Tuesday, 26 June 2012

On the wrong track

There's a fine line between leaving your comfort zone occasionally and knowing what your limitations are. I know I hate computer games. Can't stand the things. I'm rubbish at them and don't understand the appeal. Besides, I have an 'all or nothing' streak that I have to monitor very carefully. We have a Wii which I only use with a microphone to sing - badly - at every given opportunity (see what I mean?). Last night, my kids begged me to try something they called a 'three-way Mario cart race'. I reluctantly peeled my nose out of the book I'd been trying to read whilst they jiggled up and down on the sofa next to me. A steering wheel was thrust into my hand by the youngest one. I looked blankly back at her.

"So, mummy, you press A to pick your person, then choose your car, auto or manual - pick auto, it's easier, but I don't know why - and then choose a track. Ok, right now press 2 to start the race. Ready?" Her voice rose with excitement. I'm still looking for the 'A'. "Mummy, where are you? Oh, god, you've not even started yet." Rolled eyeballs and conspiratorial 'blesses' between the two sisters.

For the next half an hour I suffered the following humiliations: DD1 issuing instructions not to turn the wheel so much "Subtle, mum. Subtle. Like real driving", DD2 grinning at her sister and mouthing "Painful" as I tried to do the computer equivalent of patting my head whilst circling my stomach to make the cart thing go, power boost and stay on the road instead managing to headbutt every obstacle, cries of "Mum, you're going the wrong way. Turn it, turn it!", and being spoken about as though I wasn't in the room: "Let's get her on the Rainbow track, that'll be hilarious. She'll fall off the edge on the first straight." I came 12th (in every race) despite the fact we switched to the 'easiest' track. Except for one glorious moment, when I got into 8th place. Until I noticed they were watching me, having paused to give me a chance to catch up. The minute they started again I was as much use as the England squad in the Euro quarter finals (actually I have no idea how well they played, I was watching a George Clooney movie on BBC 2).

The best bit about coming out of my comfort zone was seeing the DDs bond over how rubbish I was, whilst still being sweet and tolerant with their uncoordinated mum. And getting the karaoke out after and showing them how it's really done.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Embarrassment rocks

This week I was informed I'm a 'total embarrassment'. Which is a relief because I'd hate to be considered incomplete in any way.  DD2 was on her first solo school trip - a week in France with radio silence (gulp) - I needed to keep busy, plus DD1 and I never usually get mother/teenager time. On top of that I had a lousy week battling bureaucracy and needed cheering up, so we went to the cinema to see 'Rock of Ages'.

I didn't have much idea what it was about but: OMG as she would say, was it right up my avenue, or wot?! A movie about 80's rock music, with soundtrack including loads of my favourite rock songs, including one from Bon Jovi. In hindsight, the poor teenager didn't stand a chance. It was an early showing and fairly empty and other people were singing too. She gave up after about the 18th time of hissing "Mum, stop singing".  Last to leave the auditorium - with not another soul in sight - I air punched and hair swang up the aisle to 'Paradise City', while DD1 slid along the wall squealing 'stop it', looking like she might faint. As I reached the door, I abruptly turned my final air punch into a hair smooth as the usher came in with his black plastic sack to collect the rubbish. A tiny cry escaped DD1. Still singing (quietly) walking along the high street I got: "Mum, you look like you're drunk. Please, can you just hold on until we get in the car?"

Earlier in the week, we'd gone to the supermarket to choose dinner without the restraint of our little fussy eater (currently facing snails, and amphibian legs) and I sang, apparently too loudly, 'Just the Two of Us'. Again, reprimanded. I don't set out to embarrass, but as my very existence is enough to mortify if we're spotted by anyone she knows under the age of twenty, a little singing can't make it much worse, surely? Besides, unless I'm very much mistaken, there was a grin in the grimace from the daughter. And when I said goodnight, she gave me an extra hard cuddle as she shook her head in despair.

All of which provides me with the perfect excuse to post gratuitous pics of my number one boys taken at gigs where I can air guitar and head bang amongst like minded people. Ladies, you're welcome.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A born again novel

Last year I blogged that I'd finished writing my novel. I proudly explained that it was in a state only a parent could love, but that it was here. I'd typed 'The End'. Yet, my internal voice wasn't happy. It kept niggling that it had been too easy, that blood hadn't been shed. So, in typical arse about face fashion, I started reading every book Amazon could supply on writing. And I fell at the first hurdle. Because my baby, at just 30-odd thousand words, was barely a pamphlet. What I had written was the mother of all outlines.

I started again using these bones, rejigging events, adding subplots, weaving in new and unexpected characters who came to life straight down my arms into my fingertips with no conscious involvement from me. Draft after draft was produced but unlike last time I never dared to type 'The End'. I studied more about the craft of writing (show not tell, narrative arc, beats, action and reaction scenes), and read novels by published authors in the genre. I wrote while my mum was dying, during family dramas, kids' fighting, a leaking roof and the decline and eventual demise of both elderly cats. Only once did I throw things - the day I realised events in my first nine chapters were in the wrong order - but there was more than one bout of frustrated tears as I remained focused on my goal.

Now, it gives me great pleasure to announce the arrival of a proper, grown up novel. It's a respectable 94 thousand words with, I hope, humour, tension and soul. And it was properly hard: No voices telling me I got away lightly this time, no siree - my DNA is in this book. Next step is to find a co-parent - someone who will love it as much as me and help me send it out into the world in Sunday best. In the meantime, as I don't want it to be an only child, the younger brother or sister is already in production. The second one has to be easier, surely? Doesn't it...?