Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Why I Write

Why do I want to be an author? Well it’s obvious, I want to win an Oscar, earn loads of money, be invited to parties with other stars and have an excuse to kiss Hugh Jackman. Ooops, sorry, wrong career.

One thing is for sure, I’m not aspiring to earn loads of money with my writing. After talking to several authors I’ve come to the conclusion that writing will not make me rich, in fact it would make me quite poor if I quit my day job.

Am I aspiring to become famous? There again, considering the amount of books published and how difficult it is to promote your book, I don’t think fame is on the horizon either.

So, is it for the mere pleasure of writing? No. I enjoy writing, but I don’t find it’s enough; otherwise I wouldn’t go through the trials of becoming a published writer. What I’m really seeking is recognition. I want my effort to be recognized by others and to know that it is worth reading and it is enjoyable.

When I tell someone I’ve written a novel, they often tell me how proud I must feel and what an achievement that is. But the truth is I don’t feel fully achieved because I don’t have the certainty that it is worth reading. I should think many people can sit down and write a book, but not knowing if readers will enjoy and appreciate it will prevent them from feeling they’ve done a good job.

What are you seeking? Do you need recognition?

Saturday, 24 July 2010

How do you do?

One thing I did find a bit awkward at the RNA Conference was the introductions. There were all these people I felt I knew from Twitter and email, some I "talk" to everyday, but when I eventually met them, I didn't know how I was meant to introduce myself. Should I give them two kisses like in Spain? A hug? Shake hands? An acknowledging nod of the head?

I've always feared the moment when you're introduce to people. In Spain, people normally give a kiss on each cheek, but that's usually once you've met them or if they're relatives. If you don't know someone or it's a business situation, you'll be shaking hands.
So, you get the awkward moment when you're introduced to friends of friends who you don't know, but it feels a bit too official to shake hands.

In England, I haven't been able to work out the customary thing to do. Some people will give you a hug, others will shake your hand and others will even give you a kiss on the cheek, but I haven't deciphered the pattern for doing this and I probably come across as curt when I'm introduced to someone because I always wait a moment or two to see what the person facing me will do or expects from me.

Have you ever found these moments awkward? Are there any tricks to know what I should be doing?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

I Hear Thunder

There are three things I find mesmerizing and soothing but only entail watching. These are storms, the sea and fire.

It is so hot here I won't even mention fire again. Only the thought of it makes my brain steam. But it is something I could sit gazing at it for hours on end. The same goes for the sea, which I'll spend hours watching and never feel bored. There is something very relaxing about hearing the waves come and go and the sound of seagulls circling above. Even the cries of children running and playing on the beach makes me feel calm.

And as for storms, I find they're like books. They build up slowly, putting pressure on the characters and showing a grey scenario while anticipating excitement and the burst of thunder. Then, when the downpour comes and washes away all the negative emotions and the overload in the atmosphere, and lightning lights up the way for the characters, peace finally comes leaving happiness in its wake.

What do you find relaxing?

Friday, 16 July 2010

The Joy of Peaceful Solitude (#FridayFlash)

Every Friday afternoon Mary had her friends over for tea. They had their own ritual, they’d have their cupcakes, flapjacks, China Rose Tea... and then they’d clear the table for their game of bridge. 

It was one of the pleasures of not having a husband. She could invite whoever she wanted, whenever she wanted. There were no arguments or sneers about her choice of friends or the noise they made. She was free to live her life without having to give explanations or excuses. 

Now, as she sat in the garden with her friends and listened to them chatting away and catching up on the gossip, she relaxed in her chair, knowing she no longer had to rush back to the kitchen to get her husband’s dinner ready by eight o’clock on the dot. 

‘Mary dear, you’re ever so quiet today. A penny for your thoughts?’ asked Emily. 

‘It’s now been a year since John left,’ answered Mary quietly. 

Her three friends gasped and looked at her concerned. ‘Oh, no. We never realized. It must be such a painful day for you.’ 

