Tag Archives: life changes

So, Don’t All Unfollow Me at Once…

…but I have a little bit of news.

It won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that I have been less assiduous about my blogging schedule over the past few months, and particularly so over the past number of weeks. This isn’t because I don’t want to blog anymore, or because I’ve run out of things to say, but because my life has taken an unexpected and amazing turn.

A few weeks ago, dear readers, my little family expanded by one. My husband and I were delighted, relieved and overwhelmed to welcome our tiny baby to our lives, a baby who has already transformed our home and taken over our hearts and who we love with everything we have. We kept knowledge of the baby’s arrival very quiet, not because we weren’t proud and delighted and excited, but because I was superstitious and nervous and almost scared to get too happy, in case this beautiful thing would be taken away as quickly and miraculously as it had arrived. For I had been told, often and by several doctors, that I would never conceive or carry a child; my body was inadequate, incapable and barren. I would need help, if I was to have any chance. It was vanishingly unlikely to happen naturally, or so we believed, and my husband and I had given up all hope. But we proved them all wrong.

Beyond all our dreams, we were blessed and we have continued to be blessed, and our beautiful child is currently in a carrycot, awaiting an evening feed.

Photo Credit: Estevam Romera via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Estevam Romera via Compfight cc

Anyone who has had a child will agree that when they arrive, your life is taken over completely by getting used to their routine, settling into a new way of life, and resetting your family’s body clock in order to accommodate a 24-hour schedule which sees you awake (and not minding at all) between 1.30 and 4.30 in the morning, napping during the afternoons, and keeping a watchful eye out for hunger cues and signs of nappy-related distress. This does mean that stuff like work, blogging, washing, getting dressed in matching clothes and generally functioning as an adult is a bit challenging, and so I’m here to tell you that things will be a little patchy around here for the next while. I’ll be checking in, and I’ll post when I can, and there will be the occasional book review, and I’ll keep you updated with bookish news (on that note, there’s nothing to share at the moment; the glacial wheels of publishing continue to turn, incrementally, and the slow processes which underpin the book trade are still taking place – not that you’d know), but there won’t be a regular blogging schedule.

I hope y’all will understand.

I won’t be sharing photos of my baby online, nor will I be sharing the name my husband and I chose, nor the gender of our child, for privacy reasons. I’m taking this opportunity to ask anyone who knows me in real life to keep any photographs they may have of our child, and any information about our baby (including names) private. However, anyone who wishes may email me if they’re curious and – if they’re willing to wait for an answer, and to be bound by these conditions! – I’ll privately share some information about our new arrival.

Life is changed, changed utterly, and it’s wonderful. It will take me some time to find a new balance, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. I hope you’ll stick around for the next phase of my journey, and that you’ll be here to share the ups and downs of my writing life as my publication date draws nearer, and that you’ll bear with me as things get a little fragmented and chaotic around here.

But that was ever the case in Clockwatching… towers – things have always been a little unpredictable in this neck of the woods. This is simply another turn in the road, the sharpest and most exciting one yet, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming.

So, it’s ‘farewell’ for now. It’s a sincere ‘thank you’ for your support and interest so far. It’s a ‘stay tuned!’ for future news, and it’s a huge ‘hello’ from the tiny bundle which has brought such joy (and sleeplessness) to my life, and my husband’s, over the past number of weeks.

And it’s this.

 

 

Questions, Questions…

One of my regular readers and commenters, Ania, wrote this blog post yesterday and asked me if I would answer some of her questions. I’m sorry to say I don’t have time to answer them all, but I’ll do my best to answer some of them in today’s post. I’m going to take a random sample of the questions and try to answer in as much detail as possible.

So, hold onto your hollyhocks, people. Get ready to find out what I keep in my handbag!

What is your zodiac sign? Do you match its description?

My zodiac sign is Scorpio, as I was born one long-ago November. It’s apparently a Sun sign, which is a strange thought considering I was born during the winter! Scorpios are, as far as I know, supposed to be secretive, passionate, jealous, possessive and (ahem) rather amorous in their outlook on life. I’m not sure about the amorous part, but I know I have exhibited most of the other traits at various points in my history on planet Earth so far.

