Yay – I Get To Be A Year Older! And Other Thoughts on Turning Forty

Birthday candles

No, that header is not sarcastic. Those of a cynical disposition who would prefer not read a soppy post, please look away now…

I turn forty this month and I’m absolutely thrilled about it.

For various personal reasons, I have always been aware of how lucky I am to be alive. I mean, we’re all lucky to be alive, but I very nearly didn’t make it out of babyhood (having been born with a literal broken heart, I was saved by a wonderful NHS cardiology department) and, without wishing to be too vomit-inducing, I’m so happy and grateful for my life and that I still get to be living it.

Rather than worrying about ageing (let’s face it, there can be few less-productive things to fret over), I’m truly celebrating. I get to be forty: I’m so blinking lucky!

I adored my thirties and so many amazing things have happened to me in the last decade – both personally and professionally – that it is only natural to feel a little sad at waving it goodbye. However, I have every intention of making my forties just as enjoyable and fulfilling. More time with family and friends, more writing, more travel and fun and nice food and reading good books!

Perhaps I have an unfair advantage; I was the child who couldn’t wait to grow up, the teenager who always wanted to be older, the woman in her twenties who ran joyfully into the arms of marriage, mortgage and motherhood. I have, frankly. always been middle-aged (reading, radio four, comfortable shoes, saying ‘gosh’) so it’s quite nice to be at the ‘right’ stage for my natural inclinations.

Hooray!

 

 

 

The Power of Story

theendIt’s finished! Phew!

Yes, I finally finished The Book Without An Ending (actual working title: Beneath The Water) and, let me tell you, it was a massive relief.

As I write without a plan, there are always several ‘oh, bugger, what on earth is going to happen next?’ moments, but once I get half-way or two-thirds in, I usually have a clear idea of where it’s heading. The details of this can change, but there is a general, comforting gist. Not this time.

After typing ‘The End’ (hooray!), I took the week off from writing, but kept having those annoying post-finishing thoughts about things I could have added/made better. Urgh.

Still. It’s away on submission, so there is nothing more I can do right now – except obsessively check my email for news, of course.

So, I have been catching up on email and admin/accounts and, more importantly, Reading For Fun. Such a joy after being on deadline.

I loved Anne Marie Casey’s smart and engaging The Real Liddy James, and am halfway through Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. I haven’t read any of Kelly Link’s stories before and they are extraordinary. Next, I’m going to dive into Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be The Place which I wanted to read the moment it came out. I am a huge fan, but I forced myself to wait so that I could give it my full attention.

In other news, my eldest turns sixteen next week. Sixteen! I am always wobbly and emotional before my children’s birthdays, but this does feel quite significant. She is talking about university and the next stage of her life and it is really beginning to hit me that she will, one day soon, leave home. Gah.

To celebrate the Strange And Terrible Linear Passage Of Time (or, ‘birthday’, if you prefer), we had a family trip to Comic Con in Glasgow. My daughter and I did our first ever cosplay as a mother-and-daughter demon hunting team and we met the fantastically talented (and lovely) Hillywood sisters.

We also saw Jenny Colgan speaking on a panel about writing and publishing Science Fiction, stocked up on cuddly Totoro toys (you can never have too many), and generally had a blast.

If you have never been to a con and like the idea of being surrounded by lots of folk being unabashedly enthusiastic about the stories/fictional worlds they love, I definitely recommend it. And as a writer it was an inspiring and energising reminder of the power of story.

Friday Catch-up: Exams, writing and getting crafty

Hello, my lovelies!

I thought it was high-time I gave you all a personal update…

I’ve been trying to support my eldest with her first set of ‘big’ exams. In Scotland, these are called National 5s and they are roughly equivalent to GCSEs.

In truth, there hasn’t been much to do in practical terms (my daughter is one of the most hard-working and organised people I have ever met), but the subject has loomed large over the household and, being a soggy over-emotional kind of parent, I empathise with her deeply and will be very happy when they are over!

LandandSea
Land And Sea by Iona Mackenzie Laycock

I’ve also been trying to get a better work-life balance (ha!) and took a day off last week for a rare day out with my lovely mum.

