Saturday, 24 November 2012

Today 'The End', tomorrow the rewrites

Yes, as anyone who is a Facebook friend of mine will already know, I have finished Book 2 of Perfect Lives. I am in two minds about what the publisher is doing, but hell, a contract is a contract. Book 1 ends on a kind of a cliffhanger, where you don't know if one of my heroines will ever manage to find the love of her life, who has disappeared. You have to read Book 2 to find out. I just hope that people won't mind paying £3.99 twice over to discover what happens in Book 2.

I am now in that odd state of limbo which I'm sure other writers know ever so well. I have sent off the final chapters and closed the door on my lovely characters and am missing them already. But I have been warned that suggestions for edits and changes will come my way shortly, so I can say a brief hello to them all again then. It's weird the way the characters still live on in your head. Already, I am wondering who will get engaged, married or separated, or have babies, or move to another country. I never introduced readers to the gay brother, and we'll never know if another character's mother has a change of heart (I think she will, as I have planted the seeds).

I have another book that is three-quarters written. It's called Half a Rainbow. Those poor characters were left dangling in space three years ago and it's high time I rescued them.

When I have a publication date for Perfect Lives, I'll let you know. It's so exciting being published again, after six years in the doldrums. (Hmm... what exactly is a doldrum? Looking it up... Ah. An Equatorial calm area. That place where the wind don't blow and the ship don't go. Now I know!)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

More bad luck

On Saturday, I found the perfect house, walking distance to the tube, lovely big rooms, wonderful neighbours, one of whom I already knew and I immediately put in a full asking price offer. Today the agent rang with the news that I can't have the house because they are selling it for less money to a couple they had a cup of tea with and struck up a relationship with. So it was just sod's law that they weren't in to offer me a cuppa when I went round. I am absolutely gutted and am writing this in tears. They wanted a quick sale and I was a cash buyer who could have moved in by Christmas.

Why, oh why, do I have such bad luck? I have been trying to find myself a home for three years. I haven't had my own space for seven years. I haven't seen my pictures and lovely art deco pottery in all that time. My mattress has probably been eaten by the mice that infest the storage unit. I am having to write all cramped up in the freezing, draughty bedroom and finally, I thought I had found my new home and everything was going my way. Any day now, I shall have to pay the storage people another £210, which I have been paying out every month for seven years. Do the math. I am so depressed...

Monday, 19 November 2012

The oneness of things

A friend recently send me a fascinating email which I have reproduced at the foot of this page. It gave me lots of food for thought. When I was a child, I used to feel that I shared my atoms with everything and a neighbour's old wooden gate drooping on its hinges and swaying in the wind made me sad, because I felt one with that gate. Later, I used to hate throwing away old slippers and worn out socks because, to me, they were still 'alive', still corporeal, still made up of atoms, and how would I like someone to pick me up and throw me in the bin?

By the age of 14 or so, I had grown out of my over-empathy for all things and had developed a barrier between the group of atoms which shaped me, and everything else. But one part of being as short-sighted as I am is that when I take off my specs, even the most solid objects look as if they are composed of millions of  tiny dots, so I feel as if I could part the atoms of a wall and jump through, like the cat in the Dreamies ad on telly. I still feel that, on some basis, everything is linked and energy is shared. When I read Peter Mathiesson's wonderful book, The Snow Leopard, years ago, I recognised a kindred spirit, someone who was journeying through Tibet on two levels simultaneously, the terrestrial and the transcendent. For anyone interested, here are a couple of reviews of this book,which I have bought and given away so many times to people I felt would appreciate it:

"A magical book: a kind of lunar paradigm and map of the sacred. There is a sense that the book has trascended the usual limits of language." Jim Harrison, The Nation

Simply as a step-by-step account of villages entered, peaks crossed, the enormously elating business of survival, The Snow Leopard is stunning....It is also Matthiessen's attempt to stand beyond modern time, and the extreme beauty of this radiant book lies in the fact that he fails....He has expressed with uncommon candor and no prospect of relief, a longing which keeps the soul striving and alert in us all. That is the profound humanity of The Snow Leopard, a book fiercely felt and magnificently written." Terrence Des Pres, Washington Post Book World

And here, at last, is the quote that sparked off this post...

