Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Home

Don't worry, we're not moving. Good lord, that would be horrific. I can't even fathom moving right now. I suppose we moved when I was seven plus months pregnant last time, but why would we voluntarily do that again? No, the only thing that's moving is my location online...

I have created a website. Therein lies my new blog.

Why a whole website? Well, I am I writer sans agent or publisher, so for the time being any publicity must be done by me. What do I know about publicity? Diddly-squat. I've been trolling personal websites of writers and other creative types, getting ideas.

I did once learn html. I made a website and then abandoned DIY html for blogs. I taught Year 11 Information Technology when I first started teaching - sans qualification or experience in the field - and had to teach a unit on writing basic html web pages. I did a lot of work on my own knowledge of the language at the time... but that was five years ago. Fortunately, there are alternatives to writing your own website from scratch. I've used 'wordpress'. Like blogger, wordpress provide a bunch of templates that you can customize. These are primarily suited to blogs. With a little bit of Luuk's help and guidance I've managed to tweak one of these to the point that I like it...

It is not finished, not at all, but it is functional, and so I'm going to be posting to the blog hosted there from now on. Please take a look. I'd love to get some feedback on the pros/cons of the new site. If you have a blog, I'd be interested in exchanging links. Send me a message/comment and I'll take a look at your blog.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mummy's not-so-little helper

The team cake-baking was a success.



Not sweet enough, I thought at first. But then the lemon juice and sugar that I poured over the top seemed to soak through and...


Yum yum yum!

Yesterday was a public holiday - for Christ's Ascension! All my life I've gone to church and because it was never a Catholic church, I suppose, I have never celebrated this holiday. Here in France, by all accounts a very secular country, everyone gets a day off work.

So Luuk took off the Friday as well and we're making a long weekend of it. What's more: a long weekend where we don't travel further than Paris! That's the plan for later today - a museum, an aquarium, a glimpse of the Seine and the Eiffel tower (always nice).

Yesterday was sunny and gorgeous early on, and we went to the playground before lunch. Luuk and I sat in the sun while Louis played. In the afternoon the temperature dropped, sun hid behind the clouds and wind whipped in the trees. Luuk read through the Lonely Planet Paris guide and got lots of ideas for things that we couldn't do because of either the weather, my inability to walk far, or because things close on a public holiday. Lots of ideas for other days, but we had a very quiet afternoon.

Helping with the laundry.
(Holy cow - I'm about to pop.)

It was 18 months ago that he was born. He used to look like this:

The mind boggles.

And now... well, at 80cms tall he's not a 'big' boy. But comparatively...

He knows what he likes, in a very grown up kind of way. He was unimpressed with what was on TV yesterday afternoon, so I flicked through the channels and paused on a football/soccer game...

video
Commentating or arguing with the ref?
Yes, he is saying 'ball' over and over again. Favourite thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Beached

I can't get to sleep. Just can't get comfortable. And now I've started to get itchy... the downward spiral begins. I could lie in bed and re-try all the different sleeping positions, hugging pillows, applying lotions... but Luuk needs his sleep and I wake him up enough in the night as it is.

It's the middle of the night, so forgive my utter lack of originality... but this is how I feel:

video

This was made a few years ago by some Australians, essentially to make fun of the New Zealand accent, among other things. The Kiwis liked it so much they sort of claimed it as their own.

Obviously, while I relate to the whale in many ways, I still have absolutely no problem eating chips. Just to be clear.

I had a thought, earlier today, while beached on the floor, awkwardly playing with Louis: at this point in my pregnancy with him was the last time I went to Cathedral Square in Christchurch. Louis was born betwixt quakes. The September quakes hit when I was 7 months pregnant. There was damage but the serious stuff all went down (quite literally) in the February quakes, when he was nearly 4 months old. Around the time he was due we had visitors from up north, a cousin and her boyfriend. We showed them the town, as you do. Back then, of course, Cathedral Square was right up there on the Christchurch-must-see list.

(Photo not mine. Belongs to this guy.)

I was feeling the full weight of pregnancy and needed to sit down for a while. So I found a spot under a tree and the others went into the Cathedral.

(Also not mine. The Otago Daily Times, in fact, have NOT given me permission.)

Now the cathedral looks more like this and no one's sitting under the trees in the square. Guess I should have taken the chance to wander through it again, but little did I know... and I wouldn't have appreciated it anyway - distracted by sore feet and all that jazz. I'd been in the church before, but never did go up the steeple. And never will.

On that charming thought, I might have another go at going to sleep. At least none of our neighbours are partying - that was another thing that happened just before Louis was born. All I wanted, then and now, was a good night sleep. Is it so much to ask?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Securite Sociale, here we come.