It looks just like me!Image: compatible-astrology.com

It looks just like me!
Image: compatible-astrology.com

What song(s) would you choose as a soundtrack to your life?

Well, this is a tough question for me, because I love music so much. Choosing one song would be impossible, and even choosing a top 10 would be hard. But the first ones that come to mind are:

‘Immigrant Song’ – Led Zeppelin : This song makes me appreciate the Viking heritage which I’m sure I have. It’s a lot of fun, and it also has a killer beat. But then, I pretty much love all Led Zeppelin’s songs!

‘Unknown Legend’ – Neil Young: This song is one of many that reminds me of my dad, which is another reason to love it. But truly, I love every single Neil Young song I’ve ever heard, and he’s my all-time favourite artist.

‘Time Has Told Me’ – Nick Drake: This song kept me going during a very hard period in my life. I love it because it reminds me that things will get better and never to give up hope, but that’s just personal to me. The lyrics don’t really reflect that message! Again, I love all of Nick Drake’s tragically small output. He’s wonderful.

‘A Case of You’ – Joni Mitchell: I can’t explain the effect that ‘A Case of You’ has on me. Every note and every word of it makes my skin tingle. I love the song, and the entire album ‘Blue’, and most of what I’ve heard of Joni Mitchell. She’s a legend.

‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ – Sandy Denny: Sandy Denny was the best singer in the world. Ever. End of story. This song changed my life, and I adore every note of it.

‘May You Never’ – John Martyn: Just a gorgeous song from a wonderful singer/songwriter, sadly also gone from the world too soon.

If I answered this question every day, I’m sure I’d come up with entirely different songs, every day. Truly, I love so many thousands of songs that I’d never be finished answering this question!

Who are the most important people in your life?

Well, this one is easy. My husband, my parents, my brother, my parents-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my ‘sisters-in-law’. Then, I have about ten million aunts, uncles and cousins, as we’re a good Irish family. And then, of course, I have a huge helping of friends, none of whom I could live without. So, a lot of people are important to me, and I love them all. I’m a lucky girl.

What’s your favourite book/writer?

This is like the question about music. Every day, my top 5 favourite books changes! So, today’s favourites are:

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman (or, anything by Neil Gaiman)

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett (or, anything by Terry Pratchett. I’m seeing a pattern here.)

The Earthsea Quartet – Ursula K. Le Guin (okay, so technically four books, but you’ll have to allow me that indulgence. It’s Le Guin!)

The Once and Future King – T.H. White

The Passion – Jeanette Winterson (or, indeed, surprise surprise, anything by Jeanette Winterson.)

I’m also going to include The Canterbury Tales by my hero, Geoffrey Chaucer, even though it’s technically a poem, not a book. But I love it. Only in the original Middle English, of course.

What do you carry in your bag?

Well, it varies, but normally I carry a rucksack-type bag, as I’m not very girly. So, I usually have at least three paperback books, my purse, a hairbrush, a bus timetable, an assortment of tissues, lots of receipts, some hand-cream for my eczema, a pen (usually not working), a notebook, and a plastic bag to put everything into if (or, rather, when) it rains. The glamour of my life is just overwhelming, isn’t it? I should have my own style magazine.

What countries would you like to visit?

So many I can’t remember them all. I haven’t been to very many places so far! My dream destinations would include: Iceland, Scandinavia (anywhere – ideally all the Scandinavian countries), Belgium (to visit my friend Tine), Spain, Italy, Hungary (I’d love to see Budapest), Canada, and Antarctica. If Antarctica counts as a country.

If you compare yourself five years ago to yourself now, what has changed?

I’m not working as an English tutor any more, and I’ve had another job in that period too; I’m married now, but I hadn’t met my husband five years ago (though I was about to meet him, which is a happy thought); I’m following my dream in life now (i.e. I’m writing), whereas five years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence or support network in place to help me to achieve this dream. So, a lot of positive changes have happened.

So, I hope that’s good enough for Ania, and that I haven’t bored the pants off the rest of you. I’ll try to be a little less self-absorbed in tomorrow’s blog post!

