I’d Write a Novel Too, If Only I Had The Time!

The title of this blog is one of the phrases which make most authors want to reach for the nearest automatic firearm and ammo clip and let rip. ‘Oh well, writing comes so easy to you,’ being another to ignite the flames of murder in an author’s eyes. And, don’t even let me get started on ‘you’re so lucky’!

So, let me tell you a little about my own personal journey into print just to balance the scales a little. It starts in Kildare, where I was born, in a large, reputedly haunted house on the edge of the Curragh plains. I was the fourth child, second girl, in a family that would eventually swell to six children – an evenly matched three boys and three girls.  Six children?! Gasps of horror. But, in fact, that was a fairly  standard size Irish family at that time. It wasn’t uncommon to find families of 10 + and I personally knew one family of 24.  Contraception, other than by the rhythm method was verboten by the Catholic Church.  One can only assume, therefore, that many Irish couples were completely tone deaf.

I didn’t excel at school, although I was bright enough. The only subjects to light  my fire were English and History, though the nuns lit many a fire underneath my backside!  Most of my time was  spent day-dreaming, gazing out the window and writing stories in my head. I was a voracious reader who wanted nothing more than to be a writer . My reading tastes were truly eclectic, anything from the Brontes and Austen, to Steinbeck and Solzhenitsyn. Still are! My teenage years were documented in poetry, the majority of it absolutely awful.

Still, I wanted to be a writer and that’s all there was to it – or so I thought.  My mother soon disabused me of the notion and informed me in no uncertain terms that lofty literary ambitions were all well and good, but first there was a ‘real’ living to be earned. Thus, my glittering career got off to a less than glittering start with a job in an insurance company, followed by a job in a bank, followed by a job in an accountant’s – are you getting the picture here?  Still, as I schlepped back and forth on the 9 – 5 treadmill, there, burning bright as Blake’s Tyger at the forefront of my mind, was the lure of the pen.

I got engaged, lovely guy, lovely ring.  Bought a house, lovely house, in lovely suburban Dublin. Lovely future planned. Then it all came crashing down!  Why? The lure of the pen! In my heart I felt as though I was suffocating and my dream of being a writer was suffocating right alongside of me.  So, I hightailed it off to London in search of ‘a larger life’. I found it too and had a whale of a time hanging out with musicians, artists and writers and dating all sorts of ‘unsuitable’ exotic men, including an Arab prince and a Spanish bullfighter. Dawn became the signal that it was time to kick off the dancing shoes and go to bed! Sadly, it all came to an abrupt end when I met and fell head-over-heels in love with my first husband, a tempestuous Spanish Moroccan. Within the space of a year we had plighted (or, more accurately, blighted) our troth and settled down in a state of domestic non-bliss. In rapid succession, I shot out two boys, the younger of whom suffered from a severe blood disorder. Prince Not-so-Charming soon fell in love all over again, only not with me.  The lady/ladies he cheated with were all in the region of 14.5% proof and beautifully adorned in green or brown bottles with fancy designer labels.

Money became an issue. There wasn’t enough to feed the children, pay the bills or keep the roof over our heads.  I was practically living at the hospital with my youngest child, so utterly dependent on my husband to provide for us all. He, in the meantime, was out buying bespoke Italian suits and shoes, bling watches and rings –  one Christmas I considered sticking a fairy on top of his head and standing him in the corner in a bucket.  I, on the other hand, became a charity shop botherer and developed an expert eye for a bargain. Yet, even then, as I lay listening to him fall down the front steps and knock on the door with his head, I still dreamed of writing. ‘This Too Shall Pass’ became my favourite mantra and, eventually, it did.  My son grew stronger, strong enough to go to school all day and I went back to work, this time for a firm of solicitors.  I bought an old computer – one that typed in bright orange – and started work on my first book, (although, third to be published), Sunshine & Shadows (newly rebranded for its ebook incarnation as Once Upon A Time In Galway).  He stood by, laughed and mocked. I was promoted at work and, suddenly, the hitherto parlous coffers were glowing with promise. I paid the bills, took charge of the mortgage and booted him out! The real icing on the cake came just after – a three-book publishing contract!  Did I crow? Darn right, from the rooftops!

