Showing posts with label #amwriting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #amwriting. Show all posts

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Imagine a world

Here we are again in Covid country. Either I've become habituated to lockdowns, or I secretly crave a quiet existence, as I'm not finding it too hard this time around... as long as I ration my consumption of the news. Occasionally, for my own buoyancy, I need to think about something other than mounting Covid cases.

A photo album showing the World Trade Center
Photos of the twin towers in my album
The big distraction for me in lockdown 3 has been my writing. I'm inching towards the finish line (first draft) of my latest novel about New York in 2001. When I conceived this book in the summer, it was intended to be a light piece of escapism, based on my own experiences of living in Manhattan during the late 1990s (more City, not much Sex). Inevitably the story has become a shade darker as September 11 looms in the latter stages of the plot line. 

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Youthful thinking

The depressing thing about getting older is that you'll never be young again. Yes, an obvious point (but bear with me). I look in the mirror every morning and I think, Rats - is that really me? What happened to my skin? Then I reach compulsively for my anti-ageing face cream...

The writer in a boat in New York
My glory days in NYC - boating in Central Park 
#MeAt20-ish
The other day, I was flipping through old photos and observing how youthful I used to be. But then it struck me: it's likely, when those snaps were taken, I'd already started worrying about my wrinkles. 

Wednesday 1 April 2020

House frau rules ok

Ever since I gave up full-time work to look after the kids, I've resisted - whisper it - becoming a housewife. The plan, back in 2003 when my daughter was born, was to raise the kids, write novels and freelance. On the whole, things turned out pretty well. Most of the time, I buried my neurosis that I had opted into domestic service. Writing books has brought me fulfilment while also affording me the flexibility to spend lots of time with my kids. As they got older, I've taken on more work.

Sun shining through the daffodils
Sun therapy in the garden helped me feel better
Then along came the Coronavirus. For the first time, our home became both the centre and the outer edge of our world. And who rules over this dominion? Me. During the past few weeks, I have flexed every domestic muscle in my body to keep my family fed, healthy and occupied. 

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Did you mean to say that?

Labrador chewing a stick next to open-mouthed cocker spaniel
Gratuitous picture of dogs...
I was walking the dog this fine morning when we encountered a cockapoo bounding towards us. It was the epitome of joyfulness, fur flying, his red bandana striking a nice contrast with his sandy complexion. The owner followed behind, pausing to corral his cockapoo forward along the path.

"He's a cheerful chap," I remarked jovially. The sun was out and the birds were tweeting so I was feeling friendly, despite the early hour. 

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The power of friendship

First page of a new novel
Chiselling away... page one!
Just when you thought An Author's Notebook might have died and gone to blog heaven... here I am! The reason for my absence has been book-related: I've spent January finishing my third novel. I'm nearly there (New Year's resolution - tick!) although I'm still tinkering around the edges.

I actually finished writing the book over a year ago, but have spent all this time chiselling away at it, refining sentences and teasing out themes. Most usefully, I've been addressing feedback from a small group of readers - most of them writers themselves. I've been so lucky with the people I have met through my CBC creative writing course, as well as a few supporters closer to home.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Removal quotes and books

Two themes are dominating my notebook this week - literary festivals and our imminent move to a new house. In amongst pages of removal quotes and a transcription of my conversation with BT about changing over our broadband, are my notes on the Henley Literary Festival and the Cuckfield Bookfest.

Emma Clark Lam and broadcaster Cathy Newman
Cathy and I celebrate with a glass of fizz
As ever, our local lit fest in Henley offered up a smorgasbord of knowledge and current affairs. A highlight for me was attending a session by my fabulous friend, Cathy Newman, who was promoting her new book, Bloody Brilliant Women

Thursday 23 November 2017

Top tips for working from home

I blame Facebook. For all those wasted hours. Every morning, I settle down in front of my computer, flex my fingers above the keyboard and mentally gear up for a day of writing. But first there is the ritual - that niggling urge to kill a bit of time. Of course, I kid myself that I am just warming up the cogs in my brain before knuckling down. This means checking my blog stats, my book sales, the news headlines and then allowing myself a little peep at Facebook... 

