Friday, 29 June 2012

Advantage Underdog

I love tennis. Love it. And yesterday I fully intended to write a post justifying my love of tennis by pointing out just how perfect it is for research (aka my tenuous reasons for slacking off during every Grand Slam and Queens but especially at Wimbledon time).

I was going to illustrate my point with pictures of First Tennis Crush Stefan Edburg who had the most beautiful legs any man has ever sported, followed by Aussies Pat Rafter and Mark Philappoussis who used to play doubles *faints* dazzling their opponents with their gorgeous faces. Possibly. They dazzled me anyway. And then, after I had treated you to fit men in tennis whites, *swoons* I was going to make some serious points about handsome men who make money through hard work and dedication and then (Federer, Agassi) set up charitable foundations with their loot. Proper heroes. Proper inspiration for any romance writer. (Okay, Philippoussis ended up on The Bachelor, we'll gloss over that).

And then last night's match happened and suddenly I had the perfect inspiration for my post.

In this country we love to think that Wimbledon is special. Andy Murray may have made it to US and Australian Open Finals but they don't count. (I don't agree with that statement at all btw Andy if you happen to stumble upon this but we both know that most of the UK does). No matter how large the sports section, throughout most of the year tennis barely merits a paragraph. Growing up I didn't even realise there were other tournaments. And then for two weeks the country goes tennis crazy.

Wimbledon. The whites of the players against the green of the court. The thud of the ball on the grass.  The red button allowing you to select your match; if only they'd had that when, no matter how thrilling the other matches, the Beeb made us watch Henman grind his way to another plucky defeat.

A place where dreams can come true.

I've only set foot in the hallowed grounds once. A school trip when I was in the sixth. We had tickets for the outside court seats but I begged my way onto Centre Court. Memory is a funny thing isn't it? I was convinced I saw Goran Ivanisevic lose to Lendl in the fouth round Wikipedia tells me I saw him beat Kevin Curren. Either way (!), it was the first time I had seen or heard of the hot headed Croat but, like all the crowd that day, I was rooting for the underdog. It took him another 11 years to finally gain the title, on a Monday in a rainy July, a wildcard entry not expected to get past the third round, if he was lucky. He worked hard, he kept believing He never gave up.

Last night another unknown achieved the unthinkable. A 26 year old journeyman, used to the challenger tour, who had failed to even get past the first round of qualifying in previous years, came out onto Centre Court and blew away the world no, 2. If that happened in a film we would laugh at it as unrealistic, but it happened. The tension as he came onto serve for the match was incredible. The crowd expectant, Rafa wound up tight. Back home both my OH and I had our knuckles stuffed in our mouths, like children, transfixed on the screen. We expected him to choke. To blow that first match point like so many others before him. A nervous flicker up to the sky. A visible deep breath. An ace. Lukas Rosol in the history books.

Twenty six is young; but not for a tennis player. Miracles do happen, but not usually against a take-no-prisoners-champion on Centre Court. Hard work, self belief and having a go no matter what, it's worth a try isn't it? You never know where it might take you.* Just ask Rosol.

*Goes off to practice backhands dreaming of my Centre Court debut. Oh alright, really goes off to rewrite that first chapter for the umpeenth time and dream of that elusive contract.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Why does it always rain on me?

A month ago I finally, finally started editing Spring Fling. An edit tailored to specifications from a real live M&B editor.

Only her specifications don't mean a bit of tweaking here and there. They require some major additions, a large rewrite and, crucially, a new end to Chapt one which, I have decided, means a whole new Chapt one altogether.

So four weeks later? I have four pages. Four painstakingly written, edited, re-edited and edited again pages.

They are devoid of life, spark and originality.

I am devoid of life, spark and originality.

I want to get it right, I want to improve it, polish it till it shines. Instead I am rubbing all the gloss off it.
*enough of the terrible metaphor*

Also, I may have finished wallowing but I haven’t got my confidence back yet. ‘If’ my inner goddess whispers (hey, if it works for E.L James maybe I need to find mine, and a talking subconscious too) ‘if you got Minty so, so wrong then how are you ever going to make this one right?’