So, to revisit the top of this blog – did I have the time? Yes, but only because I MADE time, despite all the odds and no matter how exhausted I felt.  Was I lucky? Yes, in the sense that my hard work paid off after TWENTY ODD (in every sense of the word) years.  Did writing  come easy to me? No! Writing never comes easy. It is  hard work. It takes perseverence, bucket-loads of stamina and a skin like a rhino’s hide to weather all the rejections that come winging their way in the post.

So, please, if you are ever tempted to issue any of the above innane statements to a writer, think twice, then think twice more.  She, or he, may kill you horribly in their next book.

A journalist once concluded an article about me with the phrase, ‘You have to stand up to live, before you sit down to write, and Moore has certainly done that.’

Yes, I have. But, en route, I fell on my backside more times than I care to remember. And, each time, after snivelling and turning the air blue, I picked myself up and carried on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not setting myself up as a paragon of virtue. I have no nice shiny halo. It was the dream that kept me going. Nothing and nobody was going to stop me. Several books down the line, I think I might safely say mission accomplished. And if I can do it, so can you. No matter how busy your life. No matter how complex. Do yourself a favour and MAKE THE TIME!  Even if it’s only 30 minutes a day.

Roll out the Red Carpet – The Blue-Eyed Girl is coming home!

ImageToday is publication day for my latest novel, Blue-Eyed Girl.  It was a day that, at one stage, I thought would never happen, given how I spent a great deal of last year in the grip of depression. Looking back, there are whole swathes of 2011 that I can hardly remember but, perhaps, that’s just as well.

Sometimes, there is a trigger event that causes the depression and, in my case, that event was the death of my mother.  I can’t pretend it was totally unexpected. She had, after all, been suffering from Alzheimers for many years and, indeed, hadn’t even recognised me for some time. I was ready, or so I thought, even wished release for her, given the awful suffering she had endured for so long. And yet, when she finally passed away, I found myself swept up in such a tide of conflicting emotions that I was knocked totally off-balance. For months!

Suddenly, where my mother had been, there was a yawning gap. One, that could not and cannot ever be filled by anyone else. My relationship with her was uniquely ours and nothing to do with anyone else. It wasn’t an easy one. On the contrary, it was full of conflict and pain. She could slay me with a look or a word, and she by God did. Sometimes, I felt so miserable, so low and diminished that I wanted simply to disappear off the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

She was volatile, a creature of swingeing moods. Often, as a child, I crept home from school on tentherhooks, only daring to breathe again when I found her in a good mood. I loved those good moods, for then she would sing and laugh and tell us stories, wonderful stories of her childhood, funny stories made up on the spur of the moment, and heart-stopping ghost stories that made us creep fearfully to our beds and peer out like frightened mice from beneath the bedclothes.

Her songs – I know them still. I can hear her singing in my head. ‘If I were a blackbird, I’d whistle and sing . . .’

My father called her Birdie after the sheen of the blackbird’s wing. She had long black hair, blue-eyes, porcelain skin; she was a true Irish beauty who  capitivated him from day one and held him captive throughout their long marriage. In truth, she holds him captive still.

Indeed, we are all captive because she, more than anyone else in our lives, exerted the greatest influence. She was the barometer round whom we danced. A word of approval, and we were putty in her hands. An unkind word and we, me more than anyone, was eviscerated.

And now she is gone, yet not gone at all. For we, my brothers and sisters are of her and we carry her legacy, the good, the not so good, within.  I have questions for her that I never dared to ask and which, now, I never will get the opportunity to ask. Perhaps, I never would have been brave enough anyway.  There are loose ends flapping about, which unlike those in my novels, will never now be tied up in a neat, pretty bow.

But the depression has finally lifted and Blue-Eyed Girl has been sent out into the big wide world. My mother is mentioned in the acknowledgements, as I will acknowledge her throughout my life for, in great part, she made me what I am. Whatever the conflict between us, I know she would be proud.

So, Mum, roll out the red carpet in heaven – your own Blue-Eyed Girl done good!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Eyed-Girl-Tara-Moore/dp/1409104664/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

For the want of a screw – don’t let a marriage be lost!

