Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And I would walk 500 miles...

A very very important thing is happening to our country this week. Or if you like to our kingdom. Though it feels old fashioned to call it that. So maybe better to say the islands we live on.

Whatever side of the Yes/No Scottish debate you're on, and whether you're north or south of the border, after Thursday I suspect nothing will ever be the same, even if the status quo remains unchanged.

As it happens I have shamefully never been to Scotland, though my maiden name of Moffatt is Scottish through and through,  but such a long way back I have no family there, to my knowledge. A bunch of them went out to Ireland in the 19th century and settled there for a bit, before finding there way here. Therefore like the majority of the people in the British Isles, though I consider myself English, I also boast Irish/Scottish and probably some Welsh heritage. I think it's what makes us so great that we all come from such a ragbag of different ethnicities. Throughout our long history new peoples have come and conquered and usually moved west, and so most of us can claim a reasonable diversity of culture.

Which is why, though none of us in England have a say in the matter (though quite why ex pats can't vote I don't know, they can in normal elections, so why not in this, extraordinary one?),we all feel inextricably linked to what is going on up in Scotland. Until relatively recently, though I feel very strongly that actually the union is better together (sorry crap phrase, the No campaign has been woefully inadequate),I don't feel it was my place to voice those feelings, as it was up to the Scots to decide. Except, if they decide yes, it will impact on all of us south of the border, and nothing will ever be the same again. I really really don't want to think of a nation that I consider kin to become foreigners overnight.

Now I don't want to get into the politics of this, because it is by all accounts quite rough and ready on both sides (one aspect of the campaign that I have found deeply depressing is how far both Yes and No campaigners will go to bribe the electorate to vote their way), but what I do want to do is send Scotland a love letter. And say this...

We don't always see eye to eye, but we've been united as a kingdom since 1603 when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England. That's a very very long time. Ok, it took us till 1707 to become politically united, but that still means we've had a joint parliament for over three hundred years. Three hundred years in which we've really benefitted from having you on side.

In literature you've given us Robbie Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. We would have neither the television,( John Logie Baird)or penicillin (Alexander Fleming) without you. Scotsmen and women have gone out in the world and made their name in engineering, politics, business. For a small country you've always punched well above your weight.

More recently in sporting events Andy Murray has made up for years of personal disappointment by winning Wimbledon, both as a Scot and a Briton (unlike our dumb media, to me  he's Scottish/British whether he wins or loses), and Chris Hoy is just inspirational. I'd have been sad to lose him from the British team in the Olympics in 2012.

On top of all that my favourite TV show has had not one but two Scottish actors playing the Doctor, but also it's head writer shares my surname. I like to think we must be somehow related in the distant past.

There is something about Scotland and the Scottish that is part of our national identity, and we will all be the poorer if you go.

Scotland the Brave, it's your decision, but I'd walk 500 miles to stay by your side and really really hope on Thursday you say no.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Well, THAT didn't go according to plan...

Oh dear. I have now been back at work for over five months, and haven't blogged at all.

There are a lot of reasons for this.

Firstly the complications I referred to in my life in April were that my beloved mother was dying. She was diagnosed with terminal brain tumours in February, and though we thought she might get to the summer, she went downhill very fast, and died at the beginning of May. Subsequently, my first few weeks at work involved trekking back and forth to Shropshire on my days off, pretty much abandoning my family for weeks (although actually they all seemed to cope pretty well without me). Then we went straight into exams. I'm very very proud of my daughters who both did extremely well in incredibly difficult circumstances.

So it's been a funny old time. And I also had to do the rewrites on my new book, Coming Home for Christmas, the last in my Hope Christmas stories. This was particularly poignant for me, as I had written the whole series with motherhood very much in mind, and the first two books were affected  by my lovely mother in law being ill and subsequently dying, and this time it was my mother's turn. Hope Christmas is based on the town of Church Stretton where she lived, so this last book I have invested with love, and put in tiny little details about places we walked as a family as my tribute to her.

I will be writing about my mum at some time, but still assimilating my thoughts, and need to check that my family don't mind.

But in the meantime, here's the cover of the new book. I hope as life starts to calm down a little, I'll be able to blog again sooner.

