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My Mum's 70th birthday do

Here's a photo of my whole family taken at my mum's 70th birthday do, on 23rd June 2012. The front row, from right to left is: My daughter Becca, me, my mum standing behind my dad (in wheelchair), my son Christy, my son Daniel. The back row, from right to left is: my sister, Lis, her husband, John, their sons, Henry and John, my nephew Chad, my husband, Paul and my brother, Steve (Chad's dad). Don't we all look lovely. I'm officially the shortest in my whole family now (how is that fair??!!)

My big fat knitted quilt project

Yeah! I finally finished my big fat knitted quilt project! (well almost - I still have to finish the hand quilting.) The knitting of squares took me the best part of two years, off and on, and then there was the sewing together of squares, and then the laying out backing sheet and wadding and pinning it all together, and then when I went to my sewing machine to sew the quilting and tried to ram it in and managed to break five needles before giving up I realised I was going to have to hand quilt the whole thing. It's not actually that bad - although as I'm getting closer to the middle (I'm sewing ever decreasing rectangles one square in from the edge and so on) the big bundles of quilt I have to handle gets a bit much, and I'm always stabbing my fingers with the sharp needles as I sew at arms length. I thought I'd better photograph it sooner rather than later, though, as both the dog and the cat will sit on it whenever I take it up to sew it and I'm afraid it'll get damaged before it's finished. Also this unprecedented spell of dry weather means the grass is okay to lay it out on (no-where in the house is big enough).

Still, I'm really happy with how it turned out. :-)

Almost Spring in Belfast

It's a beautiful day: still and dry and warm enough for me to do one of my favourite things, which is sit out in the garden at my little bistro table with my lunch, and a pot of tea, and a good book, which is what I just did. Lucy and Roxie, my cat and my dog, came with me, as they usually do, and sat giving each other dirty looks and enjoying with me the warming early spring sunshine. The garden was filled with birdsong, thanks to the bird feeder which I religiously fill up with fat balls (a name that elicits endless mirth from my degenerate family). I was eating salad, which I had prepared in such a way that I could eat it with a fork without having to pay too much attention to what I was doing, so that I wouldn't be distracted from my book. Unfortunately, there is one problem with that style of eating for ladies shaped like me. There isn't really a nice way to say it: I'm buxum, rotund, well built, curvaceous (think Dawn French rather than Nigella Lawson), 'larger than life' (I hate that one - how is anyone larger than life - is there a limit to how big life is? Is there a crossover point? Is size 16 life sized, and 18 larger than life (not to mention those sizes in the twenties)). With my shape comes the cleavage problem. Clothes that would be perfectly respectable on normally sized women (life-sized) tend to make me look like a barmaid from a carry on film. (My bosom heaves). I'm not trying to big myself up here (ha ha) because I don't think any men would be queuing up to view my bosom - at best I think men find me 'motherly', but short of wearing polo necks all the time (which I can't because they make my neck look fat (well, fatter)), I tend to have the mountains on show to some degree, with a dark deep chasm in between, and hence the problem.  


Do you remember those plastic bibs they used to make for babies and toddlers (maybe they still do) that catch any food that drops while Junior is being fed and pools it in a lake of goo, so that mummy can scoop it up and feed it again (eew). Well, that's my cleavage. Things drop down there. At the end of the day I can shake all manner of small objects out of my bra: food (well, yes) but also earrings, computer memory keys, small pieces of paper etc, etc.

If I'm having a really nice meal, I'll fish around and pull out the bits I've dropped (waste not, want not) although for some reason, people find that a bit gross (I know, what's their problem?) 

You can imagine how full my foundation garment is after my lovely garden lunch. Still, if I get hungry later, I'll know where to look for a quick snack.

Autumn in Belfast

I'm just back from a lovely walk along the tow path in Belfast with Roxie the dog. The Autumn colours are resplendent and when I wasn't in the shade the sun was almost warm! (Below are pictures I took when Paul and I were at the tow path last weekend - the light wasn't as good as it was today, but I had Paul to hold the dog while I composed my shots (get me!)). He didn't get too impatient (!)

Today I enjoyed just walking and talking to Paul (I always text him when I'm at the tow path without him, and if he's not too busy at work, he rings me and chats to me as I walk - bless). When the phone call was over, my mind started working overtime (as it does). 

The thing is, I'm TERRIFIED about hearing back from my editor at Faber. I sent her the manuscript for Ruby Dead at the beginning of October and I haven't heard back yet. Her response holds so much potential - if it's positive I'll be absolutely jubilant - my dream will be back on track, I'll be back to doing what I love - I just can't tell you how absolutely awesome that would be.

BUT if she doesn't like it (or says she loves it but it's not right for their lists which effectively means the same thing) I'll be so utterly devastated I'll just sink into total despair.

My imagination is being totally bi-polar about it - I have imagined everything from Faber loving it so much they want to publish not only it, but also the last one I sent which they rejected (in this imagined scenario, they have realised their mistake and letting the last masterpiece go) as well as advancing me against future writing. Then in my mind I'm winning awards, being made a lady (where did that come from?) I even imagined them naming a street after me in Belfast (Sarah Wray Street). Megalomania, moi?

But the dark side of my mind has my Faber editor telling me that I should just be kind to myself and give up writing now, since I have no talent or potential or hope. Oh woe!

I'm so frightened.

I really want to know the answer....

(But only if it's good.)

Nice summer


At the beginning of July I went with three ladies from my book group to Old Nice for eight days. We had a great time - we swam in the sea (until Irene got stung by a jellyfish which kind of put us off) and we ate lots of nice salads and bread and pasta and pizza and drank rose wine and walked up lots of steps (80 steps up to our fourth floor apartment in a 300 year old building with no lift.) And it was very hot and lovely and made me want to pack up and move to France.

Shortly after coming home, I won a prize which was a beautiful wooden box of artist watercolour pencils. Inspired by my new pencils and my memories (and photos) of old Nice, I made a drawing/painting which you can see if you click on the link above. If my writing career doesn't pick up, I could always forge a new career as an artist (yeah, right, dream on S Wray).

Talking of writing, Ruby Dead is about to reach the 50 000 word mark, which means we're in the home straight within sight of the finish line (does that make sense, or am I mixing my metaphors?) as I'm aiming for around 60 000 words.

I feel a little trepidatious about finishing - I always enjoy writing the dramatic endings of my books, because (hopefully) they're exciting and my characters reach the end of their journey and it's like being a mother bird watching my little hatchlings fly out of the nest. But then inevitably I'm left with the sad empty nest feeling when everything is done and dusted - especially in my current situation where the baby book doesn't go straight to the publisher to be edited and titled and cover designed and all the rest, but just goes to sit on top of my pile of finished work. 

And then what? Is it too sad to start writing a fourth unpublished (since my two published books) book. Is it even sadder not starting a new book? All I want to be is a writer.

When will I get my new book deal?

Waah!


