The long game

Last December my agent sent The Rebirth of Henry Whittle to all the big publishing houses.  Nievely I thought one of them would love it as much as she did.  That horrible word ‘subjectivity’ keeps squashing my dream.  It was too risky, too tame, too dark, to light.  So it was back to the editing draw board.  Considering I have no literary credits I am at least receiving a masterclass on how to make my book publishable.  Pengiun, Bloomsbury, all the editors that my manuscript went to took the time to critique it and that feedback was passed onto me and beween my agent and I we are nearly ready to hit round two.  There is still some issues to iron out first but I think in the new year I will be waiting, hoping for, my lucky  break again.

My agent warned me that it takes an unpublished author sometimes years to get published.  Unknown quantities are risks. Have I felt like giving up?  Not exactly…I’ve had days when I’ve been too ill to work on it, days sometimes turn into weeks.  Illness, tiredness converts to poor motivation and a loss in confidence.  Ultimately I return to the manuscript because I’ve travelled full circle…I write because it’s fun and it takes me out of the house and into the lives of others – ok they aren’t real people.  I think it’s like when a kid has an invisible friend.

When I’m not working on Henry, I work on Random Attachment.  It’s my back-up plan.  I’m writing a new book to get the first one published.  It’s not unusual.  One thing the editors agreed on was that they liked my writing style and would like to see more of it.  So Random attachment is similar to Henry in that it is a young adult romantic crime novel – but it’s not edgy or risky.  It’s a safer bet.

I sometimes wonder if sending my manuscript to agents was good for me or not?  I could have simply wrote for pleasure.  I googled the odds of getting published and I knew I had more chance of winning the lottery.  I found a good description of trying to get published

“It’s all a Catch-22 situation: your odds of getting published are miniscule because the only way to get published is to have been published..”

My husband worries that I’m putting too much pressure on myself – but that’s not the case.  Pressure comes from fear of failure and I don’t feel a failure.  I think I’m pretty amazing actually.   Writing a book was one of the most satisfying challenges I’ve set myself.  I don’t need an agent or a publisher to pat me on the  back.  I’ve set myself a new challenge – getting published.  There’s no rush.  It might be Henry, it might be Random Attachment or another book that’s upstairs in my imagination.  There’s no real timeframe – before I died would be quite nice though!

 

 

 

Wristcutters

Yesterday my girls and I watched the black comedy ‘Wristcutters’ written and directed by Goran Dukic. How did we find this film? We googled dark romances and there it hid between my favourite movies ‘The Secretary’ and ‘Punch Drunk Love’.  I’m not a huge Hollywood blockbuster fan.  I like quirky, edgy, oddball (and any film Daniel Craig’s in).

There is the obvious moral dilemma.  Does is glamourise and romanticise teenage suicide? When I watch films or listen to music I don’t analyse or think politically or correctly, if I did I couldn’t possibly enjoy 50 cent, Dexter or Fifty Shades. I admit I’m entertained by artists and concepts that are questionable even though I love wholesome and happy.

The film did get me thinking about suicide.  I don’t know anyone directly who has attempted suicide but a dad of a player on my son’s football team with a history of mental illness and depression ended his life.   He’d been turned away from the hospital after begging to be admitted then jumped off a high rise flat.  Also my daughter dated a boy whose brother is permanently hospitalised under mental health and who himself suffers from hearing voices and had been sectioned three or four times. Obviously those that suffer from a mental illness are at high risk of suicidal tendencies.  What about the rest of us?  I’ve heard the same response a million times ‘people that commit suicide are weak, selfish’, etc. I don’t believe that for one second.  Perhaps, on numerous previous occasions they were a hair’s breath from suicide but fought against it and won the battle. But it’s nearly impossible to win every battle.  On a hundred occasions they were probably stronger than the majority of us that aren’t faced with despair, doubt, recriminations, debt, broken hearts.  It’s believed that under a particular set of circumstances we all have the capacity to kill, I think the same can be said of depression and suicide.  No one is immune, if it’s never crossed your mind, hung around your thoughts, lurked in your heart then you’re not stronger, just luckier.

I regularly read young adult books, I like to stay in tune with what my daughters read and issues relating to today’s young people.  Thirteen Reasons Why and My Heart and Other Black Holes are two brilliant reads that deal with teenage depression and they make a great adult read.