And if you're interested, the book is out on November 6th.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Very Big Change

I haven't blogged for a while, because quite frankly there is an awful lot going on in my life at the moment, but I wanted to write today, because the times they are a changing for Maniac Mum... For a while now I don't think this blog fits my life anymore. My children are getting older and are active online. They certainly neither want or need me to blog about their doings in the way I once did. And since no 4 went to secondary school in September, I have found myself rather at a loose end (well not completely, I have written two books since then!), in the sense that I have very little structure or purpose to my day anymore. For fourteen years I had to get out of the house in the mornings to do the school run, and now, I don't really have to leave the house AT ALL if I don't want to. Which might sound idyllic, but really it's not.

So I decided in the autumn I needed a part time job. Part time jobs not being very readily available usually in publishing (which is all I really know apart from writing), I scrabbled around trying to see if I could get into teaching on a creative writing course as a regular gig. Needless to say, I failed dismally in that regard, (one university I applied to a) told me I couldn't teach for them because I don't have an MA, b) offered me the chance to take their MA (the course I was suggesting I teach on!) and c) I realised they wouldn't let me on their MA anyway because I don't have a 2.1) so I signed on with a job agency. To my amazement a part time job came up immediately. I didn't get that one, but after a bit of faffing about, I did get the next part time job that came up.

I have to admit to freaking out totally when I was offered the job. My life is pretty complicated right now, and I have two children about to sit vital exams, and I feel I am deserting them a little in their hour of need. Plus I haven't been out to work in an office for SIXTEEN years. I'm not sure I know how to talk to people anymore.

And of course, there's my writing. I will now only have two days a week to fit that in. Getting a job right now might be completely insane.

But on the other hand, I have always squeezed the writing in around family life anyway. I don't write every day, and I am totally undisciplined about it. Going back to a nine to five job, I hope will inject some much needed order into my working life.

Plus, I am a gregarious person by nature and since losing the school run, I have been going slowly demented as I have so few people to talk to in the day (apart from the lovely people on Twitter and Facebook, who do keep my sane). I am looking forward to engaging with real people in real time again.

And then of course, for the writer, this is an absolute gift. When I left work in 1998, we didn't even have email. No, really, we didn't. They were talking about getting it. In my first year of freelance I corresponded entirely by fax and snail mail. Unthinkable now. I've just had to sign a long declaration of Dos and Don'ts about use of the internet in office time, which made my head spin.

Everything is so different now in the workplace, and I think that will be quite fascinating to discover. So I'm  going to start blogging about that, as and when I can fit it in, and I might just find myself writing a going back to work as a middle aged mum kind of story.

Whatever happens next, it's a new chapter, a big change and with some trepidation, I am looking forward to it immensely.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Ooh er, it's ages since I've blogged and it's also ages since I've done something like this. But my lovely twin Virgina Moffatt (http://giniamoffatt.blogspot.co.uk/) has tagged me for this, so here goes...

What am I working on?

At the moment I have two projects on the go. The first is the third and final book in my Hope Christmas trilogy. It picks up the story a year after the end of A Merry Little Christmas, and we find out what's happening to Cat, Marianne and Pippa, who become embroiled in a campaign to stop a new hotel complex being built on the farmland near Pippa and Marianne's homes. I have taken a lot of inspiration from my favourite film, Local Hero, and have finished the first draft, so am currently waiting on the edits. As usual for my first drafts, the story is there, but I need to do a lot of infilling and pulling strands together to make it suitable for public consumption. That's what editors are for, thankfully.

The second book I'm working on is completely different - a teen fantasy about dragons, which was suggested to me by my late lovely agent, Dot. So it will mean the world to me if it gets to see the light of day. Also I'm having a blast writing it, and it's planned as a trilogy, so I really want to write the next two books. The first draft is nearly complete, so fingers crossed...

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Oh blimey. I'm not really sure. Though I would class myself as a romantic novelist, I think my adult stuff tends to have as much about family life/relationships in it as the romance element.. So maybe it differs from the norm that way. I also find it impossible to write fluffy light stuff (and really wish I could), so it probably tackles a few more serious issues then some books in the genre, but then all my favourite writers (Marian Keyes, Kate Harrison, Jo Jo Moyes, Rowan Coleman ) tend to do that too, so maybe I'm not that different, though clearly not in their league!