Birds and Words

I bought a new bird feeder for the garden back in November - the kind that has quite big holes in it, and you fill it with what they call 'fat balls' (no rude jokes please!). Well, it is so popular with the avian population in Belfast that I've had to go and buy giant economy sized buckets of refills lots of times, and my garden constantly looks like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. At any one time, there will be at least four birds actually at the feeder, and several more queueing on the branches around it. One time I looked out of my window and the whole tree was literally covered in birds. I like birds. They give me an excuse to look out of my window instead of working.


Talking of working, things are getting better. I still don't have a new publisher (I know - how could a talent as great as mine still be unclaimed?). I had an email from my agent, Simon Trewin the other day, and he's going to (or maybe already has) pitch Blood and Snow to a brand new childrens' publisher called Nosy Crow. 

I'm very excited because they look like they're going to be fabulous, plus with all the bird feeding I've been doing, there must be some karmic birdie payback coming my way - if my feathered friends would only get on the birdie grapevine to the nosy crow and put in a good word for me, I'll be laughing!


My writing has been sssoooo sssslllooooowwww lately, because I've been stuck in the ICouldn'tBeBothereds (they're just south of I'mTooDepressedToCare). But I came up with a scheme to shame myself into writing more. I'm keeping a writing log where I enter my starting word count and ending word count each writing day and I either get rewarded with smiley faces (if I write more than 1000 words), or punished with frowny faces (if I write less than 500). I know, it's juvenile, but it seems to work with me - production has improved dramatically, and it makes me happy to be writing properly again - it really is what I love doing, published or not (although I really really want to get published again soon, please, please, please!!!)

Weird - I just looked out the window, and there's not a single bird at the feeder. Maybe they've all flown off to visit the nosy crow???

If language were liquid...

If language were liquid
It would be rushing in
But instead here we are
In a silence more eloquent
Than any words could ever be...

That song is driving me nutso!

It's a great song (Suzanne Vega) but it always fills my head whenever I'm blocked (writer's block, not the other kind) so that I wouldn't be able to think about anything else even if my brain was working.

It's been half a year since I've written a blog (although I have been keeping up with the 'your questions and comments' page and the 'I've just read' page). If you add that to the previous half a year, what a year you'd get. It was in January last year that Faber gave my career the death knoll by rejecting Blood and Snow, and now, a whole year later I'm no further on.

Since then I've written just over 12,000 words on my new book, Ruby Dead. 12,000 words in a year is pretty pants considering when I'm on good form I can write a 70-80,000 word novel in six months easy. They are pretty good 12,000 though - they should be, since I've spent months staring at them and tweaking here and polishing there but not really moving forward. So this weekend I gave myself a good talking to, and told myself to remember how much I love the writing process, the creating and the story telling, and the getting to know the characters, and just jolly well get back into it regardless of how woefully unrepresented I am in the publishing world.


So today I sat down and read Ruby Dead from the beginning (and tweaked it a bit) and then surged forward with........(wait for it).......108 new words.


108


AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!


I used to set myself a 2000 word a day minimum that didn't really stretch me at all. Why is it now flowing any more?


If only language were liquid....


(It would be rushing in... To bad, I can't think about writing in my blog anymore because my head is full of Suzanne Vega...)

The Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award

I had such a great time in Preston this weekend at the Lancashire Children's Book of The Year Award. It was the second time I'd been to an award ceremony like that and the first time (last year in Newcastle) I'd been so nervous and tongue tied around the other authors that I didn't really have a great time, but this year I was much more relaxed and I really did enjoy it. The other writers who attended were: Tabitha Suzuma, Sophie McKenzie and Craig Simpson. Tabitha brought her mum along, and Sophie was with an editor from Simon and Schuster called Jane. I got on really well with all of them - such lovely people, and the organisers of the event, especially Jake and Alison looked after us very well indeed.

The travelling for me was pretty complicated - on the way there it took a plane, two trains and two buses, and going home three trains a bus and a plane (which was filled with football fans who'd been to a match at Liverpool, as well as the whole Linfield football team, so it wasn't a particularly quiet flight!)

I'm still feeling pretty exhausted after the trip plus I think I'm coming down with a cold, but I'm so glad I went. It was a really well organised couple of days of events with great contributions from lots of young people who spoke bravely and eloquently about their experiences in the judging panel. We were fed several very nice meals, and the hotel was lovely too. Jake told us that they start sending out letters to publishers for next years award today - they don't even take a well deserved rest.  No wonder it was so well organised!

I also got to meet the author Adele Geras who was chair of the judging panel, and Jo Delaney, who as a local author attended the award ceremony and gave out signed copies of his new book in the 'Spooks' series as prizes for some of the young judges.

I'll probably write more about it all some time, but I'm feeling a bit bleah, so I'll stop now.

My favourite shop in the world

Monday was Spring Bank Holiday and Paul had the day off work even though the boys didn't. Bex was home but she had revising to do, so Paul and I went out to ...  MY FAVOURITE SHOP IN THE WORLD.
What is it? You ask, and you might be surprised that it's not a bookshop although it does sell a few books it's....Hillmount Garden Centre just outside Belfast. Don't be put off by the name (not that there's anything wrong with garden centres per se) but Hillmount Garden Centre is so much more. It is my outting of choice when Paul lets me chose what to do with his day off. It's enormous and sells almost everything you could posibly want to browse through - knick-knacks and candles and jewellery and handbags and gifts and kitchenware and arts and crafts and ornaments and toys and pet products not to mention the plants and planters and garden furniture I LOVE IT!! It has a nice cafe too, but we opted to go to one of my other favourite shops (although it's one where I can barely afford to breathe the air once the uniformed doorman has let me in) Fulton's Fine Furnishings. I love that shop too - I like to wander around it and imagine what I would buy if I was super rich. It also has a very nice cafe and that's where we went for lunch. Paul always has stew, and I always have salad (partly because they're the most economical things on the menu, and partly because we both really like them) and then we shared a giant wack of lemon merangue pie. (Fulton's Fine Furnishing's pies have to be seen to be believed). I can't imagine how anyone could eat a whole slice by themselves... (I wonder if I should try that one day...? My stomach might explode, but what a way to go!)

I heard from The Lancashire Children's Book of hte year award that I came a respectible third. I would really liked to have won, of course, but still considering the other shortlisted writers, I'm pretty chuffed with third, and still really looking forward to going over to England for the celebrations.


I'm reading Runemarks by Joanne Harris at the moment and I love it!! It is like a soup of three of my favourite writers blended together since it reminds me of Terry Pratchetts Wee Free Men books, and Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and of course Joanne Harris's Chocolat and Lollipop Shoes. It's one of those books that follows me around the house so I can read while I'm cooking, or eating my lunch, or having a bath - you can tell which books I've loved the most by how many stains and waterlogged wiggles they have. Runemarks is looking nicely doggeared already. ( I dont' feel the need to keep my books in pristine condition, even though I value them very much indeed - I fold over corners and break spines without blinking).