I think I’m a lucky person.  I’ve never faced gender issues, haven’t had to come out of the closet, didn’t have to cope with pressure to do well in my exams or follow a family tradition.  Even today, two months on from my manuscript being sent to publishers and No’s received from Penguin, Bloomsbury and Harper I don’t feel the weight of disappointment or failure.  I think it’s amazing that my book is being read by editors at these top publishing houses.  Also I am meeting with my lovely agent for brunch tomorrow to discuss feedback.  I’m very excited, it’s a reason to get out of my pajamas.  I had my nails done yesterday. And I’ve already scanned the menu of where we are meeting and made my choice – apple and cinnamon muffin. Myelopathy is such a weird thing to have, it’s so limiting yet it’s led to an adventure I would never have experienced if I’d remained fully abled. Yes my fingers have a mind of their own but they can type. My kitchen is like a Greek restaurant there’s plate smashing left right and center.  It’s the coffee jar that most frightens me.  When coffee granules spill it’s bad, very bad.  I walk like Golem. That’s how I move around until my rigor mortise passes.  I’ve also had to cut back on my favourite activity – eating.  Losing mobility leads to weight gain it also leads to increased medication which means no alcohol and I do so like a glass of wine.  But all these downs are minor because I don’t struggle with depression or anxiety.  My agent (love saying that) could tell me no a hundred times and I’d be optimistic about publisher 101.

Getting back to where I started. As a mum I prey that my children never suffer anxiety, depression or mental illness and I also hope that if they do they’ll be able to discuss it with me.  It’s like cancer, none of us our immune, it can strike any one at any time.

On a happy note I’m working on a completely new idea Random Attachment. If I imagine hard enough I can see it on the shelves of WHS.

Bye for now,

Be Happy

T

 

Bernard Gerald Downey

Today I was back on the job – editing The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.  It’s silly how excited I get when an email arrives from my agent.  I don’t feel like I’m writing a book it’s more like I’m on an open learning course.   She makes suggestions, which I consider and being a pleaser I agree with.  Then I get to work.  I like how my book is taking shape.  It’s the same but sharper, more polished.

My book is like my children, I wanted to create it and I like spending time with it – it makes me happy and it fulfills me.  At no point in time has it frustrated me, it’s just fun to be with.

Hypothetically my book sells.  To avoid the pressure writers experience when drafting their second novel I have already begun mine.  I’m trying to skip the pressure bit and get ahead of the game.

Every book has a page set aside for Acknowledgements and in my imagination, where I’m a successful writer, I think about this page.

My dad died when I was 24, when my first child was six months.  He died of alcoholic poisoning, which is a very painful death, on 4th July.  Twenty four years later I still think of him, there’s not a day that I don’t wish he was here.  He was genuinely a good person.  The world was a better place with him in it; he cared about people. He was a typical barman, he always had an interesting tale to tell and he engaged with everyone – in his eyes we were all equal.  I want my book to be published because I want to dedicate it to him.  He didn’t inspire me to write a book, my girls did that, obviously being dead he hasn’t supported and encouraged me along the way as my husband and children have.

During the first draft of my novel Maroon 5 and Sia were my background, but recently, during this editing process, my thoughts have wandered to my dad, who I know would be so proud that I’ve written a book.  If he were behind the bar, right now, as each customer entered and he graciously served them he would recount the story of his daughter the writer… but alcohol deprived him of this.  It’s easy to assume that people with addictions are weak, that they should pull themselves together but its simply more complicated than that.  When you’re a pleaser you feel disappointment in yourself more acutely, instead of accepting that good people have bad luck you take responsibility that you cannot bear.  So today editing my book I listened to Jonny Cash, Dave Edmonds, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers; my dad’s favorites.

I’ve been seriously ill over the last few years and my youngest got it into his head that I was dying – which I wasn’t – although I felt like I was!  We’d have a cuddle and I’d tell him that although bodies conk out, parents never really died; I was a part of him so I would always be with him.  In years to come if he listened to his voice he’d hear my words. With this in mind I sometimes hear my dad’s words, I feel the kindness and strength behind them.  He still makes me laugh, he use to keep a small square of cheddar in his pocket because he said he got hungry in the strangest places and a bit of cheddar always came in handy.

So I write this blog today because I miss my dad and I’m realistic about how hard it will be to find a publisher to support my book and I want to thank him today.

