you must bear in mind, if you live outside Ireland, that our standards are quite low when it comes to judging the weather. For us, a day in summer that’s tolerably mild and rain-free is a pretty damn good one – and lately it seems to me that we’ve been seeing a fairly respectable proportion of days with blue skies (blue skies!!!) and bursts of sunshine (!!!) and temperatures for the most part have been a little better (and occasionally a lot better) than we’ve come to expect in June. So hopes are high – well, mine are anyway – that the Irish summer of 2014 will deliver the goods and turn out not too bad at all. Fingers tightly crossed – because I’ve already had my ration of overseas sun (Lanzarote a few weeks ago) and now I’m tethered to Ireland till September (another little trip planned then – shhhh!)
Weather apart, life has been busy. Both parents, mid-eighties, have had health problems over the past several weeks. Thankfully, nothing too life-threatening, but worrying enough to have me tossing and turning at night even more than usual (if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I occasionally enjoy a good night’s sleep, in between other nights of counting sheep and thinking up the next bit of the current plot). But thankfully things are looking a little more hopeful now, and life is returning to something closely resembling normal. Now that I’m no longer needed on a daily basis in Limerick I’ve migrated to my mobile home in County Clare and am currently putting a shape on book number eleven, due for publication in February 2015. Sneaky preview: story is set over two days in April, four weeks apart, and the voices that tell it are five female ones. It’s a tricky one to write – a challenge to keep the pace up when there’s so little time to play with – but one I’m enjoying. Let’s see how it turns out.
In other news, did you see my last post about my fraught relationship with running? If you missed it, scroll down and have a read, I’ll wait…………well, I’m currently psyching myself up to have another go, what with the good weather and all, and meeting a few running-friendly writers at Hachette’s recent summer party who fired up my enthusiasm. I’m going back to Limerick tomorrow to dust down my running gear and bring it back here – and off I’ll sally again. Wish me luck. I’ll try and be honest about how successful (???) I am this time. I’m on the coast here, so running along the side of the Atlantic will be inspiring, right? All that gorgeous salty sea air….watch this space. I’m also doing a little Pilates in the mornings to counteract the sitting-around-writing-all-day business. I try, I do try.
Another writing bit of info – I’m thinking of sneaking back to Roone again. Yes, this would be the third time, and my first trilogy. Gosh. The thing about Roone is it just won’t go out of my head. Every so often I find myself back there, wondering how everyone is doing. I may have to hop on the ferry and pay another visit…..Hachette wants a Christmas 2015 book – what do you think? Christmas on Roone? The other two have been set in the middle of summer; might be interesting to see what it’s like in mid-December. All I need is someone running a B&B there who decides to offer a Christmas and New Year break……..hmm.
Happy sunshine, wherever you are – and even if it’s not sunny, I hope you have some in your heart. And thank you so much for the continued lovely messages I receive from satisfied readers on a daily basis. They make my day, they really do, and I am truly grateful.
Let me tell you a story.
In January of this year I decided I’d try to become a runner. Again. If any of you caught my piece in the Irish Daily Mail’s Saturday mag a couple of months ago, you’ll know that I have for years had a love-hate relationship with running, with the emphasis firmly on hate. I’ve tried to love it – OK, not very enthusiastically, but every so often I have attempted to reach that stage where it becomes less of a pain and more of a pleasure. I’ve imagined looking forward to a run rather than dreading it – I’d really, really love to reach that stage – but so far I haven’t managed it. Instead, I have to force myself out each time I run, and I end every session, however long or short, feeling and looking like someone on the verge of cardiac arrest. I probably just never stick with it long enough to start reaping the rewards – and still, every few months or so, I’ll find myself pulling the running shoes out of hibernation and deciding to give it one more try. And so it was that in January I signed up to run a half-marathon in May. To be precise, I signed up to do this one, scheduled for May 4:
It wouldn’t be the first half-marathon I’d run. Back in the nineties, while I was working in a London ad agency, I took part in one which was run over half the distance, with everyone going twice around the course, and I swear some runners passed me on their second round while I was still on the first. I’m fairly sure I was among the last ten to finish, if not the actual last one, but I did it. Lord knows how I stuck with the training – I have no memory of it now. Unfortunately, that was then, and this is 2014, and I am on the wrong side of my 50th birthday, and folks, I just didn’t get there this time. My training was slapdash and sporadic, and by the middle of April I realised that I was nowhere near as trained as I would need to be to complete even the 10k race that was also part of the Great Limerick Run, so I admitted defeat and lapsed back into walking.
And then I heard about this.
Did you notice the ‘walk/run’ part? That’s the bit that caught my eye. Here was something I could do, something I knew I could manage. I’d walk the 5k, and I’d be up there with the first finishers. Thank God my family hasn’t been touched by suicide – but I know in these times of challenge we’re in the minority, so I signed up in solidarity with those many, many heartbroken souls whose loved ones had seen no other way out of their darkness, and I signed up in gratitude that I wasn’t among them. On Friday night I set my alarm for 3.40am. When it went off I hauled myself out of bed, got dressed and set off, yawning, to walk the ten minutes from my house to Limerick’s Thomond Park. You wouldn’t believe the crowds of yellow t-shirted people I met along the way. All human life was there, from babies to oldies to everything in between. There were even a few dogs in yellow t-shirts. We approached the gates of Thomond Park and inched our way through, and as we did, one of the volunteer marshalls said: “runners to the left, walkers to the right’ – and do you know, there were a few seconds where I hesitated. It was only 5k; even in my untrained state, I’d surely manage it.
And then I turned right. Maybe next year.
If suicide has touched your life, you have my deep and heartfelt sympathy.
(Oh, and the walk? It was chilly and a bit damp, and very very moving. And I was among the early finishers.)
Just realised I haven’t posted anything up here since March 5 – good lord, apologies to anyone who was wondering what’s happening with me. I’m home from Italy – home a long time at this stage, it’s almost a distant memory – and After the Wedding was well and truly launched two weeks ago – pic above of the night, me in full flight in O’Mahony’s Bookshop. The good news is that After the Wedding has just entered the Irish top ten at number nine – barely in, but hopefully it’ll climb higher – and I’m catching my breath now and moving on with the next masterpiece – AHEM! This one will be accompanying me through the summer, most of which I hope to be spending at the coast in County Clare, where I’m lucky enough to own a mobile home. Fingers crossed for a summer like last one – we’re still pinching ourselves that we got several weeks of very decent sunshine….can it come again? Maybe if we’re very very good…….
Apart from writing, not much to report. My parents, both of whom are in their mid-eighties, have both been having a few health problems lately. Nothing too serious, but enough to put them out of sorts a bit, poor things. We’ve had a few trips to the A&E department of our local hospital, where the conditions are challenging to say the least, but the staff are wonderful in their efforts to be cheerful and reassuring – don’t know how they do it under the circumstances.
My poor old cat has disappeared. She went awol while I was in Italy, and when I heard, I imagined she was just lying low, out of sorts a bit maybe that I wasn’t around, and I assumed she’d reappear when I came home, but not so. She’s been gone now for well over a month, so I’m beginning to suspect that she ain’t coming back. She was an oldie, about fifteen or thereabouts, so maybe she guessed her time was up and went off somewhere quiet for the occasion….I must say I miss her about the place, although she never made much noise. I might look for a kitten or two in the autumn, when I’m finished gallivanting for another year.
Look after yourselves – I’ll try not to leave it so long next time,