With the fantasy, I have tried to write the fantasy story I would like to read. I have always loved the genre and have really enjoyed the freedom of letting my imagination rip. I'd like to think it owes something to alot of my favourite fantasy writers (Tamora Pierce in particular) but that it has my own stamp on it.

Why do I write what I do?

For fun mainly. I love making stories up, and enjoy reading both the genres I am currently writing in. Particularly when real life is tough, I enjoy throwing myself into my imagined worlds. In fact, there is always a story going on in my head pretty much,and would be even if I wasn't published. Which is the way I like it.

How does your writing process work?

Oh I am hopelessly disorganised. I spend weeks and weeks faffing about before I actually get down to writing anything. But usually there is something bubbling away in the back of my brain, which means when I do start writing I have something to say. I do try and work out a loose structural plan, which I follow roughly, but not exactly.  Ifind that easier then just launching into the story. Though with my dragons book I wrote the whole thing using a programme called Write or Die, when you give yourself a word target to a complete in a deadline. It is immensely good for a procrastinator like me, but quite scary too, because the computer screen starts going red if you fall behind. On the highest setting (which I was far too chicken to use) it actually starts eating your words, but that seemed a tad too masochistic for me!

Generally though, I write my first drafts out by hand, as I find it easier filling a notebook then looking at a blank screen. I then type it up, making revisions as I go, print it off, read through it, make further revisions, and then reread and revise a final time before sending it into my editor. So in fact, my first draft is really my fourth! And that's the point  when I dare show it to people. NO ONE but no one sees my first scribbles! My editor will then send it back with the first round of edits, which tend to be the structural things, and making the plot work better. I usually go through the book at least twice before sending it back, and then I get line edits, which are about adding in detail, avoiding repetition, making sure the words flow etc.  Finally I see copyedits, which are insuring my facts are right, that the spelling, grammar etc are correct and things are consistent. The very last stage for me (but not my publisher) is checking page proofs, which in theory should be perfect, but which in practise tend not to be). I find it immensely easy to miss stuff at page proofs, hence my two biggest booboos:in Last Christmas, Cat makes meringues with egg yolks not whites and in A Merry Little Christmas, I gave Lucy cystic fibrosis instead of cerebral palsy. And yes, people did write to let  me know....

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Dot Lumley, agent and friend

This is a very very long overdue blog, partly because I have been thinking about the best way to write it, and haven't known where to begin...

The beginning I suppose would be good.

Dot Lumley was my agent for 13 years, and we always got along so well, I couldn't imagine not being with her. Sadly she became ill last year, and in January this year, she told me the unwelcome news that she was terminally ill. She faced her illness with fortitude, bravery, calm and humour, but unfortunately in October she lost her battle, and I lost my wonderful agent and friend.

I first heard of Dot, when I was looking for an agent. I had had more rejections then hot dinners, from people who loved my writing, but didn't love it enough to take it on, and a very good publishing friend suggested Dot. I was pretty much on the verge of giving up (I had ambitiously, and foolishly decided that two years was the longest I should attempt this writing lark, not realising quite what a long haul it was going to be), and I tentatively sent off three chapters and a synopsis of the first manuscript I had written. I should say the first ms I wrote was pretty rubbish. It was a real, How Not To Do It kind of experience. I started to write it when I went freelance in 1998, and wrote in between editing projects. I had no focus, and my personal life was in some array, so the first draft was VERY gloomy. Thanks to some huge amounts of help from Hilary Johnson, I was able to knock it into an okish shape after nearly two years, but though I had lots of people telling me I could write, like I say, none of them loved what I was writing.

Then along came Dot.

I got a fax (yes it was that long ago!), to say she loved White Wedding, and would I like to be represented by her. Would I? Would I, hell! (I still have that fax...)

The only slight drawback was that I was very heavily pregnant. In fact, no 3 was due the following week. So I wrote a delighted email back, and said if she could bear with me, I would be back in the writing saddle the following year. As it turned out, Dot had to bear with me for rather a long time. She sent White Wedding out to lots of different people, and got a lot more thanks, but no thanks rejections. In the meantime I had a go at a few other things, but lacking time, didn't finish anything. Then, I fell pregnant again. So there was a hiatus of a whole year, when I didn't write a thing (though I did manage to work out the plot of what was to be my first published novel, Pastures New), and Dot patiently stuck with me, giving me encouragement, telling me it would all come good in the end.