‘Painful? Why would it be painful?’ she asked and searched their wrinkled faces in surprise. ‘I was wondering if the bottle of champagne would be chilled by now.’ 

Her friends exchanged gazes. They’d always assumed the fit of giggles that had possessed Mary at the time was part of a nervous breakdown. Could it have really been happiness? 

They eyed her carefully and were further surprised by the wide grin spreading over her face. 

‘You should all try it. It is absolute bliss,’ said Mary as she got up and walked towards the kitchen. 

A moment later, she came back carrying a tray, but as she approached the table she caught sight of her Terrier trotting back from the end of the garden with his paws covered in dirt and something in his mouth. As she made out the shape, she dropped the tray and the champagne bottle and flutes fell with a crash on the floor. 

The Terrier came up to her wagging his tail and she tried to free the object from his jaw, but he wouldn’t let go. ‘Oh you naughty little dog, I told you it wasn’t a ball. Go and put that skull back where you found it. What will my friends ever think of the state of him now, as if he wasn’t ugly enough during life.’ Then, she turned to her friends with an apologetic smile as they all watched her in horror, ‘Sorry, girls, but my husband is determined to embarrass me, even after dead.’

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Comradeship at the RNA Conference

I've been in England this last week, that is why I was so quiet. This is actually a lie, because I haven't stopped talking. First I was with my family and then at the Romantic Novelist's Association Conference where I met lots of people I already knew from Twitter and email.

I found the prospect of meeting these people both exciting and slightly daunting. It's often easier to hide behind your desk and have time to think witty answers than talk face to face with people, but all my doubts disappeared   the moment I arrived there and started introducing myself to friendly people I recognized by their photos, although there were a few that were unrecognisable and improved no end in person. I've realized cameras can be a very mean enemy if their not on your "good side".

One thing I've learnt this weekend is that authors are very aware of the struggle it is to be published and there is a feeling of comradeship among writers that I don't think many professions can boast about. I met all kinds of writers at the conference, both published and yet-to-be-published, and I often heard the words "I know exactly what you mean" because they've all suffered the same hardships at one time or another. It's not only the pen and paper they share, it's the joys and sorrows too. 

As for the working side of the conference, I really wished I'd had a larger memory this weekend, because I've had lots of advice on writing which seemed essential to me and I'm worried I might forget it. This means I was ignoring one of the main advices: Always keep a notebook with you and write everything down!

Monday, 5 July 2010

The sacrifices of femininity

I must admit I'm not a feminist, I like all those gentlemanly details, like opening the door to let us through or the feeling that you're protected, even if it's only an illusion and your man would probably run away while you hit muggers with your 45lb bag full of cosmetics, books, cards, pens, notebooks, toys and no money.

I'm obviously quite a selective sexist because I'll defend women's rights and freedom to act and decide, or whenever I think it convenient for my objectives, but there are still things I expect a man to do, like DIY things, mow the lawn or kill spiders so I have a guilt-free conscience.

Women have fought for equality, but I find I don't want all of the package that equality entails. I'd much rather stay at home without working if I've also got to look after kids and cook and fill up washing machines and clear up and race around like a maniac to pick up the children from school on time... Unfortunately I can't do this if I want to keep a certain lifestyle, so I have to be a modern woman who works and does those things too.

And then there are all those image sacrifices. I often think about the people who discovered things or implanted traditions. One of those things, for instance, is beauty trends. Like who on Earth decided to shave for the first time? Didn't they realize the consequences that would have in the future? The long-life commitment to suffer that involved? What's wrong with looking like a cuddly orangutan? I'm sure we'd save on heating and warm clothes in the winter. In fact, women do tend to go back to the furry look sporting minx coats in the winter.

Then of course you get the "you need to be thin to be beautiful" fashion. Whoever decided that? Did they really think about the hunger and lack of breathing and all other thinning sacrifices that this trend would mean to women's nature? If I'd met that person in time, I'd have smacked them on the head and say, "think very carefully what you're going to say, you're about to change the life of lots of happy bulgy women".