When a book like Runemarks comes along though, it reminds me of how much I love books and reading and makes me even more determined to keep writing and loving that too. I just have to believe that things will get better and I will get published again. I'd better if I want to keep eating at Fulton's Fine Furnishings.

Oh for a bath!

Oh man! I just typed up a big blog entry all about my experience in hospital with gallstones and then I accidentally pushed some random key and the whole thing got deleted!! No amount of pressing the back key is getting it back. Stupid website! Oh well, maybe it's God's way of telling me that no-one wants to read about my hospital experience and my five scars etc (one of them looks like I've got an extra belly button - I swear - I am the two belly button woman.)
I haven't been allowed to have a bath (because my extra belly button got infected) plus our boiler died so no hot water (there are workmen in the house right now putting in a new one) hense the blog title.

I'm excited about The Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award. The Trap has been shortlisted, and I get to go to England and meet the other shortlisted writers at a dinner and panel event. They're announcing the winner tomorrow!
Here's the shortlist:
A voice in the Distance - Tabitha Suzuma
Blood Ties - Sophie McKenzie
Creature of the Night - Kate Thompson
Just Henry - Michelle Magorian
Special Operations: Dogfight - Craig Simpson
Spray - Harry Edge
The Stuff of Nightmares - Malorie Blackman
The Trap - Sarah Wray (heee!)
The Way I See It - Nicole Dryburgh
Ways to live Forever - Sally Nicholls

There's no way I'll beat the likes of Malorie Blackman, but still, it's great to be shortlisted, and knowing the winner in advance takes away a lot of the pressure on the day.

Cool.

Phobia Smobia

I wrote this blog entry a few days ago, and then when I checked it today it had vanished!! I'll try and rewrite it from memory, or something similar, because I was happy with how it turned out. Blooming Mr Site.

I'm feeling very pleased with myself (at least I was when I first wrote this blog - okay, I still am really, because what I did was MEGA. At least mega for me, even though it wasn't such a big thing really)

I DROVE ON THE MOTORWAY!

Yeah Me! I have been motorway phobic for TEN YEARS. I've had full blown panic attacks (sweats, shakes, dizziness, nausea etc) at the very thought of having to drive on a motorway, and I've gone to all kinds of ridiculous lengths to avoid it. But around Christmas I met a teacher when I was speaking at an event organised by the NSPCC. She came up to me afterwards and asked about booking me to do an author visit at her school in Magherafelt. I smiled and said, yes, I'd love to, while inside I was thinking, how am I going to get there without going on the motorway??!!


She booked me for World Book Day, (5th March) and I thought that with that much notice, it gave me time to deal with my problem. In the past I've wondered about hypnotherapy or advanced driving lessons, but both these things scare me (what am I like?). In the end I didn't need either. I was saved by the roads service. A main road near where I live called 'the westlink' has been altered so that it turns into a motorway, so that was my first step. Instead of leaving the westlink before it became the M1, I STAYED ON! It was easy in some ways, because you literally can't tell when the westlink ends and the motorway begins, and it's a very short hop to the first exit (which is where I got off). Still. Mighty. I drove on the motorway.


Once I'd got past that initial hurdle, I had to join the motorway from the other direction where there was a sliproad, which I did, and it was okay, although I still only went until the first exit.


My first substancial motorway drive was on the day of the school visit in Magherafelt.  But I did it, and it was easy peasy lemon squeasy. I can't believe I was so scared for so long. It took a school visit though, for me to make myself face my fear. I love school visits. I love how the teachers and kids make me feel like someone important, and telling them my story of the years of rejection and then finally getting published, and how happy that made me, and how much I love writing reminds me of how true it all is, and how thankful I am to be where I am.


And even if I never get anything else published (please don't let that be true) I'm really happy to have had two books published, and nobody can take that away from me.


I'm a published writer. I do school visits. Motorway driving - no problem.


:-)

Things are looking up!

Well, I've had a pretty good couple of weeks, work wise. I've been employed by The Creative Writers Network, here in Belfast to mentor an unpublished writer, and I had my first session with him which went very well, I think. Then I had a really nice school visit in Strathearn Girl's school. The school's librarian was very friendly and welcoming, and I was given a lovely lunch and the session went well - the girls laughed at all the right bits, and then were full of interesting and insightful questions. Plus I sold all the copies of The Trap I had with me and had to go back to the school the following week with another bagful! Since then I've had bookings for five more school visits, and at the end of last week I heard that The Trap has been shortlisted for the Lancashire Children's book of the year award. Cool. I'll get a nice trip to England for it - there are two days of events which the shortlisted authors are invited to which sound very nice - dinners and a panel event and then the prize giving - plus the winner will be told in advance, so there won't even be the nerve wracking anticipation - I'll just be able to relax and enjoy myself. I don't know who the other shortlisted writers are yet - I wonder if I'll get to meet anyone famous. It's exciting!

I still don't have a publisher for Blood and Snow, or the other new book yet. I emailed my agent and told him about the Lancashire Children's book of the year thing, but as yet no response. (I wish my agent would respond to my emails, even just to acknowledge that he's got them. I feel like Ricky Gervais in Extras when he could never get hold of his agent and had to barge into the fancy restaurant to get his attention.) I'm still happy to have my agent though, and if he happens to be reading this - I love you really! (And I'll love you even more when you get me a nice big contract :-)

Happy 2009

Well, It's been a while since I wrote a blog, so I thought I'd better write something. It's a new year and I'm between books. I finished the book I was writing, which is set in Africa. I'm pretty pleased with how it went, but I've emailed both the man who is supposed to be my agent, and my publishers to tell them it's finished and ask if they want me to send it to them, and neither has replied to me (for weeks). I should be tearing my hair out in frustration, or deep in the doldrums of depression, but I'm actually feeling pretty happy and optimistic with life in general. So what if I have two finished manuscripts which nobody will agree to publish, so what if my husband works for an American bank who have just announced thousands of job cuts, so what that the worlds in a terrible financial crisis - I'm okay. Life's pretty good really.

I've got a few school visits lined up, one of which is to lead a writing workshop, which I've never done before, so that's exciting. I've also been recruited by The Creative Writer's Network to act as a mentor for an unpublished writer who lives locally to me, so that's exciting too.

I'm playing with ideas for a new book - I have several wispy thoughts floating around - all I need to do is pull them out of my head like Dumbledore and swirl them around in a pensieve for a while and see what develops. I've a notion to have something to do with spiders in the book - like a little fact about spiders at the start of each chapter which is echoed in what's happening with the plot. Hmmm. I don't know, just a thought.

Over Christmas I read The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris. It's the sequal to Chocolat and I absolutely loved it. Very mystical and atmospheric. I also played my new ds game - Proffesor Layton and the Curious Village. It was cool too.

Hopefully by the time I write my next blog entry, I'll have been fighting off offers for Blood and Snow and the Africa book - who knows what's around the corner?

