Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

A New Year – and a new decade.

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Right! I am seizing the very last minutes of my brain function today to write this blog. I popped on to my website to find a link for someone on twitter and I was horrified to discover that the last blog post I wrote was on October 18th!!! I mean – SO many things have happened since then and now. Mostly in the last week; I have had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and I am very sad that it’s over now. I had got quite used to drinking champagne at breakfast time, staying up till 2am entertaining friends every night and sleeping till 10am. I even lay in bed for an entire morning one day and read my signed (!) copy of the Peter James novel ‘Perfect People’ in five hours, cover to cover without stopping. That may have been my biggest festive treat. I adore Peter James, I cannot recommend his writing highly enough. He researches so thoroughly and writes so skilfully that it’s an absolute joy to read his work. But it’s back down to earth with a bump tomorrow as my husband goes back to work, yet the girls are at home for another week. Childcare will be solely my domain again. I love looking after them, spending time with them, playing with them and entertaining their little friends and everything, but at this stage of the holidays I just yearn to write. I’m ready to stop partying and start eating and sleeping properly again and along with that focus comes the need to write – and if I can’t I do get a bit grumpy and intolerant. It’s difficult to describe but it’s like the creativity needs to escape and I’m far too tired by the evening for it to escape properly. The only thing it manages to do is creep out a bit sometimes, look around half-heartedly and crawl back inside.

Christmas Eve Eve

At the time of writing the last blog I had just received my third publisher rejection. Hot on the heels of that one (I think it may even have been the next day) came news of the fourth, which wasn’t such a nice rejection and that one got to me a bit. I think it was having two so close together, it made me feel a bit despondent. However I got over it quickly enough and I haven’t heard from the fifth and final publisher yet but I am not expecting good news. With each day that passes that manuscript goes a little bit further away from my heart – all my attention is now on my new one. My new, new one. What I am about to say does not fill me with pride, I’ve done something that I don’t approve of and broken one of my own, unbreakable rules. It’s not a very harsh rule, it’s simply that if you start writing something, you finish it and yet I’ve abandoned the manuscript that I was working on the last time I blogged. It was an easy decision in the end. I was struggling with it and avoiding sitting down to write. I didn’t have a clear idea of the whole plot, never mind individual chapter plans and I was getting myself tied in knots about it as might be evident from the fact that I couldn’t even decide whether to write in first or third person. Eventually I accepted that it just wasn’t working for me at the moment and decided to draw a line underneath it. I will probably go back to it…..probably. But that’s simultaneously one of the most wonderful and most awful things about being a writer – you never know where your career is going to take you. Daisychain was on the back burner for a long while before I resurrected it so I know I’m not necessarily writing the manuscript off completely.

Anyway – the new one. I am tremendously excited about it. I’m about 11,000 words in and unlike the previous manuscript the words just flow and flow when I write. That’s how I know I’ve made the right decision about what to work on at the moment. When I was feeling so fed-up and uncertain about how to write I suddenly thought – I know, I’m going to write what I want to write. With all the things that I love mixed into it. And something that I originally wrote when I was fifteen shot into my head and it was perfect. It’s a different style for me, it’s part historical so it requires some careful research but it’s just a pleasure to write and I see myself finishing it quite quickly. Unlike the previous one I know exactly where this plot is going at all times, it’s quite simple, but the threads are very different so I hope it’s not dull. My lovely husband agreed to read it the other day and he said he enjoyed it so much it was like watching a film rather than reading a story, i.e. I’d brought all the characters to life sufficiently for him. And then a few days later he told me that when he felt like sitting down to read it wasn’t his current book that he wanted to read – it was my manuscript! Such a compliment, I was so touched. I’m reasonably certain that he meant it as well. I haven’t sent any of it to my agent yet but hopefully it will meet with her approval too. Watch this space.

The other thing that is taking up a lot of my time (and money) at the moment is training for the Brighton half-marathon on February 19th. I am very scared. As anyone who knows me will say, until recently I was more likely to fly through the air than run thirteen miles and yet I have agreed to do this. All for a good cause, obviously, and I do like a challenge but I wonder if I’ve got a bit ahead of myself here? I’m training religiously three times a week, I can run six miles on the road or on the treadmill easily now and I play a fair bit of racquetball too on my ‘off’ days just to try and increase my fitness. I was unable to face training outside during the winter in all the rain and the dark so I had to join a gym; it gives me no excuse not to exercise. I had to buy some expensive new trainers as well because my ankles weren’t stable apparently, which I found a bit alarming, I’d like to keep them intact if I can as I get older. And speaking of getting older – it’s my birthday in less than three weeks and I’m going to be thirty! THIRTY! I am ridiculously, childishly excited. In true Sarah Haynes style I have a big party organised and I am very much looking forward to seeing all of my guests and dancing the night away with plenty of champagne. I’ve bought my dress, arranged my hair appointment and the countdown is well and truly on. I’m not sad to leave my twenties at all and I don’t feel old, I just feel ready for the new phase of my life. I’ve done my twenties, bring on my thirties! A whole new decade…..I wonder what will happen?

