The Perks of Aging

I’ve been reading a bit of YA (young adult) and NA (new adult) at the moment, as my current WIP(work in progress) (that was the last of the acronyms, I promise) is YA, so it gets me in the head space and also allows me to see what’s out there. I enjoy the genre, though it tends to be the exception, rather than the rule, unless its Dystopian. I love a good world-gone-bad/struggle against the powers-that-be  book. The problem for me is I’ve been an adult for a long time and my recollection of my teens and early twenties are nothing like in these books. On more than one occasion, I’ve rolled my eyes and scoffed loudly.

I remember the confusion and the acute embarrassment stemming out of what now seems fairly minor occurrences. I also remember being crippled with self-doubt and covering it as best I could with some fairly spectacular bravado. I had boyfriends and I fell in love, but I had no perspective to judge how important they were. To be honest, my perspective on most things was lacking. I went from experience to experience with no real goal or idea where I was heading. The entire time was chaotic.

I knew I was a pretty girl, but I didn’t ever grasp where exactly I sat on the scale. I wasn’t like the gorgeous model types, too short and rounded no matter how I starved myself. You can’t diet yourself tall and lanky. I was smart, but not brilliant enough to be one of the intellectual girls. So what was I? I never found where I fit and always felt I was chasing after a label that I wasn’t really good enough for. What I didn’t realise is that no one does, because the whole thing is illusionary.

Now I’m at the stage where the beauties are all much younger and career accomplishments I used to chase are obsolete. I’m no longer comparing myself to other women and can celebrate their accomplishments without feeling myself lacking. Compliments about appearance go with the mostly unspoken caveat of “for your age”. To be honest, it’s kind of liberating to not be trying to find a label anymore. I can finally relax and not worry about whether or not I’m attractive, because no one is looking at me like that any longer. Now when I’m walking down the street, the only thing I’m getting judged on is my parenting.

 

Confessions of infidelity (not mine!)

Having written a book about infidelity, it is amazing how many people have approached me with stories of their own or others close to them. One of the commonalities, amongst all the differences in who, how and where, is that their partners were usually blindsided. Whether it was the husband or the wife who went looking for something outside their marriage, when they announced they were leaving, their partners had no idea it was coming.

For anyone who is married or in a serious relationship, this is obviously scary. While we like to think that we know our partners and how everything is rolling, it seems that the people who were on the receiving end also thought this and were wrong. You can never know what chance encounters or events conspire to leave yourself or your partner open to the suggestion of others. Maybe it has something to do with our age, as most people I’m chatting with are around the same age as me, nearing forty with all the kids at school, but a lot of marriages are breaking down. When I ask why, partly for research and mostly because there might be something to learn from it, the reasons seem to be something that is resolvable (he/she never listened to me) or that was present from the beginning of the relationship (I don’t like his friends/family). No one has said because they fell madly in love with someone else, though a someone else is generally there in the background.

Given the level of difficulty managing new partners and extra children of blended families, especially around holidays, you’d have to really want out to put yourself through the aggravation and negotiation stretching for years ahead. Which begs the question – was the choice of partner wrong in the beginning or do people change? Or does what we want out of relationships change over time and if your partner doesn’t flow in the same direction is it largely inevitable that you will one day look across the table and feel nothing but the desire to flee? Maybe the couples who stay together are mostly lucky, and any smugness felt at not getting divorced has less to do with any conscious decisions you have made, but that you were fortunate that events outside your control went in your favour. There, but for the grace of God, go all of us.

The Ill Winds of Rumour

I seem to be on a bit of a roll – first secrets and now rumours – but it is particularly topical, given my day today. Luckily for me, I wasn’t the one being talked about, but there’s nothing to stop it happening to me too, or anyone really. The facts were scanty but the words being thrown around were worryingly harsh.

When your kids go to the nearby public school, you encounter people regularly on a social level that are different to you in many ways – race, religion, ideas on how to raise kids and the importance of vegetables. Though I have to admit, where I live doesn’t have a vast amount of racial and religious offerings on the school smorgasbord, I think this makes the small differences seem far larger. The people being talked about would have a fairly similar social and educational background to me and work in traditional fields. So far, so good. They went through what seems to be a bad divorce though and I’m not sure if this is where the trouble started or if something had happened prior to this, but of the many people talking about them, not a good word was said about either. And that’s enough to make other people who might otherwise have been friendly, stay away.