Autumn Sunshine

Well, the sky is blue outside my window, and there are still some nice autumn colours clinging to the trees. The kids are back at school after half term, and I spent the morning in a peaceful house (bliss), reading over the book I'm working on from the beginning and adding another thousand words or so. What could be nicer?

I just read the Alexander McCall Smith newsletter that I get emailed to me. The man's a marvel. He describes his travels to all kinds of countries doing signings or lectures or whatever, and he still manages to bring out about four new books a year. How does he do it?

I did a really nice school visit before half term, in a primary school in Belfast. I managed to mess up my powerpoint by saving what I thought  was a new version of it, but was actually just a shortcut to a new version, so it didn't work. It could have been a catastrophe, but it wasn't because the school was so well prepared for the visit, and the teacher, Mrs McDaid, was so helpful, writing the code that I wanted the class to work out up on the whiteboard. The rest of the visit was taken up with my answering questions that the kids had written out in advance, and selling and signing 27 copies of my books! So all in all a very good visit. (I have some photos which I might add when I get conformation that all the children's parents give permission for their pictures to be on the website.)

I just read my book group read, The Outcast, which I found very compelling, and I've  started reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I love Neil Gaiman - I'm hoping that one day I'll get to meet him at some writers do, although I'd probably be far too awestruck to say anything sensible if I did. I'm still reading Predator's Gold to my son at bedtime, and we're both very impressed. So much so that I bought the first book in another series by Philip Reeve, Larklight. I'm very impressed by the way Reeve manages to keep such a pacy plot and believeable characters and still keep his language really beautiful. When I grow up I want to be able to write as well as he does.

I should really get back to work and see if I can't bring today's word count up to 2000. I already have the next scene I want to write in my head, which is lovely - it's a deep and meaningful conversation between two of the main characters in a river boat going south through the rainforest in Gabon.

This is the first book that I've set somewhere that I've never been, and I really wish I could afford to go and spend some time in Africa and soak up the ambience. But I can't so I'll have to rely on my imagination (and what I can get off the internet.) Ah well. One day I'll be able to travel the world. Maybe I'll follow Alexander McCall Smith around as a groupie!


Poopity poop

I'm feeling at bit low at the moment and feel like saying lots of (mild) bad words. Poopity poop. Bloomin 'eck. Fart. There. I've said them. Why am I low? Hmmm - lots of things. I've hardly got any work done for the last few weeks because no sooner had I got better from my tonsillitis than I got called up for jury service. I've done three weeks so far out of a possible four to six. I have to check the website (or phone them up) every day after five thirty to see if I have to go in the next day. So far I've had to go in about three days a week. Today is the only day this week that I haven't been called in, and I couldn't work today anyway because on Thursdays I volunteer at my church Parent and Toddler group. I wouldn't mind if I got to sit in on interesting court cases - that would be research. But most days I just sit in a waiting room for hours and then they tell me to go home. Two time's I've been sworn onto a jury, and we've all sat for hours in a different waiting room, and both times been told eventually to go home because the defendants have changed their pleas to guilty. Ah well.


More depressing is my publisher's response to my new book. I submitted it in April - didn't hear anything for months, and then got told how much they love it, but that because of the slow market they were waiting until Sept to decide whether to publish - well September came and went and still no decision, and now I've been told that they are waiting until January to make a decision. I know it's a good book, I think it's my best yet, so why won't they publish it???


Then there's the credit crunch. And the endless rain...


Farty fart fart.


Poo.

Puppy, poops and tonsillitis



Roxie's doing well - bless her. She's ever such a sweet wee dog, and the house training is going fairly well too- she'll do her business in the garden quite happily (if it's not raining) and she holds it in in the house most of the time. She's very pretty though, and I need to tell myself not to spoil her when she looks up at me with those big eyes.She had her first real walk yesterday - along the tow path in Belfast by Shaw's Bridge. We didn't get very far since I'm recovering from a bout of tonsillitis, and Roxie's only wee, but we did get to say hello nicely to a few people, and cower in fear in front of a few dogs (we'll have to work on that one - they were very friendly dogs, so hopefully Roxie will soon get the message that she needn't be afraid.)   Unfortunately, this morning Roxie discovered the joys of cat poo. We have a litter tray for Lucy, and aren't always totally vigilant in scooping out poos, and for some unfathomable reason, dogs seem to think that cat poo is the worlds most delicious yummy treat - ew. You really don't want to be given doggy kisses from a mutt that just been snacking on that delicacy!

I had a bad week last week because I was too ill to work, but I'm back on track now - still feeling tired and run down, but at least my head isn't spinning and pounding anymore. I wrote nearly 1500 words today, so far. I try to write 2000 words a day, but don't seem to manage it too often these days, what with one thing and another. Today I'm distracted by playing Final Fanstasy iv on the Nintendo ds - it's so cool, and addictive.

I'm reading Lullabies For Little Criminals at the moment - I feel ambivilant about it - I love the clever use of language and metaphore, but thats the very thing that annoys me about it - because it's supposed to be written in the voice of this disfunctional teenaged girl, but she expresses herself so eloquently that it just doesn't ring true. Still, overall I'd give it a thumbs up. I was looking at peoples lists on Amazon today, and I came across a book that looks good - The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan. I put it in my basket, in case someone in the house wants to buy something and then I could throw that in to get free postage! I also have sitting hopefully in my basket the new Artemis Fowl book - I guess I only need one more book to get free postage on my own. Hmmm. Tomorrow is my book group, and I'll have to buy the next book for that. Ha Ha, I'm hatching a cunning plan...

Back to school

Wow, it's been ages since I've written a blog, and oodles of things have happened since the last one. The Trap came out !!! My mum and my nephew came over for the launch that never happened (!). We had our own party instead and that was fun.


We went over to England to visit family. My dad was paralysed from the waist down a few months ago due to complications with a spinal surgery so we went to see him in the spinal injuries unit where he's living at the moment, and then we went to Alton Towers. I'm a total wuss when it comes to roller coasters, but the family persuaded me to go on Air (I was completely terrified) and Rita Queen of Speed (I can't believe people do this for pleasure). After that I wouldn't go on anything that had a height restriction. We were there for two days and at the end of the second day it bucketed down and we all got totally drenched.


Then we drove down south to my sister's house in Sussex and stayed with her for a few days. We did a murder mystery dinner one night (I was an exotic dancer!). We went into Crawley and I saw a pile of my books in the Waterstones there. I said to Paul (in a stage whisper - ie loud enough for a staff member to overhear) 'Oh, there's my book, I should sign it!' The staff member did overhear, and asked me to sign their copies. After that I was too embarassed to go back into the shop to look for books!

I read Mister Pip when I was in England - it's brilliant! It starts all lovely and sweet, and then gets quite shocking and scary. I would definately recomend it though.

When we got home we got our new puppy, Roxie. She's adorable. She's a ten week old Blenheim coloured (white and tan) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She sleeps quite a lot, but when she's awake she's very lovable - she follows everyone about, and loves to play (her favourite toy is a cat toy - one of those feathery things that bounces on elastic on the end of a stick). The house training was going very well, until it started raining constantly, and Roxie hates being outside in the rain. Blooming rain!