Dad,

Your weren’t amazing or mega. You weren’t rich. You couldn’t drive.  You never took Alan football. Your dress sense was ok.  You liked the horses way too much.  You liked Special Brew even more.  But when school finished I liked coming home to ‘The Imperial’ and seeing your face behind the bar.  I’d sit on a high stool and you’d pop a bottle of cold coke for me and Al and say something completely random but it felt right.  You were never cross which taught me never to be cross with my children, to always welcome them home from school, to sing them a song.  You taught me so much about human nature, most of all you taught me how to be a good mother.  Thank you. xxxxxx

Be happy, T

If I Should Die

I was reading the blog of another, Matthew Frank, author of the excellent ‘If I Should Die‘ and it inspired me to keep a diary of my rise to fame (or slush pile avenue).

What I liked about Frank’s blog was it revealed he is not unlike myself.  I don’t mean to infer that I have his talent, no way Hose! But he too was unaware of how the world of publishing lives and breathes.  Reading his blog is very relevant to those out there who need an insight to how the process works, which includes me.

Matthew Frank’s book about a TA soldier with PTSD returning to his job as a policeman ticks all my boxes:

  • it’s original
  • the characters are brilliantly crafted – in my world that means I believe they exist – I can see them and feel them
  • I like the characters – I can’t spend time with people I don’t like, they can be vicious, cruel, psychopaths but I have to connect with them which means I find books like ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Revolutionary Road’, ‘The Liar’s Chair’ a struggle. Gillian Flynn’s ‘Sharp Objects’ was more my thing.
  • I’m gripped so each time I  put the book down to tend to my family or get on with real life I miss the characters.
  • When I’ve finished the book I’m a little sad.

That’s why I’m blogging about ‘If I Should Die‘ because I’m not ready to let it go.  I want others to read it so we can enthuse together.

I’ve always been interested in thrillers and crime. I grew up watching Starsky and Hutch and Magnum. When I should have been revising for my O’Levels I was reading PD James and Val McDermid.  Mark Billingham and Elizabeth George are among my favorite authors.   Admittedly I rely on my ‘sure things’ but I’m always on the look out for a new writer, a new protagonist because it’s lovely spending time with old friends but it’s exciting to be stimulated by someone new.  Without dissing the literary world I have to admit that I’ve struggled meeting new friends.  Nicci French came along who I adore, Chelsea Cain I love but since then I’ve been a little lonely.  But it seems the tide has changed because Sarah Hilary’s ‘Beneath the Skin‘ is excellent; I can’t wait to read ‘No Other Darkness‘ and now there’s Matthew Frank’s Jo Stark.  I can’t imagine it will be long before these books come to the small screen.  I love ‘Lewis’ but I’m Oxford-ed out.  I need a bit of London drama.  I was a big fan of ‘The Bill’.

Anyway back to me and my book but if you want to read about this talented new writer and his book ‘If I Should Die, which I  highly recommend visit http://www.matthewfrank.co.uk/

I actually feel a little guilty.  Enjoying myself at a Wedding reception last weekend I was chatting to a friend of my husband who congratulated me on finding an agent.  He asked lots of questions, I enthused about how exciting the whole thing was only for him to reveal he’d been writing for years to no avail.  I imagine this is the case for so many writers but not me.

Writing a book wasn’t on my to-do-list but I fell down a rabbit hole one day and like ‘Alice’ all sorts of things rambled round in my head as I plummeted.  I was one person when I fell and a different person when I landed.  The new me was out of sorts, I no longer fitted my life so I retreated a little and spent quite some time with my imagination and my teenage kids.  Henry Whittle emerged.  I knew he’d been in the military, I decided he was now a contract killer.  Henry’s a little damaged.  I thought about Henry when I wasn’t well enough to spend time with actual people.  Henry became as real to me as I’ll bet Jo Stark is to Matthew Frank and Marnie to Sarah Hilary. So I didn’t plan to write but my kids encouraged me and at one point in September I was in so much pain and unable to distract myself from it that I sat at the computer and typed whatever was in my head that day.  In Henry and Phoenix’s world I didn’t feel pain, so I went there everyday until I had an operation in December.  After recuperating I started contacting literary agents.  REALISATION 1: – your manuscript needs to be as good as you can possibly make it.  If you can afford to get it edited do so, if like me you can’t then get family and friends to read it through so that any timeline makes sense.  Also contact https://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/ to see if you meet their criteria for the Free Read scheme.  My manuscript was read and I received a detailed editorial report.

I received plenty of ‘nos’ which were all very politely worded and quite a few requests for the full manuscript followed by ‘it’s not one for us’.  How did I know what agents to send  to? I just googled and went through a list.  I sent off three requests for representation and as a rejection arrived I’d send off a new request.