Obviously, getting divorced is harrowing and unpleasant and it is the rare person who is able to set aside their weapons and endure it with grace. The people around them may only see the worst side, particularly when the former spouses collide in public and small children are involved and emotions high. Because most people will not be taken into their confidence of both, they know one side or the other or merely observe the strained relationship and come to their own conclusions. This, I think, is where the worst of the rumours start. Not being close to either party, there is no obligation to hold back and with each subsequent retelling over the day, the details became more scandalous. What is worse is although I saw the evolution of the rumour and recognised that the lack of detail was getting filled in too quickly to have had any verification done, I had to keep a firm hold of the part of me that really wanted to join in. Why, when I knew I had nothing to base it on, did I want to contribute something? I gave myself a mental spanking, but I’m still thinking about it and whether I have been on the receiving end of similar treatment but just don’t know about it. To write means that you expose parts of yourself, cleverly hidden amongst other details in the storyline of course, and you never know what people are going to assume about you after reading your books. There is no way to prevent it – even if you hide out in your home people will still talk. If what people say about you is none of your business, why should you still have to deal with the fall-out?

 

 

 

Twitter – still a mystery

As part of my ongoing reluctant attempts at marketing, I’ve become more active on Twitter. This is a social media platform I didn’t really get but I can say that days and weeks later I am nearing 100 followers and still have no idea what I’m doing or why. I know if I googled it, I could have endless websites telling me the answer but I’m too lazy and my brain is full. I blame my son for telling me constant useless information about Minecraft, which is taking up too much space. People’s names and birthdays have already dropped out, and now my brain is clearing space by nudging out the more important stuff, like the “whys”. Clearly, just knowing I have to turn up to a freezing oval at the crack of dawn with strangely dressed and protesting small boys is enough. If I thought about the why, I’d still be snuggled up in bed in my pyjamas sound asleep, like all rational people. I’d also know why my husband likes to watch so many varieties of people moving balls around on grass, rather than leave him to it and doing something more productive, like blogging or reading lovely books about alpha male alien cyborgs who turn into wolves while handcuffing beautiful women (who don’t know they’re beautiful, despite being told regularly) to beds or posts or other random furniture.

I’m just at the end of a particularly good series about alien vampires (excellent combination) though the phrase “internal muscles clenching” is used with alarming frequency. Part of me hopes he eats her in the end, but I know it’s fairly unlikely. Still the instance on a happily ever after (HEA in industry-speak) really limits your anticipation of the ending. If you know its going to end happily, then you know the main couple will end up together, most likely at the end of a lengthy heart to heart. This might be sacrilege, but sometimes I’d like to be surprised! Not all the time, but every so often, just to keep things interesting. It would be great to get some authors together and draw straws on who has to write a crazily unexpected ending. I’d be more than willing to contribute.

Cynicism – fun or fearful?

I’ve recently found myself in a well of cynicism, where the crap of the everyday can become darkly funny if you skew your view slightly. It is amusing for a while and helps a bit because you can stand back and judge things while not including yourself in the mix.
However, when I read books with a relentlessly cynical hero/heroine, after a while it starts to grate a little. I don’t think anyone, myself included, wants to be that person. Despite the romance of the hero against the world, to always be on the outer frankly sucks. It is an awful thing to feel left out of normal interactions, so why is this position held up to such esteem?
Becuase the perky person makes a lousy story and is frequently ridiculed as idealist and naiive and they’re the first person to be offed by the serial killer (along with the virgin). Arguably though, remaining positive in the face of adversity and not cutting yourself off takes a lot more courage than withdrawing into a protective shell.

Still, cynicism is funnier and easier to laugh along with. While it would be great to reclaim positivity for fiction as  a whole, it is currently being held hostage by the self-help section of the market and I don’t think they’re going to let go without a fight.

Is it mummy porn or erotica?

Umberto Echo said,

“If, to go from A to B, the characters take longer than you would like, then the film you are seeing is pornographic.”