I h
ad a signing in Waterstones in Lisburn last Saturday. Most of my book group showed up, and a few people from my church, as well as a couple of contacts I'd made doing school visits. It's just as well I'd asked everyone I know to come, because apart from them, only one random member of the public bought a book for me to sign!

Yesterday afternoon at about 3.00 I got a phone call from someone from UTV life, which is a magazine program on before the local news on the Northern Ireland ITV channel. They'd had a cancellation for the 5.30 program, and he asked if I would come down instead for an interview. Eeeeek! I knew an interview with them was on the cards, but I was expecting a bit more notice. Still, at least it didn't give me enough time to get too nervous (or to buy an new outfit, darnit!) It was a live interview, that lasted about four minutes, and I don't think I said anything too brain-dead. I haven't had the nerve to watch it through though!

So now the kids are back to school (yeah!) and I'm back to work. I spent the last couple of days re-writing what I had so far on the new book, and now I have to forge ahead.


 

Culture Northern Ireland

I'm just back from an interview with Lee Henry, a very nice man from Culture Northern Ireland. He interviewed me way back when The Forbidden Room came out, and I remembered that he was really friendly then, but I still felt nervous. I needn't have been. The interview was really just an informal chat in the lovely coffee shop of the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. He told me about his own writing project that he's about to sign a publishing deal for - it's a great idea and sounds like a fascinating read (I'll not say what it's about in case it's a secret.)


Only two weeks until The Trap is officially in the shops! I was hoping for a launch party but Faber told me they only do that for first books, or people who are big enough - maybe one day I'll be big enough for another party?


My mum was planning to come over for the launch, so she's just going to come anyway and we'll have a celebratory take away and bottle of bubbly on the night in question. Plus I've got a book group pot-luck supper coming up on the 13th August, so I'll maybe bring a bottle of bubbly to that too (any excuse to bring on the champers - except it'll probably be Cava since I can't afford the real stuff!)


I pre-ordered some copies of The Trap from Amazon, since they have it at a really good price, and it gives me exciting ratings jumps when I do. Paul has  computer programs set up that notice ratings jumps on Amazon for the two books and send me e-mails - either 'Woo hoo, The Forbidden Room sales ranking is on the up!' or 'Wey hey, you got a truppy!' (In case you're wondering, 'an uppy' has been our nickname for a ratings rise for The Forbidden Room, so 'a truppy' seemed like the logical name for a rise in ratings for The Trap.) I wonder if I'll ever get so successful that I don't bother to obsessively watch my Amazon ratings???


Now I'm scared that people are actually going to read The Trap - what if they hate it? What if I start getting terrible reviews? What if nobody reads it and I get no reviews??


I could always fake my death in a canoeing accident...


Only kidding. I love my life.

Mamma Mia

I'm still feeling very sad about Snowy, but life goes on, I guess. The kids are excited about getting a new dog, but I'm not sure yet what to do about that. Part of me feels so guilty about what happened to Snowy that I don't think we deserve to be dog owners - I don't know.


Anyway, Paul and I went to see Mamma Mia at the cinema a few days ago. We loved it! It's a real 'feel good' movie, and even with Pierce Brosnan's cringe-worthy singing, I would definitely go and see it again. Meryl Streep was BRILLIANT! and Julie Walters and that other American woman were an absolute hoot. Let's hear it for the older women!!


I made a new Listmania list on Amazon. 'Books that my kids and I are excited about' which I thought made it okay to put my own books on the list, because I am excited about them! I added the new Paul McKenna book and CD, 'Instant confidence'. I wish there was an instant answer to my total lack of self confidence. I tried the Paul McKenna book and CD 'I can make you thin' but every time I listened to the CD it made me cry. There's a bit where you have to imagine you are someone who loves you looking at you and list all the things about you that they love. Every time I could only think of things about me that they wouldn't like. It's true. I'm hopeless.

I do wish I was more confident though. I'm really bad at making friends. As soon as anyone gets close, I shy away. It's not because I don't like people - I like almost everyone I meet, I'm just afraid that they won't like me.
My husband Paul is the only person in the world who knows just about everything about me and I'm continually flabbergasted that he still loves me. I even find it hard to tell him how much I love him, even though I do. I guess he's probably the only person in the world who reads my blog, so I guess I just told him (he he).


I'm not getting much writing done at the moment with the kids at home. I suppose since Faber are sitting on the next manuscript until they see how The Trap does before they give me a definite answer about whether they're going to publish it, there's not really any rush on me to produce anything else. I like writing though, I like having my head full of my characters and their hypothetical conversations and situations, so I'll just keep writing for me even if Faber are dragging their heels.


I finally managed to drag my fat behind to the gym today!! I'm feeling virtuous now (and smelly) so I'm going to go and soak in the bath.

Snowy

My dog Snowy died today.


Yesterday she climbed up the back of the sofa when no one was watching her to steal a half a bar of chocolate from the bookcase. It was a big bar of very dark chocolate (70% cocoa) and it was obviously enough to kill her.


We found the empty wrapper yesterday evening, and Snowy was very hyper - running about, giving everyone doggie kisses and wanting to play - we knew that chocolate was bad for dogs, and even fatal sometimes, but we didn't think she'd eaten enough. We thought she would just sleep it off. This morning, Paul got her up, and she went into the garden as usual, did her business and barked at the neighbour, and then ran upstairs where I was still in bed and gave me lots of kisses until I told her to get down.


A few  moments later, she started to scream - my husband ran upstairs thinking it was our daughter screaming. My youngest go up too to see what was wrong.


It was all very quick. she screamed for a few seconds, then fell over and shook for a moment and then it was over. She was dead. Just like that.


I think it must have been a heart attack, or something. I still feel stunned and unbelieving - how could Snowy be dead? Paul wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet. When he lifted her and her head lolled we all finally believed that she
was gone.


I don't think it's really sunk in yet. One moment I feel overwhelmed by all the little ways that I'll miss her, and the next moment I feel nothing - the absence of feeling.

I know she was only a dog, but I really loved her, and I feel that I need to grieve for her.

Goodbye Snowy.


School Holidays / insomniac musings

So the kids broke up from school on Friday, and we're five days into the school holidays (play psycho music here). Yesterday my two boys (aged 11 and 12) each had a friend round and the four of them  started an all out war with guns that shoot foam balls - the noise was something else. I shut myself away in my room trying to do some work on the computer, and every two minutes a boy would burst into the room, either giggling or screaming and ask me breathlessly if anyone else was in here. Every time they ran out again, they left the door open, so I had to squeeze past the obstacle race of furniture in my not-big-enough bedroom to close the door and at least lower the volume of the ambient noise slightly.