They say everything happens in threes well that was true of interest in my book, suddenly there was a hive of activity and parties were very interested, but I didn’t string things out.  One of the agents phoned me.  I was  so nervous, I could barely string two words together.  My dogs were barking, my two youngest were coming in from school and I couldn’t really hear what she was saying, but her tone was professional and excited; it was clear that she loved my book.  Could we meet to discuss her ideas?  Definitely.

Leaving the house, meeting a new person, going to Notting Hill Gate – I had to get the NEXT catalogue out –  I only ever wear pajamas (slight exaggeration).  I was excitedly nervous as I entered Le Pain Quotidien and who was behind me but my agent.  I laughed nervously as we were seated.  I’d decided at home that I was going to order a pain au raisin because they are easy to eat in company – big mistake – it was not the tidy Tesco version, it was massive and flaky and consuming it was awkward but hey it can’t all be about the book.

We spent well over an hour discussing my book, the characters, how the whole thing came about and it was amazing to chat to someone outside of my family, someone who knows about literature and who knew my book inside out.  REALISATION 2: who need to have a firm market in mind.  I knew my book was borderline young adult/adult and that I was trying to reach two audiences because I couldn’t make my mind up.  So decide who is going to read your book and construct it to meet their needs.  I had to decide.  I chose Young Adult because I wrote it for my daughter who’s fifteen and she has been both helpful and inspirational in my writing – without her there would be no book.

As our first meeting came to an end my agent offered me representation, she told me to think about it, but I didn’t have to because she was so lovely and easy to chat to that I knew we would make a great team.  REALISATION 3:  you need to feel comfortable with your agent.  I don’t know what I would have done if my potential agent had been stuffy or snobby or made me feel like a right plank.

A week later, I received an email with editorial suggestions.  Catherine was happy to meet with me to discuss her ideas but her suggestions were so clear and straightforward that I thought no lets just go for it.  So my first editorial job involved toning down the violence, sexual references and bad language to make it appropriate for a younger audience.   Straightforward you make think but not so when one of the P.O.V’s is that of a serial killer.  It took me three weeks, less a day at Maroon5’s Wembly concert and a day for my husband’s birthday.

Catherine now has my new version.  It’s just like school.  I’m nervous, I want to get a good grade but I know it can’t be an ‘A’ because it’s too early, I’ll need to make many more revisions.  What’s lovely about having an agent is you’ve got a professional in your corner, helping you to strive to achieve the best (and you don’t have to write any more bloody query letters).

Catherine commented on how many manuscripts she reads from new writers that on reading reflect the hard work and tears that went into the writing as opposed to the story and characters.  It’s important for the reader to see only the characters and not feel the angst of the writer.  She said my book felt like I’d just sat in the garden with a laptop and keyed away which is very nearly true.  When I read ‘Beneath the Skin‘ and ‘If I Should Die’ I felt like Hilary and Frank produced these amazing books effortlessly so reading them was easy.  REALISATION 4: don’t work on you book when you’re not in the mood, don’t force the words, if they don’t come, relax, pick up a book, pop on the telly.

I am nowhere near getting my book published.  Obviously I believe in it and I imagine myself at some wine and nibbles book meeting, mingling with Sarah Hilary and Matthew Frank, because I need this vision to keep me focused.  Let’s face it it’s no longer just about me anymore.  REALISATION 5: responsibility – I now have an agent to think about – I have to make this work, I have to repay her faithIMG_1028 in me and The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.IMG_0986

Be happy, T.

Benedict’s Housemate

Something amazing has happened to me.  It’s hard to explain; you’d need to be extremely open-minded and receptive to the idea of time travel to believe my story.   Science is not my thing so I won’t attempt to address the theory of time travel, I’m just going to tell you how it is; here goes.

I had a blinding headache.  Not the type you moan about and take a couple of paracetemol for but a genuine debilitating migraine.  Popping some serious prescription pills I collapsed into bed; my burdensome head positioned utterly still on the pillow.   The things is not to move, even the slightest shift is wretched.

I closed my eyes and retreated to a place in my mind where pain does not exist.  There, deep in my corpus callosum within its intricate neural fibres, I stumbled upon this amazing ability to imagine a location or an event and transport there.

The first time I teleported I was dubious; it was a dream, it was a side effect of the medication I rationalised.  It couldn’t be real could it? I mean I was living in a dusty furnished room in 221b Baker Street; the home of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The whole thing was silly. I enjoyed it though…hanging out with Benedict.

“Why do you keep calling me Benedict?” he would question in that sexy, I’ve got to get to the bottom of this, voice; it was way huskier in real life than on film.  In truth Benedict was way more everything in the flesh apart from practical; he wouldn’t be able to spell the word paint.