After nearly four years without a deal, I decided the time must come for me to tackle another full length novel, so I sat down and wrote my second book, called Coming Full Circle about young mums and their family dilemmas - a kind of prototype for the sort of book I write now, I guess. This one got a bite. Someone was interested, and I went and had a very enjoyable lunch, sadly no contract, but the request to cut all but a third of the book and rewrite. Which I did, and Dot rang me and said, "Fingers crossed, I think we're 90% there!" I was as you can imagine, rather excited. But Dot, being steady, kept me on an even keel, which is just as well, as book no 2 fell on the final hurdle.

At this point, I really felt like giving up. There were many good friends in the RNA who kept me going, and encouraged me, but without Dot's faith in me, I don't think it would have been enough. She always thought I could do it, and finally after six years, her persistence and patience paid off and I had my book deal.

During all that time, we'd only met a couple of times - the first time bonding over a shared love of Carrie (which I'd read as a teenager) and which she'd pulled out of the US box at the publisher's she was working at in the 70s, fantasy and genre fiction in general. She got me as a writer, and understood what I was trying to do. She gave me space to do my own thing, and generally had faith in me that I would eventually get it right.

As the years went on, we would meet regularly - usually at the London Book Fair, often at publishing parties, and once a year or so in London for lunch. Our meetings were always full of publishing chat, wine, and generally way too short. Until last year, I foolishly imagined those meetings would carry on indefinitely. It was with great sadness I attended LBF this year, and didn't get to meet Dot, as she was too ill,  but I'm pleased she made it to the Harper Collins Summer Party, where we were able to sit and chew the fat, and I got the chance to tell her how grateful I was for the faith she'd always had in me.

Publishing can be a fickle business, but Dot was one of those people to whom loyalty is paramount, and it is tantamount of the high regard that she was held in, that none of her thirty authors left her when they found out she was ill. Not only that, but I have so many friends throughout the publishing world who've told me of her kindness and encouragement, even when she didn't take them on.

Dot passed away in early October, and I went to her funeral in Torquay. She had a low key non religious ceremony, as befitted her nature, and is buried in a green cemetery in a wood overlooking Torquay. A lovely peaceful spot, which seemed entirely in keeping with her life and beliefs.

Life moves on, and I am in the process of doing so too, but I will always miss Dot, and be grateful that she had faith in me, before anyone else did.

I simply couldn't have done it without her, and I shall miss her wise counsel very much.

 Dot Lumley
16th September 1949-5th October 2013

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

New dawn, new day, new LIFE...

No 4 on her first day at school

 First day back 2006, no 4 starting school

13 years ago no 1 started school. Tomorrow she starts her final year at school. But more momentously then that, no 4 started secondary school today. After thirteen years of the school run, I am finally free. Woopdewoop!! (On the down side this means I am now of course really old, having given up so much of my middle youth to tramping back and forwards from school, but you can't have everything).

Back when no 1 started, we didn't even have no 4, and the first term was a blur of putting tights on small children (I remember that bit with grim horror), struggling out of the door in time, loading two small children in the double buggy and speed walking as fast as poor no 1's little four year old legs could take her, while envying other less encumbered mothers then I. It also rained constantly that term, and I remember just keeping my head down and holding out for things to improve. Which they did. Namely in the form of new friends, some of whom are now very dear old friends, who have supported me through thick and thin over the last few years.

And by the summer term, when I had ditched the double buggy, with no 2 and no1 squabbling over the buggy board, life did seem to be getting a bit easier. Then I got pregnant again, and for the next few years the school run was an awful lot of hard work. And it was back to the double buggy again. A friend dubbed me the Monkey Mother once, when he saw me pushing said buggy, with no 2 perched on the handlebars and her arms wrapped round my neck, and no 1 trotting dutifully by my side. My buggies had such a hard life, none of them survived long, and I probably got through three or four doubles plus numerous singles before I finally consigned the last buggy to the dustbin.

By that time eldest two oldest two were well capable of strolling the mile to school but were bored with it. So we used to play traffic lights to and fro from school (green for go, orange for slow down, red for stop), which worked a treat. We had also got into numerous after school activities (when no 1 started it was straight home after school), so I frequently struggled to tennis or swimming lessons weighed down with extra bags. And of course on sunny days, when they came out of school I'd be dumped with coats, jumpers, bags, you name it. To the point at which I started to refer to myself as packhorse mummy...