Candle, tea and treat to help me work happily from home
Working wonders: a special candle
and a healthy treat from Eat Real Food
Half an hour later, I'm abreast of who's flown off to Copenhagen for a business trip, which child scored a gymnastics medal at the weekend and who consumed a giant mussel on holiday but my word documents remain unopened.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

The grey-haired muse

A much-loved grandmother leaves behind a precious legacy. My own one passed away a few years ago, but every so often I honour her memory by rehearsing stories in my head. I run through some of her own anecdotes as well as odd recollections from when I was growing up, like her sitting on the terrace in her Ibiza home, chatting to my uni friends about Brad Pitt, with her legs hanging over the arm of a chair. Such rituals keep her close.

Emma Clark Lam and author Joy Rhoades
Me and Joy Rhoades at her book launch in London
"We sense the dead have a vital force still," said novelist Hilary Mantel yesterday, as she delivered a Reith Lecture on Radio 4. "They have something we need to understand. Using fiction and drama, we try to gain that understanding."

Friday 7 April 2017

Writing in bloom

Life has overtaken the blog recently. Which is a good thing, I suppose! Anyway, lots has happened over the last month or so. My main piece of news is that I have signed up to do a creative writing course with the literary agent, Curtis Brown.

Flowers and books: two of my favourite things!
I a hit a blip with my novel-in-progress back in January and decided that I needed help (or possibly a new job). Assistance came in the form of an email advertising a six-month online course. I decided this was make-or-break for my writing career (like to raise the stakes for myself) and applied for a place.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Time for pain

Christmas with all its excesses becomes the last stop on the route to self-improvement. This seasonal splurge seems designed to usher in a period of self-disgust, exacerbated by too many puddings / presents / cheese / glasses of Irish cream. As the decorations come down, you long to emerge like a butterfly from the Christmas-chrysalis with a cleaner body and a purer purpose. January inevitably becomes the anointed month to slough off the extra pounds, change your ways and build a brighter, better future.

Orange butterfly on a paving stone
Emerging from the excesses of Christmas...
As human beings, it seems we need structure, if only to keep the messy amorality of life in check. With the start of a new year, resolutions provide a roadmap to a new, improved self. Often such resolutions require discipline and self-denial, but all of us know a little bit of pain is the price you pay for a higher pleasure. Structure equals control over laziness, small addictions (in my case, chocolate) and other character defects.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Between the covers

Some of you will know that my nine-year old son, Tristan, was a finalist in the Henley Literary Festival short-story competition, run by Dragonfly Tea. Just for a bit of fun, I thought I would post his entry here on the blog. Have a read and see what you think!

Finalists from the Henley Literary Festival short-story competition
The 2016 finalists for the children's short-story competition
Hi! I’m Larry the bookworm and I’m hooked to books! Adventure, fairytale, scary, funny, anything! If it’s a book, I’ll read it! I’ve probably read over a thousand, but then I do live in a library where there is always a book to read. The book I’m reading at the moment is called ‘Evil is Back,’ the sequel of ‘Evil in Front.’

Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Puppet Master: a taster

Available on Amazon 6/6/16
On Monday the 6 June, my latest novel, The Puppet Master, will be published on Kindle. It tells the story of a diplomat's wife living in the social whirl of expat Jakarta during the 1970s. She has two young daughters she adores, a successful husband and an exotic home complete with staff, so why does she view the future with a sense of foreboding?

As promised in my blog last week about my childhood in Indonesia, I am posting part of the opening chapter to whet your appetites. Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy...

Monday 23 May 2016

Tales from the tropics

One of my earliest memories is playing happily in a friend's garden before being unceremoniously yanked inside by our panic-stricken mothers. Turned out there was a python lurking in the storm drain. Not long after the snake-scare, we were motoring through town when our driver yelled at us to duck down out-of-sight. Our error was to pass a roundabout where police were pursuing a runaway man with live bullets. I can remember seeing the man fall to the ground as my mum pushed me down into the footwell. Strangely I accepted these occasional elements of danger without question. That was how life was in Indonesia in the late 1970s.