At a recent girly evening with two friends my heart sank when one, fuelled by too much Sauvignon Blanc, disappeared to the loo, and the other leaned across with that confidential look you know is going to land you in the brown stuff draped across her face.  Please, I begged mentally, please don’t make me the recipient of secrets that should never be told. Too late, her mouth was already flapping!  ‘I,’ she announced brazenly, ‘am in love with Loo Friend’s husband.’  My jaw dropped. It’s one of the expressions I use to express disbelief.  When really staggered, I blink furiously too and make mad mewling noises. In this case I did all three. Try it; it’s harder than you think. Anyway, the reason for this breadth of staggeredness is that Loo Friend’s husband could easily pass for the lovechild of Les Dawson and a pot-bellied pig, whilst she of the adulterous heart is married to nothing less than a Clooney clone. As my jaw reached the point of dislocation, she took pity on me and wafted a casual hand. ‘Oh, I don’t mean like that! What I mean is that I am in love with his manual dexterity.’ What on earth had she and Pot-belly been up to? I could feel the sweat start to bead my brow.  ‘His DIY skills, idiot,’ she clarified and it all began to make sense.  This woman, you see, has lived minus a staircase for, oh, something approaching five years now.  Since her house is on three floors, this presents something of a problem and the rope rigged up by the Clooney Clone, whilst doing wonders for her bingo wings and inner thighs as she shimmies up and down, is not entirely practical. The children and her eighty-year-old mother ascend and descend in a wicker basket, and the Zimmer frame is a very tight fit. The Clooney Clone has every intention of getting round to it, just as he has every intention of getting round to plumbing in the bath, at present in the garden and serving as a herb garden, as well as finishing the 101 other DIY jobs commenced with great enthusiasm and abandoned with even greater enthusiasm.

I began to feel the first stirrings of envy in my own heart and, you know, there’s something endearing about pot-bellied pigs, though nothing will convince me of the merits of Les Dawson.  I too am married to a man to whom DIY is a foreign body. Oh, he can walk the walk, especially up and down the tool aisles of Homebase and Wickes but, when you come down to it, he doesn’t torque the torque. His interest is more in the acquisition of said tools, than in the usage and all too often they lie abandoned and rusting, through failure to PUT THEM AWAY. Even though he has a toolbox. Several, in fact. On the other hand, if you want to know the in’s and out’s of the Hadron Collider, the strategies used in every naval or military battle since God was in nappies, or obscure facts generally known only to eggheads in top-secret Russian laboratories, he’s your man.  But DIY? I write this whilst balanced precariously on a chair, the seat of which has long since parted company with the frame. The three matching chairs match, alas, in every way. The 1930s front door acquired recently and which I hoped might lend a semi-respectable appearance to the exterior of the house, has been painted with royal blue metal paint and is a right royal mess.  A neighbour, giving it the once over, was reminded of the fact that she had forgotten to buy bubbles for her son’s birthday party.  In our living room, the wallpaper folds gently across where the walls intersect, a magnet for small fingers feeling the urge to poke their way through and create a nice big hole. A tap bought three years ago to replace the leaky kitchen model has not yet been unwrapped. The leaky tap, in the meantime, now gushes from several places like the Trevi fountain, making me thank God that water meters are not yet compulsory.

The scales pinged from my eyes (not properly screwed in, you see). ‘I fancy Pot-belly Lawson too,’ I blurted. ‘And, when you think of it, Mary the mother of God was married to a carpenter. And, if it’s good enough for her . . .’  She of the adulterous heart nodded shrewdly. ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘Now that’s what I call a stable relationship.’

The conversation tapered off as Loo Friend returned, beaming smugness as only a woman who lives in a house where everything works can beam smug. ‘Why are you two looking so miserable?’ she asked.  ‘Gimme a pen,’ she of the adulterous heart snapped, ‘or a carpenter’s pencil and I’ll write it all down for you.’

Yesterday, I stood in admiration watching an artist at work, or rather an elderly gent lovingly painting the front door of his house.  Smooth, even strokes, not a bubble in sight, no paint splashed on the stained-glass window or confetti-ing the pavement.  He stopped to take a breath and I found myself dusting off the flirtatious smile I’d long-since stowed away with my wedding dress and nights on the tiles. Just then, his granddaughter came out, except she wasn’t his granddaughter, but a nubile nymph with top-shelf attributes and a possessive expression. And his wedding ring! Just a fleeting glance was enough to convince her of my nefarious intentions. She let me have both barrels of her baby-blues and dragged Picasso away indoors. Later, as I passed the house, I heard the harmonious sound of hammering, sawing and chiselling. In the pauses between came the sweet singing of a contented wife. ‘You – oo – oo – oo drill me. Darling you do, darling you do, darling you do.’