And then I (and my inner goddess and subconscious and whoever else is in my head; I’ve only read the recaps of Book One) sighs and admits defeat.

Meanwhile my self imposed deadlines tick on. My Significant Birthday is just months away, really almost weeks away *panics*. I wanted to have the glimmerings of a publishing deal by then, a way of proving that I achieved something before middle age took hold. Otherwise I'll need to find a porsche and a toyboy and I don't have the time or money for either.

Some might argue that writing three books whilst holding down a job, raising a child, ranting on Twitter and becoming obsessed with Danish drama was an Achievement in itself. My inner goddess/subconscious/overly controlling billionaire with trousers that hang just so would disagree. I (we?) want the validation a publishing deal would give me (us, blimey it's getting crowded in my head) as well. But, as the amazing Jennifer Cruisie recently blogged, it has to be the right publishers at the right time.

In half term we braved the rain and took the child to Legoland. It was really, really wet but, because this is Britain (home of the shortest drought in history TM) and it was half term the rain made no difference to the numbers. We all pulled on waterproofs and queued as  normal. Some queues weren’t too bad, others (Atlantis and spinning water thing, I am looking at you) involved long, long waits in what was, by then, torrential rain.

Queuing and rain. Those true definitions of what it means to be British.

Only not for everyone, not anymore. Those who can, who are willing to spend an extra £30 per person can jump the queues, take the short cut. They walk smugly (or sheepishly) past the rest of us as we wait, dripping wet and grim faced, to hop straight onto the ride.

‘What are they teaching their children,’ we muttered, half in anger, half in envy. ‘That money can buy anything, that waiting your turn doesn’t mean anything, that you don’t earn your place.’ Well, this is Cameron’s Britain after all. I don’t want to imply that as a young graduate with no work experience at all he wasn’t worth every penny  of the £90,000 salary he was paid for the job his father procured him; draw your own parallels and conclusion.

But actually there is a sense of achievement  as you draw closer to your turn, about knowing you have earned your place at the front; and not just because the front is under cover either. And that sense of achievement  is one that those who push/buy/rush their way to the front will never truly have.

And when I finally get to tell my call story it'll be all the sweeter thanks to the wait, the doubts, the stress and those moments when I think 'sod it, I'll go and have a cup of tea* instead. That's what I tell myself anyway *stares gloomily at four edited pages*.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

There shall we wallow, down in the hollow

If you are one of the many brilliant people who read for the Romantic Novelist Association's fantastic New Writer's Scheme then please skip to the end of the post where I have been tagged in a power of four  to see just how predictable I am. Do Not Read the following piece of self indulgent pathetic whininess (please).

This weekend the Guardian Guide had an interview with Robert Pattinson in which he said that he never takes any notice of the good reviews but dwells on the negative ones. Now, I have seen all four of the Twilight films thus far, including Breaking Dawn part one to which my main reaction was a mixture of WTF and hysteria despite having read the book, so I am guessing poor Rob has read a lot of negative reviews in his short but lucrative career. It depressed me to think how much he must doubt himself, best known as a pretty boy vampire and half of a non-smiling-if-supernaturally-attractive couple, so much fame and exposure while he is still growing as an actor.

But of course we all do this. See the negative magnified whilst we ignore the positive.

The same day I received my NWS report. Eight pages of carefully thought out analysis, suggestion and feedback on my latest WIP. Now last year I sent in a book finished at the last moment, not planned out and edited as I went. I wasn't expecting much. To my amazement I got a second reading, fast tracked to an editor at M&B and I have suggestions from that editor as to how to strengthen the book. Amazing. Of course the words that I remember most from all the feedback I have received on that book are words I intend to have inscribed on my gravestone: Cosy, trite and predictable. This from a reader who said many, many other wonderful things - but these are the words I remember. Rob and I have a lot in common, sadly not our bank balances.

So when I set out to write Minty I wanted to learn from my previous experience, make her book lighter, flirtier, fun. Include a strong internal conflict backed up my a strong external conflict. I planned a three act structure, I wrote it, rewrote and edited again. Most dangerously of all I was pleased with it.  So of course I didn't get a second reading. I got eight pages pointing out all I missed, the book's many, many weaknesses.