On a purely higher spirit level, the level of Ain Sof, we might well be all one - one with the earth and universe too, one with the worms and the viruses, one with the mountains and the clouds, with the tigers and the ants, with Hitler and the Dalai Lama. But on the incarnate earth level, we are not all one. We are different in some respects and similar in others. We exist in both planes - and many others in between! - and pretending that only one of them exists and 'we are all one' is a misunderstanding of spiritual work and of how the spirit and material realms function. It's also a means by which people repress their pulsions (drives; psychoanalytic psychotherapy) and shadow selves, every bit as effective as Victorian morality used to be. Because they repress, these come out in all sorts of angry, judgmental ways - including "I hate negative people" or "I can't be friends with someone who eats meat" or whatever else.

A few years ago an interesting book came out called 'The Dark Side of the Light-Chasers', in which the author, Debbie Ford, examined that problem. Forcing joy, love and light all the time is unnatural - and results either in resentment and anger or in depression. It's quite different from someone who has gone through fire and faced his shadow and come out the other side, joyful, loving and full of light, naturally.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Generosity v. stupidity

In the unlikely event that my new book is a bestseller, I've been indulging myself in an imaginary spending spree. I have drawn up a mental list of what I would do with the lolly and always, my friends in need come top of the list. Trouble is, by the time I've helped this person and that, and bought my daughter a house, and renovated the house of another friend who can't afford to mend her roof, there's never anything left for me. I can't help it. I'm just generous by nature and was brought up always to put the needs of others before my own.

Years ago, long before I found my daughter, I consulted a psychic medium to find out if I ever would find her. He told me I would, and he told me a lot of stunningly accurate stuff about my parents, who had recently died - stuff even I hadn't known but which, in retrospect, turned out to be true. One thing he mentioned more than once was that 'them upstairs' were getting tired of trying to help me, because whenever they put anything my way, the chance of a bargain, a premium bond win, I never used it on myself.

He gave me an illustration: 'They guide you to an amazing painting which you love and buy, and which would prove a valuable asset in the future, and what do you do? A friend comes along and says how much they love it and the next moment, you're giving it away to them.' This is so perfectly true. I don't feel any great attachment to 'things'. I would happily give away my telly, my hi-fi, my clothes (apart from my tiger-striped wellies, which is another story); form an orderly queue, folks!

So what I now want to know is, at what point does generosity stop and sheer stupidity begin? Perhaps I was meant to be one of those hermit poets who live in a cave in some wealthy aristocrat's garden. Or a nun. (No, I don't think so; I like food and wine and the pleasures of the flesh too much.) I've tried to change my nature, but I just can't. I'm me, take it or leave it. No, I mean take it or take it!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sometimes I hate being a writer

Writing will not let you sleep.
There's just no point in counting sheep.
They'll jump in ones and twos and threes
and develop personalities
and then instead of a lovely snooze,
you'll be dreaming up plots about rams and ewes.

Writing will not let you doze.
Your characters keep you on your toes.
They'll wake you up at some ghastly hour
saying, "I don't want to marry that girl from Gower
and the shirt I was wearing in Chapter Two
suddenly changed from white to blue."

Writing will not let you rest.
Of all the stimulants, it's the best.
In the midst of a dream of love and rapture,
you'll wake up knowing your latest chapter
over which you wept and sweated blood
is absolutely no effing good!

Writing will not let you dream.
You're scared your plot's run out of steam.
You've typed and typed till you're ready to drop
but still the climax is a big wet flop.
Bet your life the solution will form
at three o'clock tomorrow morn.