So, next time I talk to the manager in charge of my rebirth, I will make sure they tick the "Man" box on my form before chucking back into the world.

Friday, 2 July 2010

A Juicy Date (#FridayFlash)

“You must take my word Grace, Matt is a fine young gentleman. He’s kind and very bright. And he’s a businessman, he’s got his own fishmonger’s,” she said talking to Grace and the rest of the customers, who nodded interestedly in return.

“Yes, Mrs. Peckbot, I’m sure he’s very nice. But I’m really not interested. Is there anything else you need?”
“Not interested? Don’t give me any of that nonsense Grace. A girl of your age must think of having a family, and you can’t wait too long, you’ll regret it. I’m sure Matt would be delighted to take you out to dinner one night.”
Grace was losing her patience. She’d been hearing old-women’s advice on her love life for the past year and it didn’t look as if they would give up soon. She did as usual, she smiled politely and nodded at the right times even if she was bursting to shout at them.
“Shall I tell him to come over then?” Mrs. Peckbot enquired.
“Who?” asked Grace coming back from her thoughts.
“Well, my nephew of course,” she said rolling her eyes at the other customers who’d been listening and giving their own opinions.
“Oh, no thanks Mrs. Peckbot. I’m fine as I am,” Grace said with the calmest smile she could muster whilst trying to ignore the rest of the stares. “Now, do you need any more apples or kiwis?”
“No, no, that will be all thanks,” she said. She paid for her fruit and vegetable and hurried off in a huff.
 As the day went by, she listened to other offers to set her up on a blind date with sons, nephews, neighbour’s great-sons and even the milk-man. “Do I look this desperate to find a man?” she said to her sister over the phone while the shop was empty. “Yes, of course I feel lonely and I would like a man to share the evenings after work with, but one that I chose and certainly not a blind date. I don’t believe in blind dates set up by mothers or grandmothers. It’s the perfect way to put anyone off someone. Going out to dinner with a man who your mother deems suitable or appropriate is enough to kill the sparkle and attraction.”
 She looked at her watch once the shop was empty and was relieved to see it was nearly time to close. She heard the bell above the door tinkle as the door opened. There was always someone who had to spoil her plans to close the shop early. However, a customer is a customer, she thought, and turned round with her usual smile.
The smile broadened heartily as she saw a tall man with dark wavy hair stride up to her.
“Hi,” he said with a lopsided grin which just opened enough to show white glimmering teeth. His hazel eyes were slightly turned down at the corners giving him an air of sadness despite the deep laugh lines at the corners.
Grace nodded, unable to answer. What was a man like this doing in a fruit shop? He was too beautiful to be doing ordinary chores. He belonged in a film set or an important business board, but not in a small village shop. She looked away to try to recover her breath and mind.
“I’d like some of those melons, they look firm and delicious,” he said with a husky voice. She looked up at him to follow his gaze, but his eyes weren’t targeting the Cantaloupe melons, they were pinned on her and he slowly lifted them to her face. “They look fresh and juicy.”
“The melons, yes, of course” she said in a mere whisper and started to move towards them. Through the corner of her eye she noticed his hand went to touch the peaches.
“They’ve such silky skin,” he said slowly. “I feel an urge to stroke them when I see them. I think I’ll take some too.” He took a step closer to her and picked up a papaya. “These have such a refreshing flesh and exotic taste. I want some too.”
The rumble of his voice made her blood race to her face and her fingers trembled as she chose a ripe melon and left it on the counter. She moved under his straightforward stare and once again, he slowly raised his gaze inch by inch to lock his eyes with hers. She rustled the paper bag to bring herself back from the intensity of the moment and, as she reached out for the peaches, he came closer.
She turned round to find herself face to face with him and took a small step back as she found the closeness too overwhelming to control her urge. He held her free hand and lifted his other hand to her hair and cupped her face. As she leaned her face in his hand she breathed in his smell and her eyes opened wide in surprise. Her nostrils filled with the smell of fish.

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