I had one year when no4 went to nursery full time round the corner from the others' school, which necessitated a longer walking route, plus THREE lots of newsletters, info, sports days, Christmas fairs etc, and then one year when they were all in the same location (though the two little ones were in the infants and oldest in the juniors), and then it was as though things were going backwards.

Six years ago, no 1 started secondary school. Protesting much more loudly about it then her youngest sister it had to be said. A trauma I still haven't quite recovered from. But I still had three on the school run. Life didn't feel like it had changed that much. Two years later, she was followed by no 2. Half and half. And then no 3 left and suddenly I was down to one on the school run, and I was one of the unencumbered mums I'd envied so much that first year.

Over the last year, there's been a slow withdrawal as no 4 has wanted more independence and started to walk home on her own. So I've gradually got used to not being at the school gate every day (a bonus, no school yard gossip, which I always hated, but also I barely see friends anymore) I had expected tears on her last day, but because we had to rush off to get a plane, and because suddenly it dawned on me how much freer I was going to be, I didn't actually shed a tear, though I had a lump in my throat. The school run has been part of my life for so long now, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to manage without it.

My children are growing up and doing what children do, preparing to leave me. (No 1 horribly soon now). I shall miss the chats we had, and the funny stories they told me on the way home from school, but I've grown up too. I'm no longer a young mum with babies and toddlers, I'm a (shall we say mature?) mum with 3 gorgeous teens and one pre teen, who provide me with much entertainment about the doings of their school day round the dinner table. It's time for all of us to move on. And scarily, time for me to find myself again, after seventeen years of being wrapped up in their lives (I am still wrapped up in them, but increasingly less so.)

And as for no 4, she is thrilled to pieces. After years of listening to stories about big school, she's finally joined her sisters there. She has the kudos of knowing people in the sixth form, Year 11 and Year 9 (unlike my big sisters who didn't acknowledge me at school, hers seem quite happy to), and she made a promise to her big sister today which should stand her in good stead. "It's all right," she said. "I won't behave like a Year 7. My skirt's rolled up, I don't have a back pack, and I won't go round in packs."

I think she'll be just fine.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer holidays

We've just come back from possibly our last family holiday. No 1 turns 18 next year, and I'm not sure quite how long we're going to keep her onside (though she did say, free holidays still appeal...). Family holidays can be tricky affairs. There is always the problem of, as no 1 succinctly put it, Undiluted Family, an issue that last year had me wanting to run away from home. (That being somewhat impractical, I am instead turning my desire into a story about a woman who runs away from domesticity into a fantasy circus in her head.) When the children were young, holidays were often more exhausting then staying at home, and then as they got a bit bigger we had the worry of mil at home while we were away, which wasn't exactly conducive to relaxation. Added to which the fact that we spend most of the year not in each other's pockets (me and Spouse included) means it takes time to adjust to the rhythm of living together 24/7. In years gone by that has caused some tension to say the least, and on one or two holidays we've returned lucky not to be divorced (the most memorable being our disastrous camping trip round Europe, where it rained constantly, no 2 broke her arm in Switzerland, we got burgled in France, Spouse had tonsilitis, and the weather eventually defeated us so we came home three days early.) And then of course there was the excitement caused four years ago when a panic attack the day before sent me to A&E for several hours, which is something that still lingers in my mind as I prepare to go away again. Being ill on holiday is no fun at all.So... a family holiday is always a bit of an unknown, and I'm never quite sure if I'm going to enjoy it or not.And they all seem a far far cry from the relaxed affairs Spouse and I enjoyed before we had children.

This year we chose to go to Side in Turkey, a place Spouse on our visited 18 years ago on a backpacking holiday prior to having children. We'd already made the momentous decision to have a baby, but as far as I was concerned, nothing much was happening. I was overdue when we went away, but I'd taken a test and it was negative, so I assumed I wasn't pregnant. My cycle being incredibly erratic at the time, being 2 weeks late wasn't really a big deal, and I remember feeling very disappointed that I was so late, because I had the romantic notion of conceiving on holiday. Of course, it turned out by the time I got home that I was already 9 weeks pregnant and the pregnancy test had lied. In the meantime, I'd climbed up mountains, nearly scuba dived, just missed climbing up a cliff and jumping into the sea on a boat trip (Spouse had had the wit to see what was happening as the rest of the mugs from the boat were led off on an adventure), felt so sick I was sure I had Turkey tummy but luckily hadn't taken any medicine for it, all completely unaware that my desired outcome had already happened. I'm glad I didn't know, as I would have been worried sick on my last childfree holiday, and having spent the last 17 years being worried sick on most of our family holidays, I'm relieved I have those happy memories of relaxation.

