Monday, 31 December 2012

Reflections on 2012

I could write the same blog post at the beginning of each New Year, in fact here are my words from early January 2012.
I'm going to be more focussed on my writing, I'm going to declutter my house, get my life organised, lose weight and get fit.

So this year, whilst my intentions are the same, I'm simply going to say that I want to think of a way to make more use of my time. I'm either going to have to stop watching telly, stop sleeping or find some other way to find ways of being more productive. I know I run the risk of the same blog post in 2013 but I really hope not.

Be careful your words might come back and bit you on the bum.
So, have I been more focussed on my writing?

Well, I’ve tried but I’m not sure I have achieved much, certainly not in the way of publication, so this year I need to try and be even more focussed.
Have I decluttered the house?

Well, actually, I have made some progress, but not nearly as much as I wanted to.  There is still plenty of room for improvement, so this is still on the list.
Have I got my life organised?

I wish!
Lost weight or kept fit?

In many ways, my life has not changed fundamentally since the beginning of the year, except in one way. 

I was made redundant.
This is a good thing.  I keep telling myself anyway.  This is my chance.  My opportunity.  To work for myself and also to make the writing work.

So, what are my resolutions for 2013?  Simply to make some money independently.  To be my own boss.  To be my own success story.  2013 really needs to be the year I focus, focus, focus.
Oh, and by the way, I need to declutter my house, get my life organised, lose weight and get fit.

Ho hum.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Wolf Hall - The Verdict

Well, I persevered with Wolf Hall, and I did eventually finish it, but I can’t say that reading it was a pleasure.  In fact it was definitely more of a chore, 650 pages later though, and at least I can say that I got to the end.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy parts of it, and I did get an insight into Cromwell and his rise to power in the reign of Henry VIII, but I didn't find it an absorbing read.  It certainly wasn't unputdownable as some of the reviews suggested. Like I said before, perhaps I’m just not literary enough.  I don’t think I’ll bother with the sequel, although I have downloaded a sample, so I might give that a go and see if I get on with that any better.  Although not for a while.
I got so bogged down with the book that I had to take a break from it for a while, and so in between I read Carole Matthews’ book, With Love At Christmas.


I read her previous book, Summer Daydreams and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first chapter of With Love At Christmas was in the back of the book and I loved it too. Just goes to show what a good marketing technique this is as I couldn’t wait to get this book. I thought it would help me get into the Christmas spirit in the run up, and it certainly did that. In my eyes, Carole Matthews never fails to disappoint.

It is the story of Juliet, a working mum with a grown up family.  Like a lot of women these days, Juliet belongs to the sandwich generation.  Not only do her grown up children seem incapable of looking after themselves, her daughter is also relying on her for child care. To say that they are spoilt is a understatement and actually, this was the only thing about the book I didn’t like. I wanted to shake her and tell her to make the kids stand on their own two feet, but Juliet was too nice for that. 
She also had to contend with her own parents, a father who was grieving and a mother seemingly slipping into dementia.  But all through this Juliet’s love for them all, as well as her love of Christmas makes her a, truly charming character. 

But as understanding as he is, can her husband put up with being continually last on her list?  You’ll have to read the book to find out. It’s a truly cracking Christmas read. 
I can’t wait to download her new book, A Cottage by the Sea, which is due out on 3 January.

And while we’re on reviews, one of my Christmas books was Jenny Colgan’s, Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams – yes it was one of the ones I chose myself.  I’m only part way in but I’m loving it too.
If you have any Christmas books to read, I hope you’re enjoying them too.

Happy reading.

Friday, 28 December 2012

'Tis The Season

Forgive me blog followers for not wishing you a Merry Christmas in advance of the season, I meant to, honest I did, but, as ever, events ran away from me. 
I was trying to be extra organised this year, and was doing quite well, until I managed to scratch my eye taking out a contact lens and had to spend a day in bed because I couldn’t open it.  For several days it was very sore and swollen and even attempting to look at a screen or the printed word was a complete no no.
It all seems to be better now, thankfully, although I haven’t attempted to put my lenses back in since and have been wearing my glasses which I hate.  Still, it’s a small in convenience compared to earlier in the week, and it’s made me realise just quite how much we take things for granted.
I always go a bit mad at Christmas and try and prepare everything myself, so Christmas Eve, saw me making pate, mince pies, cheese sauce and the list goes on.  By the time evening came round I was so tired that I wanted to cry. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it, when I’m sure everyone else would be just as happy with something picked up from a supermarket.  I suppose it’s my equivalent of a medieval hair shirt. 
I do enjoy cooking though, I just wish I could pace myself a bit better.  Now we have a glut of food in the fridge that no one seems to want to eat.  Still I suppose that’s all the fun of the season.  The diet will have to start when the mince pies are gone!
Although it was just the four of us for Christmas day, it was still hectic early on.  Now the boys are a bit older I thought that the present opening might not be as much fun but, if anything, it was the opposite. They were so excited by their presents that it was a joy to watch and justified, almost, all that trudging round the shops and searching websites.
I didn’t do too badly myself, although I actually picked some things for myself because it’s the only way to get want I want.  I did get a furry new hat for my winter walks though, so that was great, and I received a brilliant book on Charles Dickens from a friend of mine and an Amazon voucher from my mum, which I am really going to enjoy spending.
The day followed the usual church, then a drink with friends before going home to finish off the dinner.  After dinner is my favourite part of the day, sitting down with a glass of wine and the Christmas TV.  Christmas day telly was brilliant, although I was horrified by the ending of Downton. (I won’t reveal in case you haven’t watched it, although I imagine that by now all fans will be in the know). How sad, but then part of the programme’s success is down to the brilliant writing and the many twists and turns in the storylines.
On Boxing Day my family came to visit which was lovely, but more cooking, so I am now relieved to be having a few days down time just to chill.  My eight year old did a star turn by developing a sudden and unexpected passion for washing up.  It only lasted for one day but it was nice while it lasted.
I love the days between Christmas and New Year the best, but the weather isn’t exactly making me want to go outside, so the boys are going a bit stir crazy.  Playing board games and doing jigsaws just isn’t the same for dispelling their energy levels as a good run around.
For now though, I’m happy to catch up on my reading and start planning my next writing projects, when I’m not refereeing that is.
I hope that whatever you are doing you are managing to get some ‘me’ time in.  Everyone deserves that at this time of year.
Take care!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Here's One I Prepared Earlier