Emma Clark Lam as a child in Jakarta
Me and my brother in the Puncak, outside Jakarta, c.1978
It was a lot of fun too - lazy afternoons at the swimming pool, horse-riding in the tea plantations outside Jakarta, holidays in Bali and trips to the beach with the volcano Krakatoa looming in the background. My parents were posted to Jakarta in their early thirties and were given a company bungalow complete with domestic staff. Looking back at family photos, it is clear that hedonism was the order of the day. My parents and their friends were young and groovy - the albums are full of raucous parties, boat trips and batik shirts. 

Thursday 14 April 2016

Work shy

Silence descends on the house. The kids are back at school, the dog has been walked and I am finally free to get on with some work. For the latter part of the Easter holiday, I have been fantasising about having a quiet morning to return to my book project. With all the banter and child-noise (screams of glee, screams of pain as one pushes the other off the sofa), I have hardly been able to concentrate on anything more challenging than following a recipe or loading the washing machine. Now I can lay down my wooden spoon and immerse myself in work...

Daffodils and laptop
Finding my way around a keyboard again!
Except suddenly I am at a loss. Three weeks out of the normal routine and I feel unable to pick up the threads of life at home sans enfants. It's like part of my brain muscle has atrophied with the lack of use. Or put more plainly, I've lost my mojo. A harmonious working life has its own momentum and once the pattern has broken, it's hard to re-start the machine.

Monday 1 February 2016

Character study

I am immersed in what I hope will be the final edit of my second novel. At this point in the process, I am trying to look at the 'arc' of the story, while also teasing out some of the underlying themes. It's structural work, quite different from the nitty-gritty detail which has occupied me up until now. The question I keep pondering is what my central character - a young wife stuck in a dysfunctional marriage - has learnt about herself over the course of the novel.

Lily James as the charming Natasha Rostova
Credit: BBC / Mitch Jenkins
Last night, watching the latest instalment of the BBC's excellent War and Peace series, I witnessed the sad decline of the charismatic Natasha, as she struggles to reconcile her sexuality - her lapse in judgement regarding Anatole - with a greater sense of purpose. Within the confines of a novel, characters are usually obliged to travel in some metaphorical sense, during which journey they undergo a kind of moral or spiritual transformation. Tolstoy's War and Peace is no exception.

Monday 5 October 2015

Moonlight Jasmine

This is my short story that was shortlisted in the Henley Literary Festival 2015 short-story competition. A few of you have asked me to post it on the blog so here it is! It is 3,000 words long so you may want to make yourself a cup of tea first. It was inspired by a true story.  


Jasmine flowers
©  | Dreamstime.com
A spray of white blooms caught Connie’s eye as she marched past the flower stall, but she didn’t allow herself to falter. Not today. She had a very important meeting to make and she couldn’t be late. Possibly the most important meeting of her life… no, that was an exaggeration! Nonetheless, her mission was to reach the cafĂ© at Selfridges before eleven o’clock. All her instincts told her that she should be safely in situ before her foe arrived. Stepping into the gutter to avoid a ponderous group of tourists, she picked up her pace and continued down Oxford Street.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

A book in flight

Yesterday was a significant day for me. I sent my new novel out into the world on the wings of an email. The laptop even made that little whooshing noise to signify that my book had finally flown the nest. My domestic thriller about a woman trapped in a ruinous marriage in 1970s Jakarta was off to make its fortune... perhaps.

Balinese dancer
My new novel, The Puppet Master, is
inspired by my childhood in Indonesia
I have been writing this new novel, The Puppet Master, off and on for nearly eight years and earlier this month I decided it was finally time to send it off to a few literary agents. As I published my first novel, A Sister for Margot, independently, the decision to venture once more down the traditional route has caused some angst. Would I be able to deal with all those rejections when they come bouncing back?

Hope is my antidote. The Puppet Master has enjoyed rave reviews from my harshest critics (my husband and my mum) so I'm feeling confident... or at least I was until I pressed the 'send' icon on the email. Whoosh! and suddenly the doubts came crowding in. Should have done one more edit, should have tightened up the third chapter, should have waited a bit longer... damn it!