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!!!!
…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.)
Well, I do hope you’re all enjoying 2014 so far. I’ve had a busy few weeks since I hung the new calendar in the kitchen. First, I signed up for a fresh term of Pilates classes, just an hour once a week but I tell myself it’s better than no hours, right? Then a few days later, a leaflet came through the letter-box advertising Bikram yoga classes in a studio on the other side of town. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Bikram yoga is practised in near-sauna conditions: within about 5 minutes of the class you’re absolutely ROASTING, and there are 90 minutes in every class! I’d taken a few Bikram classes back in 2001 when I was living in San Francisco (where I’d gone for a year to write The Daisy Picker – happy days) and I decided to give it another go, so I signed up for a 30 day membership. So far I’ve gone to 4 classes, and boy are they tough: i crawl out of the place afterwards. I suspect I won’t be renewing this particular membership when the 30 days are up…..I’ve also registered to run a half marathon in May, despite the fact that I haven’t run since before Christmas….help! I’m planning to launch into a training programme on Feb 1 – fingers crossed I’ll summon up the willpower from somewhere!
On the writing front, I’ve just submitted a new book to a few places, and I’m waiting for the various reactions – watch this space. I’ve also written a short story set in Kenya for an e-book of travel-themed stories. The book is the second in the Sunloungers series that started last year, and like the first it’s a collection of stories by different authors, each story set in a different holiday location. Here’s some info on the first collection, in case you’re looking for holiday reading before the second comes out in June: http://www.va-va-vacation.com/sunlounger-chick-lit-stories. And I’ll shortly be starting a new novel, casting about at the moment for a suitable theme. Feel free to give a shout with your suggestions – what would you like to read about?
And my big news – I’m spending the entire month of March in Italy, by the sea! I just decided on impulse (most of my decisions are impulsive, some wiser than others) to pack up the laptop and relocate someplace beautiful for a month. I’m bringing the laptop, of course – it’ll be a working holiday, but I’ll be making the most of being in one of my favourite countries, and making time to get out and about in the (hopefully) better weather. I’ve also begun learning the language, so if I do my homework between this and then I should be able (just about) to make myself understood with the locals. Can’t wait! And maybe there’ll be a story set in Italy sometime…..