Again.

More lessons in waiting, for Louis, and in grasping/desperate use of french, for me.

Found this while pottering around online this morning:

James Cameron, on writing process,
"At the beginning of any writing project is the agonizing period of nebulous ideas. Trying to will a world into existence. I circle around it, nibbling at the edges, writing notes [sometimes for years].
Then slowly a change happens. Without warning, it becomes easier to write a scene than to write notes about the scene. I start sticking words in the mouths of characters who are still mannequins, forcing them to move and to walk. Slowly their movements become more human. The characters begin to say things in their own words.
The curve inflects upward. The pace increases. By the end of this period I’m writing ten pages a day. The curve becomes almost vertical as the thing seems to come alive. I become a witness only, a court reporter getting it down as fast as I can."
http://writersroutines.tumblr.com/post/15342862090/james-cameron

I relate, though obviously with less world-renown to show for it (as yet). With my current project I'm at the point where characters are just starting to say their own words. I still have to come up with parts of conversations and set up the meeting points, but once they get going, they get going. Love that moment.

Time to get ready to go, much as I'd like to stay here and pretend French bureaucracy has nothing to do with me. But then there's the upcoming medical bills, so off I go. Sun is shining but I'll be taking my jacket today, just in case. What I probably need, more than a jacket, is a fluent french speaker with nothing better to do than save my butt. Volunteers?

pregnant lady running in a hail storm

I wish I'd gotten someone to take a photo. I know. But I was kind of busy running for cover.

I actually got caught in a hail storm this morning! It's two weeks till summer, folks. The sky was blue at breakfast, I swear it, but the wind picked up mid-morning and it was cooler than I expected when we went out some time before eleven. Louis and I needed to go to the Sécurité Sociale, which is just two minutes walk away, up a gently sloping hill (though I might as well have been climbing a mountain, the state I was in). It started raining just as we left the Sécurité Sociale. By some fluke Louis' raincoat was in the buggy. I pulled my scarf up over my head and walked the tree-lined route to the bakery - the only stop necessary on the way home. We were a little damp on arrival - the baker pointed out that the things in the buggy's cup-holders (keys, box of biscuits and drink bottle) were all rained-on, and she did express some concern for her baguette making it home un-sullied. I assured her - Ma maison, deux minute. Ca va.

C'est ne pas vrai!

I ran home through hail. Turns out I can still run, given the right inducement. Speaking of inducement... the inevitable contraction didn't hit till we were inside the foyer downstairs. But Ouchy McGouchy! Thank God we have an elevator. Stairs, in a situation like that, are just good as seats really.

It's okay though. No further contractions. Louis ate his lunch happily and now I have mine in front of me.

So I'll finish this post later.

The view out the kitchen window while I made lunch.

Plus tard...

Louis is being my lovely helper today. Most of the time...

He helped me hang up the washing. He does this by passing items from the basket on the floor up to me - I get to stay nearly-upright and the washing all gets put on the line! Yay!

Then he helped by passing me items from the giant pile of clean and dry laundry, which I could then fold and stack in little piles around me on the sofa. Got to love housework that can be done while you sit, comfortably, in one place. Thanks, wee man.

Then I took the piles of clean, dry, folded laundry to their respective homes... and returned for the last pile (my clothes) to find them strewn across the chair.

Nice one babe.

I've been reading a book about french parenting and it mentions baking with kids quite a bit... By 'baking with kids', I mean that they help mix ingredients, not that they are the ingredients. Just to be clear. 
I've also been craving the lemon cake I made for my birthday. 

Voila: my master plan was to try baking the cake, with Louis' help, this afternoon.

Sugar-coating himself en route, he added the sugar to the jug.
I creamed it with the butter and added the eggs 
(and a tiny bit of shell, but can't blame Louis for that at all).

Next step: mix flour and baking soda.
Pouring skills learned at the sandpit. Does it show?

Then I put it all together, plus the yogurt and stirred. Louis did manage a little bit of mixing but kept pulling the spoon out and so I wasn't quite hands-off enough to take a snap.

 Last step: add the lemon juice.

It's in the oven and Louis is in bed having his nap. It's my time now. Question is: to write or to work on new website design? I have bought amypaulussen.com and now I just have to turn it into a fantastic, functional and beautiful website. I've been trolling through blogs and author websites, getting ideas and inspiration. I've also scrolled through my own photos for images and bits of images which I could use. But I don't want to rush it and then regret things... so perhaps I'd best let that rest for the afternoon and get on with my novel. Much good a stunning author website will do me unless I can, you know, be an author.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bonne Weekend

We're having a lovely slice of summer here in the Ile de France. The weather has been better on the weekend than it was during the week - take that Murphy!