Image: thewritersadvice.com

Image: thewritersadvice.com

 

Character Assassination

Last evening, I found myself up to my elbows in a sink full of sudsy water. I was, technically, doing the washing-up, but of course my brain was in a land far, far away, stuck in the land of the WiP, where it lives most of the time, now. I’m going to start answering to the name of my protagonist soon, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, I’d just scrubbed a particularly reluctant plate clean of whatever was determined to cling to it, when something burst, screaming, into my head.

It was a bit like this, but with less horse and more suds. Sort of.

It was a bit like this, but with less horse and more suds. Sort of.

My brain yelled ‘Kill the Guardian!’, which – to anyone else – would have been the first indicator of impending mental illness. To me, though, it was one of those moments of pure epiphany, when everything starts to click into place, and you wonder why you couldn’t have had this breakthrough while sitting at your computer, instead of up to your metaphorical neck in water.

For the Guardian, you see, is (or rather, was) a peripheral character who used to live in the end of my book. Now that I think about it, I’ve no idea why he was ever there in the first place. It just seemed natural, when I was writing my climactic final scene, that our heroine wouldn’t encounter the great unknown, for which she has been seeking, without having someone there to guide her, and to explain things. All the re-reads and edits I’d done up to yesterday had just skipped over this character like he was a piece of furniture – he was just supposed to be there, no question about it. I didn’t even really examine his dialogue in any great detail. But there was something just not… right about the last scenes in my final chapter. It had been bugging me all evening, and I couldn’t pinpoint what was making me so dissatisfied.

And then it occurred to me.

There’s no need to have the Guardian there at all. Our heroine is a strong character by the end of the book. She starts off a bit sappy, maybe, but by the end she’s been through enough to handle this. She doesn’t need anyone there to hold her hand. The Guardian was a redundant character, and when that became clear, things started to work better. I realised that I’d written the Guardian character to suit the type of character my heroine was in my book’s first draft – in the first draft, you see, she didn’t develop as much as she does now. She started off sappy, and she pretty much stayed sappy the whole way through. In the current draft, I think she shrugs off the ‘little girl’-ness of the early chapters when she’s shoved out into the world, and she realises she’s braver and stronger than she ever thought. The protagonist of draft 1 needed the Guardian to help her at the end of the book, but the protagonist of draft 5 (I think it’s draft 5, anyway) does not. This makes me happy for many reasons. It means I’ve trimmed the book of an excess character, who was providing an unnecessary extra layer between the reader and the action right at the point when they’re supposed to be biting their fingernails off with the tension of what’s going on (ideally), and it also means that my heroine has a proper character arc. In other words, she’s not the same person at the end of the book as she was at the beginning. Like anyone going through a huge life-change at the age of sixteen, she changes. And that is, of course, important.

As soon as I’d thought of removing the extra character, before I’d even had a chance to remove my hands from the washing-up, I was already mentally rewriting the chapter without the Guardian’s involvement. I was reallocating some of his dialogue to another character, and just getting rid of huge swathes of it, too. It felt brilliant. When I sat down to make the changes, they pretty much wrote themselves – it was the easiest edit I’ve done yet. I hope the ease with which I made the changes means they’re ‘right’ – certainly, I think the chapter works much better as it is now.

I do have two other big changes to make (another note to fellow writers: make sure you have all the notes you made during your editing read-throughs in front of your face when you’re making your ‘final’ edit, or you’re bound to forget something!), and then – finally – I can give myself the Christmas present of a big pile of paper with some black marks on it. Wahoo! Happy days.

In other news: my husband and I are putting up our Christmas decorations today. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Jingle bells, baby.

Happy Friday!

Notes on the City

This morning was taken up with a journey to Dublin, a city I used to traverse every day, and a place I know very well.  For the last few weeks, however, I’ve had very little need to go anywhere near it, which I feel is no great loss.  I’ve had a mixed relationship with Dublin for years now; I went through cycles of hating the place with a passion, followed by years of utter devotion, over and over again during my adult life.  I think, now, that the fluctuations in my feelings about Dublin mapped my changing feelings about my life and myself, more than anything else.  The more secure I felt as an individual, the more I loved living in Dublin, and during those times when my confidence was at a low ebb, I couldn’t bear the pace of life there and I often felt a desperate need to escape.  I’m beginning to see that things have shifted for me now – at the moment, I’m glad to say that I feel happier than ever before about life, and I’m pretty sure part of that happiness is down to the fact that I’m not living in the city any more.