We both love craft and have dabbled in a variety of different projects and materials over the years. We went to the Knitting and Stitching show in Edinburgh and wandered around in a happy daze, discovering interesting new things and stroking the beautiful yarn, threads and materials on offer.

We also took a workshop with textile artist Iona Mackenzie Laycock, which was brilliant. Iona showed us a technique involving a hot iron and pearlescent acrylic ink to make a ‘layered landscape’ picture. Iona was really nice and it was lots of fun to be in a real-life class (I do most of my learning online these days).

It also reminded me how important it is for me to do other creative things which are just for fun.

Speaking of fun, I finally sent the first draft of the new book to my agent, and have spent the last week happily writing on an old project. It’s a slightly different style and genre to my other stuff and feels like a wee holiday!

I also finished episode #15 of The Worried Writer. If you haven’t listened yet, all the shownotes and episodes can be found at worriedwriter.com or you can subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

elizabethbuchanI’ve been reading lots, too, and highly recommend Elizabeth Buchan’s I Can’t Begin to Tell You.

It’s set during WWII in Denmark and London and focuses on the SOE/Danish Resistance. I finished it at the beginning of the week and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m also looking forward to reading Catherine Ryan Howard’s, Distress Signals, which came out yesterday.

I have been following Catherine’s blog for ages and was thrilled to speak to her last year for The Worried Writer.

 

 

So, how about you? Read any good books, lately? Seen any wonderful films? 

 

 

 

Holiday fun and novella news

Well, I’m FINALLY allowed to tell you all that I have a new book coming out. Yay!

It’s just a short one (a novella, in fact) and is a prequel to The Language of Spells. It’s called The Garden of Magic and I believe it’s out next month (I will let you know exact date when I am given it).

I’ve had quite a few messages from readers (thank you!) asking for more from Iris Harper (who we get to know through her journals in The Language of Spells) so when Carina asked me to write a novella, I thought it would be fun to get to know her better. I really hope you like it!

In other news, I took a week off. Yes, a whole week with no editing, no writing and precious little internet time (how did I cope?!).

Truth be told, I was feeling a little frayed around the edges before the holiday, and I feel so much better for the break. We did lots of lovely family stuff, including a hill walk in the beautiful Glen Clova, a visit to these fine silver beasts, and a roller disco. Yes, you read that right; I donned wrist guards (the caution of age) and some bad-ass black rollerboots and whizzed around a darkened hall for a happy couple of hours. It was brilliant!

The Kelpies
The Kelpies against a grey sky – it’s summer here, honest.

I hope you are having a good summer and, as always, thank you for reading!

Progress Update: Includes Kitten

Well, my mini writing challenge (15,000 new words, write first thing every morning) has been going really well, but I’m going to have to switch projects from the ‘new shiny’ to the official WIP.

I heard back from Agent Fabulous re. the latest rewrite and I have a little more work to do. It’s exciting, though, as I can really see how to improve this draft and the finish line is in sight!

However, progress might be slightly banjaxed (in the cutest possible way) by the arrival of a new member of our household: Zelda Kitzgerald.

Zelda
Is there anything sweeter than a tiny grey tabby kitten curled up on your lap? No. No, there is not.
Look! Zelda matches our sofa - we obviously had no choice but to adopt her...
Look! Zelda matches our sofa – we obviously had no choice but to adopt her…

Gadabout

Hello, my lovelies; how are you?

I took a break from rewriting the book last week and headed down south for a holiday.

In addition to quality time with family, I caught up with two very dear friends who have just had babies. Adorable tiny babies with that ‘new baby smell’. Happy sigh.

I also went to London to meet my agent in person for the first time (there are some disadvantages to living in Scotland) and my editor at Carina.

I was super-nervous but they were both so lovely that they put me at my ease. We went out for lunch and talked (mostly, unsurprisingly) about books and publishing. It was ace!

It’s something I’ve dreamed about for years and it made everything feel more real. This is going to sound utterly daft, but it’s finally beginning to sink in that I’ve got a couple of books out, that I might (maybe, hopefully) be able to keep on writing and make a real go of it. Oh, I do hope so.

And on that note, I’d better get back to my rewrite…