It seems I had just moved in and Mrs Hudson was assisting me with covering the furniture with dust sheets.

“Feel free to paint the room; it hasn’t been touched in years but don’t make too much noise dearie, Sherlock needs to concentrate.”

Really? I thought he had this miraculous ability to walk around his mind as if he were physically in a library, extracting files and information; oblivious to his environment.  Surely 50 Cent’s Candy Shop wouldn’t be an issue.  It seems it was.

“You, yes you,” Benedict summoned. I endeavoured to be casual – it’s hard when you have a crush on someone.

“Yo, Ben, what’s up?”

“Sherlock, my name in Sherlock,” he replied impatiently, his tone irritated but oh so amazingly deep and haughtily English.  He did that impressive trick where he  assesses you: short bob, no makeup; not a girly girl,  fine lines around eyes; approximately late forties, two scars, four inches in length on neck; previous spinal cord compression,  paint splattered overalls; inefficient and unskilled, rap music; poor taste,  roller on an extended poll in hand and a tray of bright pink paint.

“Pink? Really?”

“Yep,”

“Look here Miss?”

“Alison.”

“Miss Alison of just Alison?”

For someone supposedly highly intelligent he was a bit slow on the uptake, but he was exceptionally alluring with it.

“Just Alison without the just in front; call…me…Alison,” I said with exaggerated pronunciation.

“Alison, I’m attempting to solve a high profile crime that impacts on British security and  the safety of the Monarchy and the terms ‘hoe’ and ‘pimp’ belting up through my floorboards are outrageously distracting. I never had these issues with Watson.”

“Benedict, I’m trying to paint a room, you help me and I’ll help you.”

And so it was.  Benedict, in sweat pants and a white slim fit t-shirt was rollering passion pink onto my walls whilst I painted the skirts white.  I sang rap songs badly and Benedict frowned in disapproval; we were a match made in heaven. From time to time I glanced his way; he had pink sprinkles on his soft curling locks, he was barefooted and getting right into it; the wall was horribly patchy but who cares, Benedict painted it.

That night, in his dusty, dark sitting room, with all manner of oddities and inventions, I stretched out on Benedict’s brown leather couch and remained completely silent; it was excruciatingly hard.

Benedict’s mind was at work; he sat in the lotus position, completely still, his face beautifully motionless, his body tall and erect but an empty shell. Fascinating, he really could vacate his body and swipe into his mind library. How amazing.

We shared fish and chips smothered in tomato sauce and mayonnaise.

“Don’t worry about the washing up,” he said, “Mrs Hudson will deal with it.”  I washed up though, it’s what friends do.

I rested my weary head on a tapestry cushion; it smelt of sandalwood and cigars. I breathed in the spicy aroma of Benedict; I think I was going to like living downstairs. I listened as Benedict played the violin badly; I’d get used to it I thought as I drifted off.

My eyes fluttered open, I was still in bed, virtually in the same position; I hadn’t gone anywhere.  I was already missing Baker Street, particularly Benedict.  I drifted tentatively to the bathroom endeavouring not to move my head unnecessarily.  Turning the shower on I was about to wash that dream right out of my hair when pink sprinkles on my hair tips caught my eye. Flip. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to tell my husband, the kids, absolutely everyone, but who’d believe me? It was impossible, implausible and inconceivable. If I didn’t get the dinner going my husband would say in was bloody inconsiderate and inconvenient!

I spent the following day Googling ‘time travel’; it didn’t help, it was for boffins and geeks: theoretical physics, wormholes and paradoxes; Benedict I need you and your Sherlock brain!  I wondered did my body actually physically move from one place to another; had my bed been empty when I was with Ben.  Is he wondering where I am; did I just vanish from his couch? Or were there two of me like in a parallel universe.   I wanted it to happen again but it didn’t, well, not for ages.

Travelling on the Piccadilly Line, listening to Maroon 5, my breathing became erratic; I think I was experiencing a panic attack. No longer in my seat, I was free falling into a black abyss. Bugger I’d miss my hospital appointment!

“You’ll be fine, stay calm, breath,” advised a random technician with, ‘The Choice’ labelled across his t-shirt.    Sitting at the foot of a small set of black stairs headed with black curtains I exhaled deeply into a brown paper bag whilst the technician rubbed my back soothingly. I had barely regulated my breathing when I was propelled up the stairs.

“You’re on!”

I am?