Dublin’s not a huge city, by any means, but when I was new to it I felt like it was the throbbing heart of the universe.  I’m a little more blasé towards it now – these days the streets of Dublin have more to say about poverty than they do about power.  Walking through the city today, I was struck by how much deprivation I saw.  There are far more people living on the streets than there were when I first moved there, and the air carries whispers of sadness and desperation – the whole place seems on edge, like a dog waiting for the next blow from a cruel master.

But perhaps I’m being over-dramatic.  Ireland, as a whole, is suffering economically, so maybe it makes sense that its capital city – where the majority of the country’s population lives – displays a huge portion of the pain.  All I know is, when I’d finished my business there, I couldn’t get myself to the train station fast enough.  The further away I got, and the greener the view from the train window became, the happier my heart felt.  It’s funny to have such a strong relationship with one’s capital city – even though I don’t live there, it still casts a long shadow over how I feel about my life.  Once upon a time, the journey to Dublin felt like freedom; now, leaving it feels like coming home.  I guess I’m just a small-town girl at heart…

In case you’re wondering, I was in Dublin today to drop off my entry to the writing competition I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts.  It feels good to know my entry has been submitted and that my journey – away from Dublin, perhaps, but toward my new life – has begun in earnest.

Changes…

I promised yesterday that I’d blog about the weather today, so here goes.  It doesn’t hurt, of course, to have a David Bowie reference (sort of) in the title of this post, either!  Any excuse for the Thin White Duke.  As I write, it’s dull outside, and the trees at the end of our garden are waving, quite pleasingly, in the breeze.  It’s a cool day out there, too – you can feel the teeth of winter starting to tighten over our little part of the world.

And I couldn’t be happier.  I love this time of year.  For a person who doesn’t deal too well with Change (Capital Ch… Ch… Ch…) I am obsessed with the times of year when the seasons begin to melt from one into another.  My favourite time of flux is this one – late summer to autumn to winter.  I spend all year looking forward to those days when you can walk out the door and be kissed with that particular, refreshing, brisk air you only get when winter’s coming, and go for long walks wrapped carefully in your woollens.  I love scrunching through piles of leaves, and not only because it makes me feel like a little girl again (but mainly, that’s the reason).  I love the colours at this time of year – the reds, oranges, yellows and golden-browns speckling the trees like a pointillist painting; the low, honey-coloured sun which seems so much brighter now than it ever did in summer; the particular slate shade of the sky.  I love the feeling that the world is beginning to pull its blanket over its head, ready for its long hibernation.  It makes me feel like everything has a cycle, and so it’s okay for me to sometimes feel tired, or in need of renewal.  Strangely, though, even though I know that nature is preparing for its time of rest, the whole world seems so alive and invigorated, to me, at this time of year.  Perhaps its the chill in the air which gets the blood moving that bit quicker – I don’t know.  I just know I can’t wait for October and November.

The love I have for this time of year might be something to do with the fact that seasonal change is completely outside of my ability to control, but it does feel as if someone is looking after the whole show.  The gradual swing from season to season is going to happen whether I like it or not, and all I can do is sit back and watch it, marvelling at how well organised the whole thing is; it’s like a perfectly controlled orchestra, whose conductor is out of sight.  Change, as manifested in the average human life, is sometimes quick, unexpected – even painful – and it can seem sometimes that no-one, and nothing, has any control over things that happen to people.  I, personally, find changes in my life very frightening, and I hate the feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen, so it soothes me to watch seasons change, knowing that it’s all unfolding just as it should.

I hope you get out in the weather today (well, those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, at least!) and take a wonderful, refreshing breath, and revel in the changes being wrought by the onset of winter.  Whatever you do, enjoy yourself.