If you change “film” to “book” and “seeing” to “reading” does it still count? I love to read as well as write steamy novels but would only ever jokingly refer to them as porn. It’s not like I skip (much). I really need to buy into the characters or I find I’m just bored, because really, the mechanics of it all is pretty much the same in books of this genre. I think that’s why Fifty Shades was so huge – it was something a bit different from the mainstream but kept within certain boundaries (monogomy & they were already in a relationship when they started). I admire anyone who publishes under their own name when writing about the more extreme end of the spectrum, after all, you can’t stop your grandmother buying it once its out there on Amazon for $1.99 (there’s always a helpful younger cousin or neighbour). I will admit to a few qualms and mine, while fairly explicit, is still pretty vanilla in terms of what happens. Still the thought of the older generation of relatives purchasing it and having to face up to them at Christmas or family functions did cause a few nightsweats.

I’d like to think I’m not writing porn, but if I could sell as many books as EL James, I wouldn’t care what anyone called it!

And why is no one talking about violence? My main character decapitates someone with a kitchen knife, but no one even mentions it. What’s up with that??

Cakes Gone Wild

Funnily enough, this blog is supposed to be about writing, but the cake side is staging a hostile takeover. We have more cake orders than we can poke a fork at, which is great, though no so good for the writing. I spent the last week tearing my hair out, trying to get the website design done and working, all with no help from the alleged “help desk” (an ironic title if ever I’ve heard one). Eventually, I muddled my way through it!

On the writing front, I’ve picked up the other novel I’ve finished, “St Kate of the Cupcake”, to work on polishing it, which has to be the most difficult stage of the whole process. It is vital, but nowhere near as much fun as the beginning where you don’t have to worry about pesky things like internal logic and continuity. I love this book but its like trying to get a misbehaving three-year-old out the door. No sooner have you cleaned the Vegemite off then you turn around and they’re naked again!

I’ll get there eventually and publish it, either self or the traditional way, but it certainly won’t be on time, my estimated delivery time to my agent having been last February. Hmmm…a year late isn’t so bad, right? At least if I publish it myself, all deadlines are arbitrary. Still, I’m not totally convinced by the whole self-publishing thing. I know people who’ve had success rave about it, but I’ve found that it is incredibly hard to be seen, particularly if you don’t resort to buying a whole lot of your own book and giving yourself rave reviews.

Is it morally wrong if I bribe people with cakes to write me good reviews?

Blog No. 2 – To write or not to write?

I had a really productive start to the week, finishing the bones of the sequel to the Merciful Dark, which is going to be called “The Falling Dark”. Unfortunately everything is not going so well for Lily – she gets what she wants but at what price? I feel sort of mean, making a character go through all this stuff, but not being Alexander McCall Smith, I can’t write lovely stories about nice people and make it interesting! I seriously don’t know how he does it.
The latter part of the week was much less productive on the writing front, though I did clean out and rearrange my pantry. I’ve also bought CHRISTMAS decorations, even though it’s only OCTOBER. I’m starting to worry myself. At this rate I’ll be vaccuming the grass for fun in a month (rather than to clean the broken glass up as I did a few weeks ago). Today I have the choice between writing or repainting a chest of drawers or going to Bunnings and shopping for hardware I don’t need. Hmm…procrastination is becoming a form of art.

To spice things up and see if anyone is reading: if you’d like a character named after you in the next book, or want to pitch a character, let me know in the comments section and I’ll see what I can do!

Ah blogging – the joys of being a new author!

About two months ago, I reached a cross-road: on the one hand I really, really wanted to be an author whose novels were read and enjoyed by more than friends and family, on the other hand I also wanted to make cakes, to be eaten and enjoyed by more than friends and family. On the writing side, I had two finished novels and had three in various stages of completion, but my kick-assed agent despaired of being able to sell my books, given the current state of publishing. On the cake side, I had more requests than I could possibly handle, possibly due to my inability to accurately account for the cost of making them and selling them at a steal.

I decided to do what any some-what sane mother would do – I would do both, and see where it took me. So far so good – book 1 is doing okay and cake orders are flowing in, managable because I have a fab cake-making partner in Natasha, whose creativity and wine-drinking ability might possibly exceed my own (we are still working on finding the limits of both).

Cheers! (because the kids are asleep and I’m on my cheeky 3rd glass!)

Lucy x