Eventually I decided enough was enough, and told the kids I was going out for a while. I took a book (my new Alexander McCall Smith - The Miracle at Speedy Motors) and went to Starbucks. It was about four thirty in the afternoon, and in the queue I debated whether I should get a decaff, but in the end went for a large filter coffee. Man, it was enormous, and so strong you could stand the spoon up in it. It could have sprinted around carrying one of those gargantuan stone spheres that they lift in The Worlds Strongest Man, it was so strong. So, inevitably, later on I lay tossing and turning in bed and while I did I made a list of things I want. It is a totally selfish list and doesn't include world peace or an end to poverty or anything like that.


Here is my insomniac musings list of what I want:


I want them to invent a new gene therapy for me where they take the DNA of all the stick thin people who complain that they sit about eating junk food all day and can't gain any weight, and put it in instead of my I-only-need-to-look-at-a-doughnut-to-gain-another-five-pounds-DNA, so that I can be naturally thin for ever.


Then I want to buy several flouncy flowery summer dresses that make me look like a vision of beauty instead of the hybrid offspring of a pair of curtains and a circus tent.


I want to be able to write really well all the time. At the moment I think I have the occasional moment of genius, but most of the time I slog away and churn out mediocre pap.


I want one of my books to be the Richard and Judy children's book of the year. I dreamed of being a published writer for so long, and never realised that being a published writer wasn't necessarily enough - at the moment my writing pays about enough to keep a modest gnat in the manner to which it is accustomed. What I really need is to be a published, promoted writer.

I want to be less shy. This is a tough one, because sometimes I like being me and being shy is a big part of who I am, but it does make a lot of situations really difficult. And sometimes I come home from a social event feeling really sad because I was so bad at joining in and talking to people.

So, basically, I want to be beautiful, successful and popular - nothing clichéd there.

Oh, and I want to be better at spelling.

And I want the school holidays to be over (not really, I love being with the kids. Honest.)



Dolly Parton and Big Cups

I've had a very emotional few days (in a good way). Today's Thursday, and I'm just back from my youngest child's primary school leavers assembly. I went wearing my new Dolly Parton T-shirt, which I got on Tuesday night - the first of the emotional moments. I am an unashamed Dolly Parton fan, and until Tuesday, I had never seen the great diva perform live. The tickets cost an arm and a leg, especially considering what a new writer like me earns (about half minimum wage for the hours I put in) but they were worth every penny. We were about twenty five rows back from the stage, which was pretty close because it was a big stadium (the odyssey arena in Belfast) and luckily, for the first half, nobody sat in the seats in front of us. Well, when Dolly appeared on the stage, I was literally so excited and overwhelmed that I welled up and cried. Seriously. I've always thought these people who cry and scream in the presence of celebrities are a bit fey in the head, but I became one - tears, screams, I couldn't help myself. (I wasn't as bad at least as the girl three rows in front, who couldn't contain herself the whole time.) I did settle down, eventually, and thoroughly enjoyed the show. The woman's a marvel. She plays all kinds of instruments - I didn't know that. Guitar, banjo, piano, harmonica, irish pipes, fiddle, some kind of electric harp gizmo - is there no end to Dolly's talent? And the singing - wow. It's no wonder she's had such a long career because when she opened her mouth the whole stadium was filled with beauty. Not a bum note the whole night, and there was one song in particular, Little Sparrow, which Dolly sang accapella, and even my husband, who is not a Dolly fan and was humouring me by coming with me, said it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end it was so amazing.


Then yesterday I was off to Hazelwood Integrated Primary school, in Belfast, where one of the P7 classes had made bracelets, and sold them at school, raising £80 which they decided to spend on buying a class set of The Forbidden Room. What an honour. I got a chance to read two of the children's works of creative writting - one a fictional diary that was inspired by Mandy's diary in The Forbidden Room, and the other a very funny fantasy story. Both were brilliant and I would not be a bit surprised to see both girls as published writers in the future.


Then to this morning. All three of my children have been through Finaghy Primary School - a really lovely and top class local school and for the most part the kids have been thoroughly happy there. Christy, my youngest is leaving this year to move up to Grammar school with his brother and sister, and today was his leavers' assembly. They give out loads of cups for this that and the other, and last year Daniel, my older son, won a cup for Academic Achievement. Christy wasn't expecting to win anything, and I'd given him the speech about how proud I am of him anyway, and it doesn't matter if he doesn't win a cup. And sure enough, as the table gradually emptied, Christy's name wasn't called. And then, with only three cups left, the head teacher announced that this year there is a new cup, in memory of Sarah Barr. Sarah's mum, Judy has been my friend since our children were babies, and she has a son who goes about with my sons. Sarah, one of Judy's daughters was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was in her final year at Finaghy Primary, and after a very difficult couple of years, she passed away last year on Valentines day. Sarah's family donated a cup for Mathematics, and my Christy won it. Talk about teary eyed. Between thinking about Sarah, and being so proud and happy for Christy for winning something, I was crying buckets.


I'm crying now as I write this. Sometimes it's good to cry. Let it all out, Sarah.


And only 42 days until The Trap comes out! Woohoo! (Waterstones website tells you how many days until a book is published which is very exciting for me.) My new book, Blood and Snow, is with the publishers, but they say even though they love it, they're waiting to see how The Trap sells before deciding whether to publish it. That's very frustrating. I can write a book in about six months, but it takes the publishers about two years of faffing before it hits the shelves - between deciding whether they want it, and then the various stages of editing, and meanwhile I'm sitting around getting poorer. Ah well - at least I can always cheer myself up with an emotional Dolly song!

Happy Birthday Irene!

One of my Book Group Buddies had a 'do' for her birthday on Saturday. It was one of those birthdays that ends in an '0'. I had a blast! I haven't been on a dance floor for years and years but I boogied the night away to all the old rock and roll tunes from the days when music really was music. (I'm showing my age, I know. My knees ached the next day as well, and today I found several white hairs when I looked at myself in the vanity mirror in the car - cruel daylight takes no prisoners!) There was live music as well, from a band made up of several members of another of the Book Group Buddies family and friends - they were great too.


I'm wallowing in writer's block at the moment. Last week I was depressed. The shortlist for the Carnegie Medal came out, and The Forbidden Room wasn't on it. I knew it wouldn't be, but being on the longlist was great, and I couldn't help dreaming about how winning it would have lifted my out of relative obscurity. I'm mourning for what might have been. Still, one good thing came out of it (I hope) I finally got around to contacting an agent (and he seems quite keen). I'm not naturally good at putting myself forward, and having someone else fighting my corner might be very  good for my career. So fingers crossed for that.


 I'm in limbo a bit at the moment because I finished Blood and Snow, the murder mystery I'd been working on and sent it off  a couple of weeks ago to Faber (and now to the agent as well) and I'm waiting to hear back about that. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, but still, Faber seem to reject about half of what I send to them, so I know that there are no guarantees.  I have a few half ideas for new books bubbling under the surface, but nothing concrete.  I hate not  being in the middle of writing a book. It makes me antsy. I'm not depressed any more at least, but still blocked.