Well I feel a bit less guilty now I’ve written a new blog post. I don’t tend to make resolutions but if I had to one would definitely be to write blog posts more regularly. I don’t think frequency necessarily matters, I follow blogs because I enjoy them and even if the posts are months apart I would still keep checking, but it is nice to know that someone is going to write every week or every month or whatever. So that will be my resolution for 2012. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! xxx

The perils of Enid Blyton

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

I suspect this may be the last time I get to post before Christmas. This is not through lack of inclination, but more to do with the fact that on Thursday I am going home to my mother’s house and therefore my computer use will be severely limited. Rationed, if you like, because she dislikes them with such a passion. Allegedly. Although an awful lot of online shopping goes on through her laptop for someone who professes to hate them so much.  However, to make my life easier this time round I have something she doesn’t know about – my BLACKBERRY!!!! (Pink). And even when she does know about it she won’t understand what it is or what it does. Ha! Therefore my internet use will remain pretty constant and she will be none the wiser. Genius. It will make for a much smoother Christmas all round. I have bought all the presents now and they are mostly wrapped. They will all be wrapped by Christmas day, just to clarify. And I know this because we are now in the final furlong before the great day itself so my activity will rise proportionately.

Not much actual writing has been done over the last few days. It’s a bit hard to fit it in at the moment. So I mostly content myself with just thinking about the book; which I admit sounds like a wholly useless activity, but it really isn’t. It helps me create the story more fully, iron out any creases, think in a little more depth about my characters and generally bring it more to life. I do aim to work on it over the Christmas/New Year period so hopefully the next time I post I will have more impressive news. Like another 50,000 words written or something. That would be impressive actually because I only have 60,000 left to write in the entire book.

Now, there’s one thing that has stood out as particularly irritating to me recently, and it’s none of the usual things. It crops up every once in a while and has the same, incensing, effect upon me every time. It’s the Enid Blyton ‘debate’, for want of a better word and the subject of India Knight’s column in the Sunday Times this week (this week? Or last week? The most recent one anyway). For the first time in a good few years Enid Blyton has dropped out of the top ten children’s bestselling authors and this is being blamed on the fact that her language is too archaic and today’s children cannot relate to it. Therefore her books have been updated, words have been changed to more modern ones, e.g. ‘Mum’ instead of ‘Mother’, to make them more accessible to children today, or at least this is the theory, hideous though it is. Now India Knight’s point was – is it too much to ask our children to understand that bathing might mean swimming and sweater might mean jumper? Are we not insulting them by assuming that we must provide them with only the words that they are familiar with? Yes, is the answer. By changing the language we are removing from the children any need to extend their thoughts towards words that perhaps are not in everyday use any more. And if you take this concept to its end point one day we won’t ask them to use their imaginations at all, we will simply tell them what it is we’d like them to imagine, which is a dreadful idea. But, this aside, the other thing which I think is of vital importance regardless of impact – should we be changing the language? As far as I’m concerned Enid Blyton wrote her books in a certain era and this is reflected throughout them, in part by her language. And let’s be clear about this, we are not talking about Chaucerian language barriers, we are talking about the odd word being less in use these days. Why should the books be dragged into the twenty-first century from their rightful place? Are we not thus destroying them? Where will it end? Will the language receive another overhaul in twenty years time to give it estuary vowels? Will Anne be given lesbian tendencies and George’s skin colour changed to black to reflect modern societies? The idea is absurd and sad. But it is possible, once you open the flood gates who knows where it will end?

It is acknowledged that Enid Blyton was not a skilled writer; she was a skilled story-teller. The charm of her books lies in the tales themselves and the world in which they are set. They have timeless appeal for children, regardless of relevance to modern life by virtue of the fact that her characters go out and have adventures, they find things to do, things happen to them. School becomes a world of midnight feasts, jokes, tricks and fun. The secret clubs that are created give children power and decision-making abilities that are largely removed for today’s children in our endless march towards all-encompassing risk-aversion. The perils that they are allowed to encounter are unheard of now.  The characters cycle endlessly around the countryside alone and unsupervised, they row boats across rough seas to a derelict castle. They encounter villains. They build camps and stay overnight in them. I think in the Malory Towers books or the St. Clare’s ones there is a swimming pool formed by rocks and filled with seawater that the pupils use; our children wouldn’t even dream of most of this stuff, let alone be able to do it!  The danger is that by updating the language the books will cease to become escapism to the extent that they are now, and by doing so we lessen their appeal. They are stories from another time, another era, and they need to stay there. I was pleased to see that the most recent front covers of the Famous Five have been drawn in the vintage style to reflect this. I could carry on forever, but to sum up: I think it’s appalling, they may as well give Julian a mobile phone, Anne an iPad, stick a DVD player in Kirrin Castle and be done with it. Neither of my girls will be reading the updated versions.