The good news though, is that those days look set to return. While I had my usual holiday anxieties - I hate flying and it really doesn't get any better, even with a little help from diazepam, I'm always slightly spooked by the thought of child snatching (though not quite as scared of that as I was), and now having teenage daughters in Turkey I got an extra layer of worry about one of them being persuaded to run off with a Turkish waiter, and I don't sleep well away from home, but...this year I really did manage to relax. The kids are now old enough that we can leave them and go off for a wander, as most of the time they just want to laze around by the pool, and there was so much to see and do in Side it felt much more like the holidays we used to take.

We had a very tight window for the holiday this year, as no 1 is currently doing an engineering work placement, and no 4 didn't finish school till 23 July. So we did something we've never done before and went away the day term finished (not to be recommended) - I managed not to blub my way through her leaving assembly and we dashed home, she got changed and we were in a taxi to Gatwick ten minutes later. The disadvantage of this was that our flight didn't land till 9.30 Turkish time. We'd booked a car the other end, but due to (my) cock up, the people we were renting the villa off also sent us a taxi to take us there. We saw a man with a sign saying Williams and naturally followed him, thinking he was taking us to an out of town hire car company. It was only when we'd been in the cab for about ten minutes, that we realised our mistake. Cue lots of very expensive phone calls to sort it out, and luckily the car hire people sent someone over the next day. It turned out to be just as well we'd cocked up, as I doubt we'd have found the place on our own, as it appears in the part of Side we were staying in there are no road names, only numbers.

We didn't get to the apartment till about 11pm, by which time everyone was starving and Spouse and I were concerned about whether we could actually find anywhere to eat (on our last Turkish trip we stayed in a one  eyed resort which had one restaurant). Fortunately, Mete, the guy who looked after the apartment pointed us in the direction of a local place called Hawaii, which turned out to be good value and a really fun place to go. So that was easy.

Side itself didn't disappoint. The old town is literally built on the ruins of the Roman town, and when Spouse and I were last there, we stayed in an apartment in the old town, which to our delight was still there. It is more built up either side of the old town (particularly on the west side - if you ever go there, stay on the east side), but it does look as if they are trying hard to preserve what they have. The only disappointment with that is, last time we were there, we had dinner in a restaurant which was in the ruins of the ancient basilica, but now they're (quite rightly!) excavating the area properly, and the restaurant has gone. Though we did find a neat place which had it's back wall on the other side of the basilica facing out to sea, and was a lovely relaxed place, with unpushy staff, cheap (if limited) food, and a great view.

When we were there last, the amphitheatre was surrounded by rubble, and you couldn't get into it, though Spouse and I did have a go, risking life and limb scrabbling up the outside of it (which I certainly wouldn't have done had I known I was pregnant!), but now it's open to the public, and was well worth a visit. In the evening as you walk into town,down the ruins of what I presume was the ancient market, or certainly where there were colonnaded shops, you can get a fabulous view of the sun setting over the amphitheatre and it is absolutely magical. To add to the magic, there was a family of camels living opposite our apartment, who spent the day taking people for rides round the ruins. The kids had a go, while we followed them, with the baby camel which accompanied the adults everywhere. The baby took it upon itself to go a different way, and Spouse ended up camel man for the day as he took it home. Actually... I suspect if he'd played his cards right, Spouse might have ended up as camel man for life, as Mr Camel Man gave us drinks afterwards, and seemed very keen to pair his three sons up with our daughters, and I suspect would have taken me into the job lot if Spouse had shown an interest:-)

Other highlights of the holiday included a trip to the Duden Falls, where you can walk behind the waterfall. Again an absolutely magical experience, and something that really fired my imagination - I now have a picture of where my dragon can live in the teen fantasy that I have been writing for a thousand years - ; a boat trip to the Manavgat Falls which included seeing turtles; a trip to Alanya (a place we also stayed in) where we walked among the ruins of an old castle, and found a seal in the shipyard; and a scary trip to the mountains looking for a placed called Selge which ended up with us being chased by Turkish women who wanted to take us on a tour of the ruins. It was a bit like Deliverance, Turkey style, particularly as Spouse kept driving up a road that was not only overrun with cows on the way home, but had a road which got progressively stonier and higher, until we decided to cut our losses and turn round and go home, braving the scary Turkish ladies on the way back.