I just finished reading The Book Thief, and before that The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I loved The Memory Keeper's Daughter, although one or two minor things about it annoyed me, but I thought The Book Thief was just about perfect. It almost made me want to give up writing on the spot because I could never come up  with anything that brilliant. (I guess I was depressed at the time though, maybe if I'd have been in a better mood it would have just inspired me to create my own genius.) At the moment I'm reading a book called The Conjurer's Bird. I found it a little slow to get into, coming straight after The Book Thief, but now that I'm about half way through I'm finding myself dipping into it throughout the day, rather than just waiting til bedtime, which is always a good sign.

With my son I'm reading the new Skulduggery Pleasant book, which I'm not sure I like as much as the first, but he likes it, and he is the target audience, so fair enough. Before that we read Shade's Children, by Garth Nix, and I was a Rat, by Phillip Pullman.

I would really like inspiration to hit me like a thunderbolt right now with a brilliant idea for a new book.

Come on inspiration....

I'm waiting...

Hello?

No.

Nothing.

Poo.

I guess I'll just go and cut the grass instead.



The first day of Spring!

Since my last post was such a rant, I'll try to be more positive today. Things are actually looking up - my Amazon rating has been much healthier these last few weeks (thank you if anyone read my rant and took pity that way!)  The Trap has appeared on Amazon too - no picture yet, and no sales rank because I guess no one had pre-ordered it, but still, it's great to be able to click on 'other books by this writer' - although some book called 'strong women stay slim' is higher up the list of books by Sarah Wray, and I didn't even write it!

The new book is coming along - the word count is now up to 47 000 odd,  and  I've still got a few things to say.  My kids are off school at the moment for Easter, but  I'm  managing to get some writing done anyway - now that they're 11, 12 and 14, they are so much more independent  (in fact we only ever see the  fourteen year old when she wants food, money or a lift somewhere, and the other two, being boys  are pretty much glued to their various  video games  most of the time.)


Oh - just got a phone call from daughter  - she wants me to pick her up from her friend's house.


Right - I'm back again, after  collecting  daughter and getting her something to eat.  That's  kind of how my life is at the moment - I'm having to adapt to  snatching moments to work in between parental responsibilities. Generally  I refuse to work at all unless I have an empty house for hours on end, but because the kids  don't need me so much, and  Niamh (the character in the book I'm writing) is in the middle of something of a crisis,  I 'm  finding myself  rushing off to the computer every time theres a quiet moment, and  moving things along a bit for  Niamh. It's quite a revelation to me that I can work this way. Woo hoo! I'm becoming more flexible!


I suppose  I must have worked like that way back when  I started writing  when the kids were all pre-school aged  (it seems like hardly any time ago sometimes - it's a cliche but it's  too true how quickly they grow up!)  But  I've just got lazy or self-indulgent now that they're all at school.


I had a really good school visit a couple of weeks ago - at Hunterhouse College in Belfast.  I promised the girls  I'd mention them in my blog, and I've only just got around to writing a blog, so  here's the mention, finally!  There were about  150 girls crammed into the school library, and they laughed and gasped at all the right moments, which is all  you can ask from an audience really - thanks girls!


I'd better go now - the boys are getting hungry, and the  dirty dishes that  I stacked up in the kitchen to make them look like less are  threatening to collapse in a giant heap. Housework calls....

Word counts and library fines

I just went to the library in Finaghy where I live to return some books and get out a new audiobook for the car (I got Coastliners by Joanne Harris) and they hit me for a £9.80 fine! Right enough, there have been many times when I thought I owed them a fine, but was never asked to cough up, so this humongous sum was just all those times adding up, but still...


Talking of  things adding up - or not, the book  I'm working on at the moment (Blood and  Snow is its working title)  has just  passed the  30 000 word mark - about half way through  the  length of a teenage novel, and  I'm at least three quarters of the way through the  plot - how did  I manage to say all that so quickly? Usually I write too much and I have to pare lots of it away (or at least my editor pares lots of it away) I'm seriously panicked about being able to make the book long enough.  Eeek!

I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself generally. I put my back out on Sunday - leaning down to put on a pair of boots, and that coupled with my arthritis (I have had psoriatic arthritis since not long after my third child was born - about ten years ago now) has me feeling like a decrepid old woman, with my aches and pains. Plus, for the last five years my family has gone away with my sister's family over Easter (thanks to her overwhelming generosity) - to Spain, then Barbados, then Barbados again, then to her lovely Sussex home with a full staff of caterers, childrens' entertainers and cocktail waiters etc for the week, and last year to Iceland (I'm using Iceland as a setting for Blood and Snow), but this year my kids school holidays didn't overlap with her kids' and the Easter holiday is off. We were going to go to Florida. Ah well, maybe someone will want to buy movie rights for The Forbidden Room and then we'll be able to afford our own holiday.

Plus my Amazon sales ranking is at an all time low. Nobody had bought my book off Amazon for two whole weeks! If anyone out there feels sorry for this ranting writer, please buy my book off Amazon so my sales ranking can get dragged out of the doledrums!

Sigh. Things aren't that bad really. I'm actually not depressed or anything. I just thought I'd get all that off my chest.

Now, on a brighter note - isn't it nice to see the evenings getting lighter...

Still Sleepy

It's just after nine am and I'm barely able to keep my eyes open. So much for the daylight  lamp. It's funny, because it does seem to wake me up gradually,  like it said it would, but I'm still sleepy when I get up. Today's not really a fair test, I guess because it's half term, and I've been lying  in which probably puts my body clock out of whack.


My youngest is back at school today, and  the other two are off until Wednesday. One is downstairs playing  guitar hero - rock legends on the PS2 (that's what the lovely music is) the other is still  tucked up in bed. She'll wake up and demand food soon so mumsy here will have to start into breakfast round three.


I got the  proofs for The Trap last week - that's where its  all done out in pages the way it will be in the actual  book . That's very exciting. The Trap has handwritten clues in it (it's kind of a treasure hunt, sort of) and  I wasn't sure how they would do them. I was pleasantly surprised when it  turned out they were going to use my originals - there's something pretty cool about my  handwriting being reproduced in a real book - more personal than the typed words, even though they're still  my work, if you know what I mean. Except now I'm panicking over little things like do my  Ts look silly, and stuff like that.


Paul and I watched  'What's eating Gilbert Grape ' the other night - one of my all time favourite movies, and last night  we watched a French movie called 'A very  long engagement' by the director of Amelie (and with the same actess -Audrey someone) I  liked it very much as well, although Paul thought it was a bit over long.  We went
to the movies last week and saw  Cloverfield - I  had been really looking forward to it, but I didn't think it was that great - lots of things about it annoyed me - like why did all of  the guy's friends look like models, and who would keep filming on  their  video camera when they were running for their life?  I am  Legend was a much better film IMO, and so was  Sweeney  Todd (although that could be just because the gorgeous Johnny D was in it).