Now I know that someone has spent a great deal of time and effort helping me to be a better writer I know they wouldn't have done so if they didn't think I had potential and I am grateful. Only, it stung. Stung so much that I shed tears, dramatically declaimed my intention to never write again and I wallowed, like a hippopotamus in a nice mud bath. Wallowed shamefully.

And I am ashamed.

But wallowing has it's uses. By indulging, just for a day, I got all that negative thinking out, poured it out in tears and whining and general patheticness, so when I face that report again I can look at it objectively, use it the way the reader intended to make my book better, make it the best it can be. As I explained to my eight year old wallowing is important. As long as it lasts less than twenty four hours.

The Power of Four

Something lighthearted to cheer up what was a very shameful post. The very talented Lindsay J Pryor (not once but twice a New Voices finalist) tagged me in this...

Four places I have worked

1. Scarborough seafront selling rock from under a sign that said 'Cheapest on the front'. Not at all humiliating.
2. Little Chef on Romney Marsh, in those days we wore A-line dresses and cloths on our head, they were very attractive. Film director Derek Jarman used to come in for an all day breakfast with many very handsome young men, while I wore a cloth on my head. Again, not at all humiliating.
3. Waterstones. Happy, happy days.
4. I spent a year as an au-pair in Connecticut, one of the best years of my life.

I have had proper grown up jobs too, honestly...

Four films I could watch over and over again

1. Last of the Mohicans. 'I will find you...'
2. While you were sleeping.. The perfect Romcom (I would link to a post on this very matter but am not sure how too...)
3. North by Northwest - Cary Grant (yum), a chase film and classic train-in-a-tunnel metaphors
4. The Breakfast Club because I HAVE watched it over and over again...

Four telly programmes...

1. Buffy. Best Programme Ever.  How I miss Buffy...
2. My So-Called Life. Jordan Cataloano *deep sigh* when 8yo is 12 I will watch this with her and have a frank discussion about boys, booze and drugs and how even uptight mothers need a break sometimes.
3. The West Wing. Why is the world not really run by Bartlett. Why?
4. Anything Danish. How can I choose between Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge, how? Not Those Who Kill though, that was one depressing show.

Four authors I enjoy

1. Diana Wynne Jones - so so talented and thankfully prolific. If you didn't read her as a kid do now. Howl and Chrestomanci were early crushes (okay, they still are).
2. Georgette Heyer- not without the snobbery and racism common to many 1930s writers but the reason I want to write romance
3. Judith Kerr - the day I realised that the heroine of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit grew up to write Mog and The Tiger who Came to Tea I nearly cried with happiness. I wholeheartedly recommend Goodbye Mog to any parent who needs to explain death to a child, it helped 8yo (and me) through the death of my beloved Nana.
4. Patrick Ness - Chaos Walking trilogy is a modern Young Adult classic. Profound, moving and ultra readable

Of course there are also numerous category romance writers; Jessica Hart, Fiona Harper, Liz Fielding, Megan Crane, Julie Cohen etc who inspire me!

Four places I have travelled to

1. The US especially New England *dreams of house on Cape Cod and apartment in Boston*
2. Italy - my favourite country I think, couldn't pick a favourite part though
3. St. Petersburg
4 Prague

My new Danish obsession means I now long to go to Copengagen...

Four websites I visit daily

Oh I am so sad...

1. Twitter. Obsessed
2. Facebook to hang out with my Crit group
3. The Guardian so I can get depressed by current affairs
4. Amazon, got to keep the Kindle stocked up!

Four favourite foods

1. Cheese on toast. White bread, cheese almost burnt. Yum.
2. Ice cream, it's a bit of an addiction
3. A perfect, juicy, crisp apple. Powdery specimans will not be tolerated.
4. Wine. Not a food but definitely a favourite

Four places I'd rather be

1. Cornwall, in my dream cottage overlooking the sea
2. Sorrento, sipping a limoncello in the town square
3. Copenhagen of course!
4. On holiday, anyway as long as the sun's shining,

Four people I'd like to tag

1. Julia Broadbooks
2. Karina Buchanan
3. Catherine Coles
4. Amalie Berlin