To any man reading this who may be suffering from qualms regarding his appearance, fear not. Simply take up your arm & hammer and prepare for a deluge of DIY-deprived/botched desperate women.

As for me, I’m signing on for evening classes in carpentry, plastering, building, plumbing . . .

The Forsythia Saga

I blame Felicity Kendall – yes, I know the Good Life was a long time ago (I was young, that’s how long ago!), but I still blame her for making the rest of us think dungarees are high fashion. This is a delusion which hits me annually, something to do with the sap rising, spring donning her verdant garlands and going walkabout and all that.  So, dressed like an escapee from Dexys Midnight Runners, I set off for the local garden centre, that Aladdin’s Cave of floral treasures with strange-sounding names, populated by even stranger people, some of whom appeared to have been impaled on sticks and were leaking straw from various orifices. ‘Those,’ my-brother-in-law, informed me loftily, ‘are scarecrows’. I don’t know who asked him – he was only there on Sherpa duty.

Schlepping up and down the serried ranks of green, growing things, I could feel my excitement levels donging like on that old fairground machine-thing people used to hit with a mallet! Here was everything I needed to make my life complete (once I thought it might be a 1960s stereogram, but that’s another blog).  How had I managed to live for the last (cough!) years without benefit of Ceanothus? What a paltry, joyless existence sans Choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom to the uninitiated, which I was until recently)! Forsythia, Californian Lilac, Clematis, Jasmine! Whistling up the Sherpa, I loaded him down with them all and proceeded towards the herbs in a maniacal fashion appropriating plants as I went. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I can see why Simon & Garfunkel stopped short at that point as, apart from lavender (dilly dilly), it’s difficult to get marjoram, mint and coriander to rhyme nicely.

At the check-out, the bill came as something of a shock, but you get what you pay for and you can’t put a price on the garden of your dreams.  Sadly, the wonderful, romantic, Mediterranean oasis of mine is still in the REM stage as, somehow, I never got round to planting my bounty and now it languishes outside, waving little leafy appendages drowning-man like, and casting looks of deep despair through the window, which is why I insist on keeping the curtains closed.

Felicity Kendall and the Good Life! Dungarees with sex appeal? Come on Eileen, I’m not falling for that one again . . . until next year, perhaps, when the sap starts to rise. With any luck, though, it might run into the falling hormones and stop at my ankles. Anyone for football?

Like A Bird on a Pyre

Thanks to a miraculous event i.e. the appearance of the sun for more than five minutes, the silly season has come early this year. It’s time to dive for cover as the fowl (not a spelling mistake), carcinogenic smoke from the neighbour’s Barbie belches over the fence, followed by gales of drunken laughter and more belches – this time from the neighbour himself.  The smell of sizzling flesh is everywhere making one nostalgic for the funeral pyres of Old Calcutta even if, like me, one has never been to Old Calcutta. Elvis may have left the building, but he’s come to the Barbie in fine voice, glory glory alleluia – or could that be the neighbour again indulging in a spot of ye old off-key Karaoke? Yep! And now he’s moved on to Sting and is apparently watching me, or watching you. One thing he isn’t watching is the Barbie and a shout goes up as the fence catches fire. A moment later, I can see him through the ever increasing gap pouring XXXX on the flames in a futile attempt to douse them. The man is clearly the devil in disguise and I swear there is a lot of fence mending to be done before this wooden heart will will ever love him tender again – or even tolerate him.