With false confidence I ascended the stairs and brushed through the curtains; bright, startling lights immediately fazed me.  I was squinting, blinking and rubbing my eyes.  Oh Lord I wore drainpipe denims and a tight black t-shirt with “hot stuff” emblazoned across my breasts. Sugar! I had a tattoo; it was a black heart with TINKER across it. A sound technician placed a microphone in my hand. No. No. No.  I don’t sing, I can’t sing, Benedict will vouch for that. I held the microphone cautiously as if it were a ticking time bomb. My family insisted I give up singing for lent that’s how tuneless I am.  Looking around, guitarists, drummers, brass and backing singers were all focusing on me and waiting for my queue.  A complete hush filled the auditorium. I looked directly ahead; four chairs. F***!

It began, my mouth moved, my hips swayed, my vocal was haunting and melodic, it gave me goose bumps; the audience were on their feet clapping and cheering me on. They liked me, they actually liked me! I was completely swept up in the moment.  I felt incredible, empowered and invincible. I had a sexy attitude and I was on fire!

O.M.G.! The man voted ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ turned for me.  Alison don’t panic now, keep singing, remember you are unique, you are remarkable. I did a Sherlock move and went to a place in my mind where I stored all my emotions and I charged them into my vocal.  I focused on Adam, gazing deep into his hazel take me to bed eyes.  Another chair turned; Sir John Jones, then another; Sita Okra, finally the last; Jam.i.e but I only had eyes for Mr Sexy.  After I hit the last note and the musicians ceased being musical; I reverted to sixteen.  Adam was the hottest boy in school and I was speechless.

“What’s your name?” he asked his eyes curiously assessing me.

How the hell should I know? Next question.

“What’s your story?”

Funny you should ask.  I’m a time traveller and I have somehow absorbed the power of song, but I can’t speak.  Adam and Alison has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? If we had kids we could call them Adrian and Alana. Bums, this is embarrassing.  I managed to rummage up three small words which I breathlessly exhaled,

“I want Adam!”

Wimbledon! Crap, my stop.  Mr Levine was a distant memory along with Benedict – shame.  I was now in the moment with Novak Djokovic; mixed doubles finals against Venus Williams and Nadal. Oh dear, my husband would not be happy, I was under strict orders not to participate in physical activity.  Sod that!

We were on a hard court, sliding into point after point; everyone a winner. My ‘number 1 in the world’ partner was his awesome, charismatic self and I was a phenomenon.  I made every shot: slices, one-handed backhands, swinging volleys; my palms were stinging from high fives.  Novak and I were completely in tune, although he was from Serbia and I from South Ruislip we spoke the same sweet language of win at all costs.

I was to serve for the title.  Novak and I were huddled intimately together discussing strategy.  The media were busy snapping away; tomorrow they’d be intimating that we were an item but no chance; I only had eyes for my husband.  Okay perhaps they’d momentarily strayed to Benedict, then Adam, then ever so fleetingly to Novak but I’m over it now. It’s okay honey, I’m back on track.

Novak was calming me down and reassuring me.  Forget the trophy, concentrate on the point.  See it, feel it and believe it.  I looked up to the supporters’ box, my husband was staring intently at me mouthing ‘you can do it Al, I know you can’.  Of course I could. Taking a deep breath I tossed the ball high and hit it at 132m.p.h. Yes, I aced it.  Novak and I, arms around each other, were jumping up and down, hollering and whooping and kissing.

“Same time next year, partner,” I laughed squeezing him tightly.  I was climbing up to my husband in the supporters’ box when I travelled again.

I was in Ibiza, in a buzzing outside disco.  I was eighteen physically but forty eight mentally and emotionally; the perfect combination.  It was erotically hot, sweltering in fact. Boys wore very little and girls barely anything. I heard the beat; it was bouncing off the ground and up into the atmosphere. He was there, on the raised platform, draped with bikini clad model wannabes – C.H., songwriter, D.J. and producer, mega!  I danced and jumped till sweat poured off me; I punched the air like I was knocking it out.  I wasn’t self conscious; well you’re not in your forties are you? So I danced my heart out in just a lime green pair of shorts and a bright white bikini top, till I was gasping.

The makeshift bar was rocking with heaving men; did I want to get roughed up by a bunch of half naked, bawdy, sweaty Spaniards?  I was seriously considering this question when an ice cold bottle of aqua was placed in my hand.  I looked up, then up a bit further. No wayyyyyyyy.  It was C.H., all 1.96 metres of him.  He was ‘hench’ as my daughters would say. Our eyes locked and we shared one of those fleeting moments that you remember all your life.  I was tempted to lean into his muscled chest and reach up and kiss him but I wouldn’t, I wasn’t a cougar; sorry Calvin I’m already taken – I have one of you at home he’s just shorter, wider and older. Laters baby.