I'm still ploughing through  'A suitable Boy' (about half way now) and I'm reading  'The Spiderwick  Chronicles' to Christy at bedtimes.  He won the boxset in an internet competition,  which is just as well because the books are very short and £6 a pop. But  since  we didn't have to pay for them,  I have to say we're both really enjoying them - even though they are American. I think they're really well written, and the books are nicely illustrated and set out as well. We're flying though them  - each book only takes two or three sittings, but  we're having fun. The whole set is really just about the length of one proper book,  although I think if Christy was reading them to himself (and he has read ahead after I've finished reading to him)  the short books makes them more accessible.

I'm feeling a bit more awake now. Maybe I'll get some actual work done before I have to go and make more breakfast. (Or maybe I'll just surf the internet for a while - it's all research you know)...


Daylight and daydreams

Well, I survived my trip to Newcastle - and even enjoyed a lot of it.  I was in such a state of nerves that  I literally didn't sleep a wink the night before, and only adrenalin carried me through the whole day. Not only adrenalin - what also really helped was how friendly and welcoming everyone in Newcastle was to me. From the taxi drivers through to the school librarians and teachers and the kids - everyone was really nice. The two girls from Borders bookshops who followed me about all day selling my book even went out at lunch time and bought me a gift of 'Rescue Remedy' herbal spray and sweeties that help to calm your nerves (I'd told them how nervous I was about my speech in the evening) I was really touched.

The school visits went very well, and then it came to the big night - we arrived at The Centre For Life - an enormous hall that was pleasantly empty at first, but completely jam packed by the time the event started. The six shortlisted writers all had to give a ten minute speech, and of course they did it in alphabetical order by surname, so I was last! I had prepared a speech about the years that I was trying to get published, and the Wow Factor competition, and then as I listened to the other speeches all the other writers were talking specifically about the book they'd been shortlisted for, and I was sitting on the stage desparately trying to think up a new speech on the spot. In the end, I gave the original speech, with one or two last minute embelishments, and almost got lost in the middle - but I think it was alright.

I didn't win - Ally Kennen won with Berserk. She seems like a really nice person, and she had her little baby with her on the night, and I didn't begrudge her the win at all. Afterwards lots of kids came and said nice things to me while I signed bits of paper or copies of The Forbidden Room for them, which was pretty cool, and then all the writers went back to the hotel for a very nice dinner. (Which was somewhat elongated by the fire alarm going off and us all having to be evacuated in to the cold windy night for quite a long time.)

I'm very shy and not good at social occasions like dinner parties, so I think I might have come across as a bit of an idiot at the dinner, but never mind. I don't think I said anything really really stupid, so it could have been worse!

I'm still not quite recovered from my nerves, even though it's all over, and I've even started daydreaming about the speech I'll give the next time I'm shortlisted - what am I like?

It's maybe as well that I couldn't sleep the night before my trip, or I'd never have been able to get up early enough to catch my flight - I'm really not a morning person. I struggle out of bed and my body-clock doesn't really kick in until about mid afternoon. My husband had been researching for me, and has ordered my a daylight alarm clock. The idea is that it is like a sunrise, which wakes you up gradually and naturally, and it's supposed to make you much more alert when you get up. It has a thirty day trial period, so we can send it back if I'm still grogzilla even after being woken by it. Still, it's worth a try - I'll keep you posted about if it works.

Have loo roll, will travel.

I'm  feeling a bit unwell at the moment. Last week I had a  head cold, which thankfully seems to have pretty much gone away, but  instead  now I'm being plagued by an upset tummy.I don't know if  I'm actually ill, or just nervous about my week ahead. (Well, Friday really, since the rest of the week is not particularly scary.)

On Friday morning I'm flying to  Newcastle (the one in England, not the one in County Down) to go  to the  North East Teenage Book Awards party, since  The Forbidden Room is one of their shortlisted books - which is lovely.  Before the party I'm doing two school visits, (which is great) and afterwards  I'm having dinner with the other shortlisted writers (double great.) I'm in a bit of a panic over it all though. I think it's partly the newness of it all - I've never been to anything like that, and although I 've done quite a few school visits here in Belfast, I've never done one in England (not that English kids are scarier or anything  - after all  I was one myself). I'm just not sure about practicalities, like how I'm going to be  getting from place to place and  stuff like that.
I'm sure it will all be fine, but I guess  I'm in  for a week of nervous tummy anyway.


My mind is almost being taken off it by reading 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' by Jeff Lindsay. I love the tv program, so was intruiged to read the book that it's based on.  I'm enjoying the book very much - it's fairly gruesome, although not too much, and very compelling reading.  (I'm taking another break from reading 'A Suitable Boy,' although I did read a few more chapters of it after I finished 'Atonement.')

Paul and  I watched the  DVD 'The Chumscrubber' this weekend - it was also strange and a little disturbing, but very good.

I got a new game for my DS - 'Hotel Dusk' it's like the old PC games where you have to walk about and talk to people and solve puzzles using things - like use the paper clip to pick the lock - that kind of thing. I will have to ration my time playing it though, as I really bought it to bring with me on my travels later this week, and I don't want to have it finished before I go.

I'm reading 'A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons' by Cressida Cowell to my youngest son Christy at the moment. We are both enjoying it very much. (Although my throat is barely coping with all the gruff viking voices I'm having to put on.) We just finished 'The book of Dead Days' by Marcus Sedgwick, and so we're reading the Cressida Cowell book to take a comic break before we tackle the sequel - 'The Dark Flight Down.'

Help! I've deleted all my other blogs thingies...

What have  I done?  Being a  bit of an idiot when it comes to  computery things, I have not been doing my blog the way you're supposed to. I had just been editing the page every  time  I wanted to add something new. So  I thought  I should start doing it properly,  and when  I  did, everything that was there before just disappeared !!! Help! 

Ah well, maybe  it's a good thing - new year, new  start and all that. 


Well,  welcome to my new blog! (I'm inwardly still weeping at the loss of all that other stuff - come on Sarah, let it go, move on).

Talking of weeping, yesterday I finished reading Henry Tumour to my daughter (I had to use euphemisms for lots of the bad words - I don't mind her reading books with those words, but I just can't bring myself to say them to her) and I was an emotional wreck at the end of it - hat's off to Anthony McGowen for writing  the character of  Heck - I totally believed  in him and loved him.


Another book that  I  loved  recently was Atonement - I haven't seen the film, but I picked up the book  in  a charity shop and  was hooked from the first page - the best book I've read in ages.  I bought  On  Chesil Beach from Tesco for  £3  but I haven't got around to reading it yet - I'm still trying to plough through Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy - the  longest novel in English  I think, so it could be some time before  I get to it.


Talking of films,  Paul  (the husband) and I went to see I Am Legend  just after new year,  on  a rare  cinema outing that didn't involve children. It was Brill!!  Will Smith is one fine looking man, and  I liked everything about the film.  Now we're planning to go and  see Sweeney Todd  with Johnny Depp (my cup runneth over).


I've got that  Monday morning droopy eye feeling, but I must try and do some work anyway.


Adios

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