What I’m writing at the moment…

I know I’m blogging here about the novels I’m currently working on, but let’s not start with what I’m writing just yet – I’ll get on to that in a moment – let’s just set the scene first. I’m lucky to be way ahead on all writing schedules and outside right now, the weather is gorgeous; it’s just vest and shorts all day, and I’ve lost my pink crocks somewhere so I have no shoes… what else can I do but laze around in the sun with the cats? Colin, Monty and Murphy, by the way, are rolling in the dust like three unhappy slugs – it’s too warm for black cats.

Plus, I’ve been reading a lot: novels by Louise Doughty, Matt Haig, Sarah Winman, Ali Smith, Owen Mullen, Shari Low. I have a must-read pile as tall as I am, (… not very tall but it’s still a huge pile of books,) and basking in the sunshine with a book is my idea of heaven, or at least one idea of heaven – there are so many more…

Plus, the Euros (UEFA European Championships) are on TV and the radio in the afternoons and evenings, and it’s a big temptation to watch or listen to the football commentary. I read almost all of The Midnight Library while listening to the Scotland v Czech Republic game and willing the Scots would score. I have no drop of Scottish blood in me, but after so many years of their absence from world championships, I really wanted to see the Tartan Army get a goal.

So, here I am, lazing around in tattered grey shorts and a vest that proclaims me the best bass player in the world – (I can play the bass to Thin Lizzie’s Dancing in the Moonlight on a good day, but I’m way down the pecking order when it comes to skill, and I don’t practise nearly enough, mainly because I’m too busy writing…) – and I’m doing well in terms of deadlines. The edits have been done for Lil’s Bus Trip, which is out in August. That’s the story of 82-year-old Lil and her daughter Cassie, two feisty women who go on a bus trip to Northern Europe with a bus load of interesting characters and, while they are enjoying the journey and getting up to mischief, they find out a bit more about themselves and what they want from life.

I’ve written the next novel, which hasn’t a title yet but I wrote it in a can’t-keep-away-from-the-laptop fit of passion and I’m very happy with the story of three women who emerge from lockdown with the intention of celebrating their freedom. More of that one soon, except that it’s out later this year, and I’m so excited about it. I’ve also written the next novel after that, but I’ll keep that for another blog as it’s not out until 2022.

Then, here’s the big one from me, I’ve just finished a novel in another genre. 109,000 words of something the wonderful Boldwood Books have encouraged me to write, something that I hope will appeal to readers who enjoy two timelines and a shiver or two down the spine. I have thoroughly enjoyed, relished and adored the opportunity to write this new novel, which will be under a different name (one similar to my grandma’s,) and I’m currently editing it like mad. I can’t say just how thrilled I am to be able to write this type of book and I do hope everyone will love it. Updates coming soon.

Summer brings distractions, and that’s why I write for so many hours in the winter. When the sun is shining and the road is open, and I can go walking or take the van or find a beach, it’s a temptation to be outdoors, especially since many new ideas come to me when I’m in calm and beautiful surroundings.

Also, I’ve had both vaccines now, with interesting side effects. The first one made me giggle non-stop at any opportunity for two days, just like being drunk but without the hangover. The second made me fall asleep all the time – I was truly shattered for half a week. But now, I’m back, full of energy, changing up what I eat so that there’s more protein and more colour in every meal, less alcohol (really!!) and I’m ready to enjoy the summer.

Last weekend, when I was out walking in the local woods with Murphy, one of my cats, a new idea came to me involving something local, that I’ll keep under wraps for the time being – I’ll let it ferment for a few weeks, let the characters form, and then I’ll sit down when the weather isn’t so hot and the football isn’t on, and I’ll write and write and write.

Of course, by then we may have live music and live theatre – there will be so many distractions.

 But there’s nothing as distracting as a new idea and the mad desire to write it all down….

On the Road Again.

This week the sunshine came at last and promised to stay for a while: I spent the weekend sorting out the van, with the hope of getting back on the road soon. My year usually starts in early spring but there have been a few universal problems with getting out and about for a few months…

There was a lot to be done, too: there were masses of dead flies like spilled raisins all over the floor, lodged in every crevasse; the fridge was empty, holding a sour smell and a few splodges of something unappetizing, green mould blotching the yellowing white plastic interior. I washed all the stale bedlinen, fixed the drooping blinds and dusty curtains. The winter rain had seeped through the corner of the over-cab bed, leaving a green smudge that stank of old potatoes against the ceiling. Windows and doors were flung wide to encourage fresh air to fill spaces: everywhere was hoovered, including dusty rugs, crumpled cushions and seats, even the tiny shower cubicle.

Long-lost things were discovered again: books, a bottle of rosé wine, Marmite, knickers, a sock. My note pad and pen that I use to scribble down any bright ideas that might come my way while I’m travelling were stuffed in the cupboard alongside several tins of beans and a bag of rice: all needs must be catered for when I’m away, and that includes food and food for thought – which reminds me, I’ve bought a DAB radio and the next job will be to install it.

I have various trips lined up, many already planned to research locations for a new book. There will be a trip to Cornwall, one to South Wales, another to North Yorkshire. I want to go to Scotland again. I have clear ideas about what will happen in each place, and I know the characters that will be involved. All I need to do now is to stand on a beach somewhere and let all the thoughts come together, like a stirred pot.

June 21st is a landmark day. I’ll have had both vaccinations, so I could travel anywhere in England as long as I’m sensible. My first trip will be to get up at ridiculous o’clock and drive to somewhere that I can climb up a hill and watch the sun rise. Solstice is a time I usually make a big wish and this year I’ll go in the van, because I can. Then it has to be breakfast on a beach somewhere or, who knows, maybe even in a café. A year ago, who’d have imagined what a massive treat that would be – I haven’t had breakfast ‘out’ in more months than I can count on both hands.

The absence of travel has prompted me to think how important it is to make the most of each precious moment. Time is too busy to stand still. There are places to see, people to meet, fun to be had, memories to make. I won’t go abroad this year, although I’d love to. But there are so many beautiful places to visit in this country, some I’ve never been to, and other places where there are dear friends I haven’t seen in far too long. I’m even thinking of paying a visit to the small place where I was born and smile at how much or how little has changed – I haven’t been back for too long. Wherever I go, I will take happiness and laughter with me – that’s my only rule.

If it’s sunny, I’ll celebrate and if it rains then I’ll dance in puddles. The joy of it is all…