Anyway I felt that I was officially as mad as a March hare.  My mind kept playing tricks with me. Where was my bank card?  Did I really put my keys in the fridge?  Time travel plays havoc with ordinary life.

On that next occasion one minute I was in the lift heading toward North Wing, the next I was in a plush, private, elevator ascending to the penthouse.  I studied myself in the wall to wall mirrors.  I wore a floral dress, it had been in my wardrobe when I was about twenty; I loved it then and I loved it now.  I spun round; wow I looked beautiful. The elevator doors opened.

“Good evening Miss Downey.”

“Good evening Mr Charcoal.”

Things were seriously hotting up! Oh dear, my Catholic schooling had not prepared me for him.

Alone, just me and the most eligible, drop dead dirty bachelor from contemporary fiction.  It’s true he was exceptionally intimidating, extremely intense and extraordinarily beautiful.  He gently touched my lips with his long, neatly clipped finger. Crap, his touch transmitted static to my hair; I’d morphed into Jedward.

My eyes darted repeatedly from him to the ceiling, back to him then to that corridor; the passageway to his play room.  I burped nervously.

“May I call you Tristan because I feel as if I know you intimately (I did, I’d read all three books, slowly, very slowly)?

He nodded, his eyes set intently on mine. Hadn’t his mother told him a watched kettle never boils?

“This is not going to work, I don’t do naked; I still change under my towel when I go swimming. I’d love to be the girl for you, all submissive and panty but the only whip I’m interested in is one with a walnut on the top.”

“I could make you change your mind,” he whispered seductively in my ear. “Sign the contract, you know you want to.”

“Tristan, if I had to draw the perfect man I’d draw you but I’m more a Botticelli. Me, nudity, handcuffs, it would be awk-ward.”

He pulled his t-shirt off. I’m not looking, I’m not looking, if I don’t see his rippled torso with that taunt patchwork of muscle I’d be fine.  Be strong Alison, be strong…I peaked; it was my undoing.

“I want to tie you up and love you hard.” I hate the f word so I’ve altered his response.

“Let’s do it! Okay, I’m empowering myself to agree to being submissive, it’s a choice, a decision. I am a willing participant.  Show me the dotted line.”

I grabbed his hand and pulled him down the corridor; he stumbled after me.  The play room was at the foot of the hallway.  Half way down, I pushed him against the wall, pulled his hands above his head and kissed him senseless. Charcoal looked scared. He was tripping over his feet as I pulled him enthusiastically further down the corridor.  Damn, this hallway went on forever. It was sterile white.  It was enclosing around me.  Oh dear Mr Tristan Charcoal had done a runner. Probably for the best, it would be hard to explain the restraint marks on my wrists and ankles to my husband.

Instead of being tethered and shackled by Mr Pain and Pleasure I am cocooned in a machine that scans my brain and crumbling spine. Don’t lose heart when you read this because I am truly exceptional, one of a kind in fact. I am Benedict’s housemate. I sing for votes on ‘The Choice’ with Adam in my corner.  I rave with C.H. and alongside Novak I will defend our mixed doubles title because we are Wimbledon champions!

Okay, there’s no participating in multi-position trussing with Tristan Charcoal though, my husband completely drew the line at that one.

I’m not sad; really. Please don’t feel anxious for me or sympathy. As my body weakens my mind is evolving; this ability to teleport, to be anywhere in the world with anybody is literally a miracle.  I am Alison and I am a time traveller.  Believe it or don’t believe it; I’m too happy to care.

Dreaming

People write and blog for a multitude of reasons.  Up until September 24 2014 I hadn’t written anything other than a shopping list. Yet I sat down and started my book. When people I know discover I’ve written a novel they presume it’s about disability which makes me a little disappointed because it could imply that my condition is now what defines me.  It doesn’t.

For quite some time I did feel lost. One minute I was a teacher, then I wasn’t.  My driving licence was one of my greatest achievements and now I can’t drive.  I swam twenty lengths a day, not no more! If music played, then I danced – I’m now a break dancing sort of chick.

Honestly, it’s hard to be 44 and to have to reinvent yourself, but I’m glad I persisted because on Wednesday I’m going up town to meet a literary agent who likes my book.  I’m not thinking past our rendezvous I’m just so enjoying the moment.  If someone told me a year ago that I would have penned a novel and that I’d been glamming up and circulating among literary types I’d be waiting for the punchline but it seems my adventures are not over just yet.