A Packet of Roosters, Two Lamb Chops and a 1960s Stereogram, Please

Ramsgate is better known for its Royal Harbour and architectural heritage (Pugin woz ere), than as a shopping Mecca, especially now that many of the shops have relocated further afield to Westwood Cross . Therefore, one might think it safe to let an impulse shopper like me out without a carer.  One would be wrong, which is why I am now giving house room to a massive, great, partially working 1960s stereogram, which I somehow managed to convince myself was the missing key to eternal happiness.  I wouldn’t mind, but I only went out for a packet of spuds and a couple of lamb chops. My mistake was in taking the car, because then I had to park it, and if I had walked, then I wouldn’t have had to park it, and so I wouldn’t have come within an ass’s roar of the second-hand (make that fifty-hand) furniture store.  But lo it came to pass that I had to pass it and then after I had passed it, it occurred to me that we were in need of a wardrobe for the spare room. So I actually retraced my steps and ventured inside, even though the woodworms were all out openly sunning themselves and chewing the fat (or the wood) on the ancient furniture outside. I should explain that, at the moment, I am suffering from a Victorian period (which is a different kind of women’s problem, in that it involves lots of oak, aspidistras and stuffed birds in glass cases).  To wit, Ikea simply would not do.  I wanted wood, real wood from real trees. I wanted craftsmanship that had lasted for a hundred years, drawers that didn’t fall apart (don’t be smart!), carvings and cabriole legs (shut up!).  You get the picture? What I got was a 1960s stereogram with a turntable that turns, only not at the right speed (or could it be that James Blunt has developed a shocking speech impediment?), and an impressive looking radio that looks as though it might communicate with aliens. In fact the whole thing might even be an alien.

‘It  could have been worse,’ I told my long-suffering husband later, when he opened his mouth to lodge an objection.  ‘I was very tempted by the 20ft Indian Totem Pole.’ Besides, it was our third wedding anniversary and he hadn’t bought me a present. Ladies and Gentlemen, you heard it here first – there will not be a fourth.  On a happier note, though, the stereogram does have cabriole legs (and just a teeny weeny bit of wood worm)!

Time To Call Time on Time Team?

Scene 1. Ext. A field in  Biggin Little-on- the-Mole

Phil-the-hat-Harding is peering excitedly into a rain-filled trench.  We know he is excited because the voiceover tells us he is, as in ‘Phil is excited as he peers into the rain-filled trench, where Carenza is up to her kagool in muck’.

Phil-the-hat-Harding

Oooo aaaahr, Cretinza, is that . . . could that be a . . . waaaahl?

Carenza-the-sane-much-younger-and-female-one

****s sake, Phil, how many times? It’s Carenza! Yes, it’s a wall. The clue is in the bricks.

Phil-the-Hat  turns and beckons furiously to the rest of the team who appear to be poring intellectually over a geophys chart. A slip of the camera angle reveals it is actually a copy of this month’s Fossil Fetish.

Phil-the-hat-Harding

Ere, lads, come and see this ere waaahl.

The team, led by Tony-the-Baldrick- Robinson, shamble over as fast as their collective age of 1004will allow. Tony peers into the ditch as the others crowd round.

Tony-the-Baldrick-Robinson

It is! It really is. It’s a . . .  wall. Well done Cortina! Is it Saxon or Roman?

Mick-of-the-clown-hair –Aston (and really dodgy woolly pullies) roughly elbows Tony out of the way.

Mick-of-the-clown-hair-Aston

That’s never a wall, Crepuscular. This ere is a richuaaal site. See that there unidentifiable something. That might have been used as an instrument of some kind or maybe an offering to the Gods.

Phil-the-hat-Harding

Aaahr, Mick lad, yer don’t know yer tesserae from yer testicles.

It’s a waaahl, roih enuff. Finest waaahl oi’ve seen in these ere parts.

Tony-the-Baldrick-Robinson

Could it be part of a Roman villa? A bath house?

Phil-the-hat-Harding

Aaahr, could be, one of the waaahls.

Tony-the-Baldrick-Robinson

This is such an exciting find, guys. What are we going to do with it?

Phil-the-hat-Harding, Mick-of-the-clown-hair-Aston, Carenza-the-sane-much-younger-and-female-one (all together)

Do with it? What we always do, moron. Bury the damn thing, so some other prat can come along in a hundred years and dig it all back up again.

Tony reaches down and helps Carenza out of the ditch.

Tony-the-Baldrick

Hey, Carrera, fancy a drink with a very old fossil? We could talk about my days as lead singer with Kajagool gool.

Carenza-the-sane-much-younger-and-female-one

Dear Lord, put me up against the wall and shoot me!

And so say all of us. Time Team – have you no homes to go to?