However, the best bit for me was having a Turkish bath. Something I've always wanted to do but never had the nerve to try on my own. Another blessing of the children being older was they could come with me, result!  Our day started with quite the funniest thing I have ever done, which was to have a mud bath. We went into an outside pool which was knee deep in clayey water, with about twenty strangers, none of whomspoke English. Tentatively, people started applying the clay to their skin. Then a mud shower started, and soon everyone was standing underneath it getting liberally hosed down with clay. Which is one way to break the ice. We were soon resembling mud statues, and as we dried, we all started to look like something out of Dr Who. The funniest sight was a very large elderly German gentleman, who kept slapping mud on his tummy and saying "Sehr Komisch!", which he was, particularly.

After ten minutes it was time to shower off, again, hilarious as the mud got everywhere, in our ears, eyes, hair, bikinis...and of course the water was freezing cold, which led to more guffaws of laughter from our German friend. I don't think I've ever seen anyone enjoy themselves so much, and I think I shall laugh about it forever.

Mud finally dispensed with, we trooped off to the sauna, which the children loved, though ironically in England none of them would be old enough to have one, followed by the salt and steam rooms. No 4 found the steam room so exciting, she kept standing up and down to see if she could see us through the steam. "She's such a child," her big sisters said wearily.

The best bit was undoubtedly the Turkish bath. You lie on big slabs of marble, and get liberally washed over, before having a body scrub, followed by a bubble wash. I have never seen so much foam, and I was amused to see our German friend getting a big smack on the arse with the loofah. It didn't dent his enthusiasm, "Super!" he said to us as he left, giving us the thumbs up. And he was right. I've never felt so clean and fresh in my life.

We then spent twenty minutes in the relaxation room, where I was persuaded to let the girls have their feet nibbled by fish (at extra cost, natch), and then it was time for our 20 minute massage. Or in my case, a hard sell attempt to get me to have a full body, medical massage, because apparently my back is in such a terrible state my circulation is poor, and I am probably going to die if I don't do something about it. This is not a good thing to tell a hypochondriac who has a slight phobia about being ill on holiday... I had also run out of money, but the man kept saying, "no problem, we go to your hotel." Much as I hate being bullied, it is quite difficult to resist such a hard sell when you are half naked, so I agreed in the end, trying not to fret about the fact that my massage alone cost nearly as much as the rest of the day. However, I suddenly remembered that Spouse had promised me a spa day for my birthday, and it was still cheaper then in England so...

The massage itself was fabulous and we all felt happy and glowing as we left - me running out of money turned out not to be a problem as they simply took me to the apartment and I ran in and got some more dosh, which seemed very trusting...

All in all it was a fabulous experience, and if we ever go to Turkey again, one I will definitely repeat. The kids loved it too, so I've ended up promising them a spa day for their 21st birthdays. Better get saving now...

The rest of the holiday was spent doing the usual swimming, relaxing and reading, which was just what the doctor ordered as we'd all been running around like mad things before we went. I got through about 13 books this year, including the JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith book, which I'd thoroughly recommend, a Jo Nesbo, a Peter James  - both of which authors I'll, now go back to -, Ben Hatch's very funny Road to Rouen, Caroline Smailes' and Nik Perring's brilliant Freaks, to name but a few. But my overall favourite had to be Neil Gaiman's fabulous The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was beautiful, mysterious, terrifying, magical, witty and wise, and I will be blogging about it later.

I didn't get any writing done, but I did manage a lot of thinking. I am having to get up early for the rest of the holiday to drop no 1 at the station, so while the others sleep, the plan is, I get cracking on the next Hope Christmas book, and finish my dragons, and work on my runaway mum story...

It's nice to go away, but you know, the sign of a really good holiday is that it's even nicer to be back...