At golf when my husband mentions my writing his friends are a bit taken back because it was only in December that I had a posterior cervical lamenectomy following two previous anterior cervical disectomy and fusions (3 surgeries in 4 years). I have a damaged spinal cord, I walk funny, my body is awkward, grasping is difficult; things just fly from my hand so beware if I’m holding a carving knife and I can’t lift anything, really, nothing.

My problem is this, the more I do physically the quicker my disks wear away.  At first I failed to grasp the enormity of this and to be honest I don’t think the surgeons and neurologists believed that my myelopathy could be as rapidly progressive as it turned out to be.

So what do you do if you can’t work, can’t exercise, can’t do housework, can’t tend to your beloved garden? You write a book whilst listening to some banging tunes as my daughter would say.

I have imagination and a lot of time on my hands.  I’ve started on my second book to keep me busy.  Each day I wake up with purpose and a sense of excitement because I have a job; I’m a writer.

Why have I approached an agent to pursue publishing, isn’t it about writing for fun? Yes, but my husband plays golf, it’s fun, but he wants to win.  It’s true when I say I’m not competitive however I want to be good at something again.  I want to have a proper job that earns money and fulfills me.  I love the idea of going on book tours, talking about my novel, meeting new people in places I’ve never been to. I also want to dream, okay, I agree it’s a bit far fetched: me, The Odeon Leicester Square and the premier of The Rebirth of Henry Whittle.

Be happy, T.

A Sure Thing

IMG_0983 image sorry IMG_0986 IMG_0988 IMG_0989

Books are a conduit, a wormhole. Open one and no longer are you where you thought you were. A chapter later you’re spending time with people you never thought you’d meet and in my case (a crime fan) you pray you never do.

I once considered where my interest in crime originated from and I’ve concluded The Famous Five. It’s not as preposterous as it sounds. At the root of each book is a mystery with a baddie and possible suspects. Once I’d read Five on A Treasure Island I was hooked. I would badger my Dad, when he was busiest, for pocket money (which he readily supplied to keep me at bay) and I’d purchase the next book in the series with the confidence I would love it.

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of books however I am a fussy reader.  A book might be a literary masterpiece or pushing new boundaries or a best seller but not necessarily my cup of tea.  Gone Girl is the perfect example; brilliant premise, interesting and clever dual perspective angle, well written but Nick and Amy were unlikeable and flat.  I felt the last few chapters rewarded me for sticking with a book purely because I was curious after the hype. I actually much preferred Gillian’s Flynn ‘ Sharp Objects’. Admittedly if I fancy a thriller or a crime novel my expectations are exceedingly high.  I’ve been spoilt by my literary heroes PD James, Val McDermid,  Minette Walters and Mark Billingham.

I am always on the look out for something different and exciting. I particularly like dark, creepy and sinister with a hint of romance. Most books in this genre tend to disappoint; they are either predictable or the characters fail to elicit strong feeling from me. Even if a character is average, I want him or her to be brilliant at being average. I have come across some gems though: Nicci French and Chelsea Cain are members of my SURE THING club.

This month I’ve read:

  • Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse:
  • The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney
  • The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez
  • Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

It has been a successful reading period because each of these books has ticked my boxes. I struggled most with The Liar’s Chair because like Gone Girl and Revolutionary Road the characters initially failed to engage me, so I repeatedly put it down. However in the last few chapters there is an exciting change of pace and an unexpected conclusion therefore I felt satisfied, more so than with Gone Girl.

If you are looking for a multi-perspective, shifting of time, hard hitting thriller with characters you genuinely care about then Sorry is perfect.  A month after reading the novel the characters still remain with me.

My book of the month however is not listed above, it is Sarah Hilary’s ‘Someone Else’s Skin’. Once I turned the page I was there with D.I. Marnie Rome.  This debut novel has all the ingredients to ensure I didn’t put it down: a strong, likeable  yet vulnerable protagonist, an attempted murder with twists and turns, an excellent subplot of a murder with personal ramifications, characters that add value, straightforward style of writing and a hint or romance.

I am interested to read a second novel from all the above authors but the book that I look forward to reading most and is on my wish list is Sarah Hilary’s ‘No Other Darkness‘.  I have confidence that it will deliver and that by D.I. Marnie Rome Book 3 Sarah Hilary will have joined my SURE THING club.

Thank you to all the above writers for making April a great reading month.

Be happy, T.