By the way, I forgot to mention, I did complete NaNoWriMo.  In the end I was so fed up with my writing that at 45,000 words I sat down and refused to come off the computer until it was finished.  It was a bit of a slog, but an amazing sense of satisfaction.

Whether I'll ever by able to bash it into something that is a coherent piece of writing is another matter.  The trouble with writing to this deadline means that sometimes you write a lot of rubbish and waffle just to get your  word count for the day.  And I have to admit that my plot changed as I wrote, so the end story probably doesn't match up to the story I started at the beginning.
But anyway.  It's done. I have 50,000 words that I didn't have at the beginning of the month, and may be one day I'll be able to do something with it.

Now, I'm off to have a look at the novel I had critiqued by the RNA in the summer, it's been sleeping for too long in my desk drawer and it's time for it to get some exercise.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wolf Hall

I don't know about you, but I have a list of books I want to read and a list of books I feel I should read.

Wolf Hall has been at the top of the second pile for, well, actually it seems like forever.

But it's such a big book that its one I didn't want to have to cart around with me, so I've been putting it off.

It's been jeering at me from the top of the pile, even more so since Hilary Mantell won a second Booker prize for its sequel.

So, finally, I decided to take the plunge.

Wolf Hall is set during Henry VIII's reign in the period where he was trying to get his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annuled so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. It's a period of history I'm particularly interested in, so in theory it should be an engaging read.

But I have to confess, I'm struggling. I'm now at page 350 of this 600 page book and it has been an arduous journey. Perhaps I'm not literary enough but I find it hard to follow as it keeps jumping from present to the past and then back again and by the time I've worked out where I am, it's jumped again. The cast of characters is extensive and they too constantly change, or sometimes are called by their actual names and sometimes by the titles the King has given them in his court.

One of my favourite authors is Philippa Gregory and I never have a problem keeping up with her books, set in a similar period (as well as others). In fact I become so engrossed in them I can't put them down. But it's just not happening here, so perhaps its me.

I'm disappointed because I really wanted to like this book and keep hoping that I will get into it; that the second half will be better. But I'm beginning to doubt that it will happen.

Fingers crossed, but I'm determined to get to the end. I've invested so much time in it already, and I don't like being a quitter. But I am looking forward to reading something else. I think I'll chose something a lot lighter for my next read.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Silence Really Is Golden

Over the weekend a friend's children came to stay, a boy aged 11 and a girl of 7. They are lovely, lovely children and at the moment their mum is in hospital and has been for several weeks. My heart went out to them because they are so obviously missing her and needed lots of attention, which I was more than happy to give.

But it's amazing what a difference two extra bodies can make to a house, it seemed to shrink to the size of a matchbox and by the time they left I was exhausted and my ears were buzzing.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, my lovely husband took my eldest to his football and made the youngest go and watch too. After clearing up, I sat down and started to read a copy of Writer's Forum amidst the beautiful sound of silence in my house.

It felt like heaven and really recharged my batteries.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

When You Can Deny It No Longer

Christmas is coming. It's a fact, and one I try to deny every year. Until it creeps up on me and I realise I need to do something about it. Pronto. Sighs.

I don't want to be bah humbug but I can think of a lot more useful things to be doing with my time than trawling around the shops or the internet, looking for things to buy that I can't actually really afford - especially not this year.

And then just when you think you've got it in the bag you think of someone else you need to buy for.

So every year I put it even thinking about it for as long as possible and then get really annoyed by the smug people who, in mid-November, smile and say,

'Oh Christmas shopping, I've finished mine.

Grinds teeth to a fine powder.

So today I'm going to bite the bullet and get started on my Christmas card list. If I can get all the ones I need to post out of the way, I might feel some small sense of satisfaction.

And then I can get on and do something that I actually want to do.