And now with my rant for today over I need to get on with wrapping and packing, etc. to give other things a reasonable chance to annoy me. It’s only fair. So if I don’t get a chance to post again before Christmas Day, I hope everyone has a lovely, lovely time with plenty of  music and carols and decorations and crackers and presents and fun and laughter – and wine.

Merry Christmas!


After a brief hiatus…..

Friday, December 17th, 2010

It has suddenly come to my attention that I haven’t written anything for two weeks! Well on here at any rate, I’ve been writing like mad behind the scenes, which is probably part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that I’ve been spending far too much time worshipping the God of Calpol. Winter bugs have hit anew and hard in our house and my youngest daughter has spent much of the last week lying prone on the sofa, interested only in yoghurts and cBeebies. Which is very peaceful – but for the incessant coughing. However Calpol is a miracle fluid and both she and I feel a lot better for it. There are two things to be thankful for however (life’s eternal optimist and see-er of silver linings in clouds that I am – ha bloody ha) and these are that it’s better that everyone is ill this week than next, and also I’d rather they coughed non-stop than vomited once. And so does my husband I imagine because otherwise he would be manning the fort of illness all by himself. As it is he’s just doing the nightshifts because he has to work during the day.

Also, the ill daughter did manage to participate in the Nursery Nativity play this week as an innkeeper (but of course, she is my daughter) which was very sweet – and hysterically funny. Obviously they didn’t really have ‘lines’ as such, which was good because my innkeeper didn’t much like the idea of Mary and Joseph staying in her stable. They asked to stay in the inn and they were refused (correctly), then they asked to stay in the stable – and they were refused (incorrectly). Repeated and heavy hints were dropped by the nursery teacher (playing God one presumes?):

“Oh please could they stay just one night?” Greeted by a firm shake of the head from the innkeeper.

“Just one night? Please?”

“No way,” was the response (incorrectly).

“Just for a little bit?”


I blame the fact that individual bedrooms are guarded like sacred territories in this house, a practice introduced by my eldest daughter and unfortunately picked up the youngest who has clearly hung grimly onto the tenets of this doctrine in every area of her life. The DVD of the play is likely to be the best comedy I will see this Christmas. Apart from the Benidorm special episode on Boxing Day which may well be a highlight of the whole week.

The new manuscript is progressing apace;  I have completed the purge of the bad writing, I deleted approximately five thousand words in one go which made me take a sharp breath, but if it’s rubbish then it’s rubbish and it has to go. Ruthless I must be. And besides, now the path is clear for me to replace it with far better. I have someone waiting to read it in the New Year so I must crack on over Christmas and try and get some of it done. That will be fun…..for anyone who doesn’t know me, our typical family Christmas is totally hectic involving three different families and four different locations to be visited in the space of a week, accompanied by several vats of wine. My laptop and I will enjoy that. Well, we might if we ever get organised. I have a confession to make – until yesterday I had not written one single Christmas card. Not ONE. This despite the cards that were coming through my front door every day, almost cheerful in their guilt-inducing arrival. I felt so guilty upon opening them that I haven’t even put them up yet. I cringed as I read the kind wishes for a happy Christmas and New Year, and my panic shot up a level or two. However  I have come up with a new policy which makes things slightly easier, and that is that close friends and family apart, I will only give Christmas cards to those that I receive them from – which is polite and time-efficient. Although it does leave me open to that hideous scenario of someone fumbling in their bag for something for you and then that split-second realisation of ‘Oh God, it’s a card and I haven’t written one for them,’ which has, unfortunately, happened twice this year already. And despite the usual availability of my plethora of words they deserted me on both occasions, leaving me vulnerable to the “Er – oh right – thanks – um – I haven’t….” situation. I typed that verbatim by the way.

And in other terrifically exciting news I have finally accepted that my long, sparkly nails and my old touchscreen phone do not mix happily and I have replaced the said old touchscreen phone with a BlackBerry. Not only that, it is a PINK BlackBerry. I have no idea of its capabilities, battery life, camera, whether it works, etc., etc. but that is not the important bit. It is PINK. I did actually go into the shop and choose the model of BlackBerry based on the colour, which I realise makes me look like I have only two brain cells, one of which isn’t currently functioning, but I don’t care. On this occasion it was even worse because I happened (‘happened’! Ha!) to be wearing a pink jumper, pink socks and I have a pink handbag and very pink nails. Even to me I looked ridiculous. But I cared not one whit, they may think what they like – though I did make the effort to drop in the fact that I have a Law degree to try and re-balance the pink scales. I love it anyway, it’s fantastic and doesn’t leave my side. I can’t believe I didn’t get one earlier. My husband hates it of course, “I knew I would,” he grumbled. “You spend far too much time on it already.” I think he’s jealous.

Now I must get on and write some Christmas cards. And post some Christmas cards. And wrap some presents. And come to that, buy some presents. And start packing. And administer Calpol..….where in all this will I find the time to admire my new PINK BlackBerry??

Sarah Haynes LLB Hons (don’t know why I thought it necessary to repeat that….)