We begun, on Friday evening (which is where a weekend should really start), with constructing a cot, gifted to us by a colleague of Luuk's. Now there are two cots in Louis room and not a lot of floor space, but maybe this will help with Louis' growing understanding of what is about to take place.

Louis helping his Dad tighten up the joints - learning how to use an Allen Key.

 On Saturday Luuk had grand bike-shopping plans and headed off first thing. The first place, he tells me, was a bit pricey.

The second place was a bit late in opening, but worth the wait. A couple hundred Euro later... un velo!

In the afternoon it was my turn to take off on my own, for a much needed hair appointment. Luuk and Louis enjoyed the summery weather on our porch at home.

Someone didn't want to have his afternoon nap, but was happy enough.

Meanwhile, I was transformed from the regrowth-monster into this beauty. So many photos were taken before I gave up and accepted that while pregnant I will always be a little frustrated by my appearance.

You're so vain.

Sunday dawned with much promise, and then went and lived up to it. We go to a tiny off-shoot kind of church most Sunday evenings. The main church meets in Versailles in the mornings and this week were blessing their new sanctuary (the area where church services are held) - so we all got together for a special service... including a scrummy lunch of nibbly goodies and drinks - including champagne! Anglicans eh? The French eh? Love it.

Luuk had to dash off after the service to pick up an ebay purchase: a bike seat for Louis. After a good solid afternoon nap, the boys took advantage of this new treat...

Off we go!

Honey, I'm home.

Lookin good.

My biker boys.

So I'm hoping they can do their father-son bonding off on the road, getting some exercise and having a blast. Meanwhile I can ensconce myself in a cafe and work on that novel!

And now it's time for dinner and a relaxing evening before kicking off another week. Perhaps we will watch the last episode of 'Sherlock'. Perhaps I will finish reading my book. I will definitely write my 100 Days post for today.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Not as bad as I thought

Another rejection email arrived a couple of days ago. I've been putting off updating my records - crossing another agent off my list of queried agents. My novelling is going well - not quite on a roll but plodding along which is actually better and more maintainable than a rush of inspiration-driven writing. I didn't want to look at my queried-agent list because I didn't want to know exactly how many rejections I've recieved.

Well, I did it, just now, and it wasn't so bad. Seven queries went out into the world (well, the UK actually) and only three have replied. Sure, they're all rejections - nice soft rejections that encourage me to try other agents while explaining that they get a lot of submissions and can only accept a few new authors a year... blah blah blah. One of these agents actually sent me the same rejection letter, word for word, twice - about ten days apart. Now that's just mean.

But there are still four out there, so hope remains. And it's only the first burst of agent queries I've sent out for this, my second, novel. So I shouldn't get too discouraged.

I am a bit impatient, of course, though the rational part of my brain assures me that these things always take a long time. And no news could be good news.

How does the line go? Hope is frail but hard to kill? C'est vrai. (Looked up what it's from... the answer is: 'When you Believe' from The Prince of Egypt.)

I wonder if I should try more agents or just jump straight to the romance genre publishers. Even if I got an offer direct from a publisher I'd still want an agent. Can you do that? Find a publisher and then an agent? It's not as if finding a publisher is all that a Literary Agent does for an author, after all. But the dream is to find an agent who really likes/loves/believes in my writing...

Meanwhile, I slog on, fifty pages into my newest novel draft. My main characters are sitting across from one another, in a booth, at a pub, at a wake. He just knocked their drinks onto her. Or did he? I was rethinking the scene last night after Luuk had gone to sleep.

Yesterday was a good writing day. I felt like I was putting down good words. Not that my feelings on the day have any real relation to the quality of the writing. I can write awful corny collections of cliches and feel like I'm writing thought-provoking nuanced prose. I can feel completely discouraged, ashamed of my self-conscious, dull, poser efforts to impress an audience who'll probably never read my never-to-get-published manuscript... and yet look over those same words later and be surprised at my own insight and the beautiful turn of a phrase. It happens... and I have to remind myself, on a very regular basis, that how I feel about my writing and the actual quality of said writing, are two entirely unrelated things.

What matters as that I keep writing. And since Louis is asleep and Luuk is off in Paris somewhere looking at bikes (assuming the shop is now, finally, open)... I should really take advantage of this alone-time and write write write! Only four weeks until I'm likely to have a new baby. I have been known to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Maybe, if I really get myself in gear, I can finish this first draft before the baby comes.

Louis got a mural. His little sister will be getting a love story that she won't appreciate until her teens, and that's assuming I let her read it (as I'm yet uncertain how adult it'll be). Good thing she can share Louis' mural.