Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clearing my desk

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.
Peter De Vries

This is not a picture of my desk - mine is much worse! Or it was, until I started sorting it at about 6.00am.

It all began when offspring 4 mentioned school cooking. Let's not discuss the fact I find myself experiencing constant low level anger at his having to take in every single blasted item he needs, or that I have to make the same - usually revolting recipe - in order to bulk everything up to feed a family of seven ... School cooking day means you have to have the orange cookbook. Well, who knows where that is ...???

I bite down on the suggestion it might have been better to have got everything sorted last night. After all, what's the point at this stage???

In vain did I argue that, his being the fourth child, I remembered perfectly well what he needed and could type out the 'method' in about five minutes.
Add in to that the usual disasters - missing gum sheild, mango chutney added erroneously the someone's chicken sandwich when his brother KNEW he didn't like mango chutney, a lost homework sheet, 'impossible' geography homework which is due in today (anyone ready to draw a flow diagram on the life of an orange recycling sack??) and you have an accurate picture of my morning so far.

I have this recurring pleasant dream that one day I'll go to the 'cupboard-I-fondly-call-my-study' and find everything is exactly where I left it. The reality is sooooooo different. Anyone and everyone 'just' pops in to do some thing or other and 'just' pushes my things to one side 'for a moment'.
So, at the time I would naturally still be sleeping, I'm bleary eyed and trying to work out which bits of paper are actually connected to my WIP, which bits seem to hold lists of Christmas wants (presumably so I will notice them), which bits are school letters ...

Anyway you get the picture. Rather sadly I've discovered the letter inviting me to go have a smear test. REALLY don't like those.

Also discovered my half filled out tax return. We're at that time of the year again when there's an irritating man announcing 'tax doesn't have to be taxing' every time I turn on the radio. I don't know what form he is looking at!

(I can't let Trish have all the cat pictures, now can I!!)

And then I've been reminded it's competition time again. I'm really not sure about all that, but having started last year it's hard to not to play again. However, I may have to rethink. I've just tried to enter one online and can I get it to go through???????????????? Don't answer that!

I need a coffee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then book. I'm not even going to think about how many words I need to write today .....

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Behaving badly!

I had a lovely chat with my editor in which we adjusted all my deadlines and, in fact, titled the next two books. I'm still chuckling over that. Well, that and the fact I've somehow got to get a white wedding into a sheikh book. A little tricky! Still, I love a challenge ...

And I've been writing. Only I'm a tiny bit stuck .... and I'm sitting at the 'big' computer - which is always dangerous. I've indulged my habit under the guise of 'Christmas shopping', I've had a quick look at 'You Tube' and then a new thought occured to me. THEATRE. Quickly followed by 'I wonder what's on ....?'

I've now booked to go and see 'The Country Wife' at the Theatre Royal in London.

"One of the greatest and funniest comedies of the Restoration, The Country Wife tells the story of Horner, a notorious and lascivious man - about - town and his ingenious scheme for the rampant and mass seduction of the women of London society. By spreading the false rumour of his own impotence, he gains the sympathy of the husbands of the town and, more importantly, free access to their wives.

Meanwhile the newly-married Pinchwife desperately attempts to keep his naïve country bride from the clutches of predatory London bachelors. When she and Horner meet, events spiral out of his control…

Award-winning actors David Haig, Patricia Hodge and Toby Stephens lead the company in Wycherley’s dazzling comedy. Joining them is exciting young actress Fiona Glascott in the title role."

Now, I reckon this is acceptable because Toby Stephens is playing Horner and I reckon that could be construed as 'hero research', don't you?

Then I wandered over to the RSC site and found that I've accidentally bought tickets to see 'Loves Labours Lost' NEXT YEAR. Grief! I can't even manage to plan next week so what did I think I was doing ...?

Anyway I reckon that can be justified as an 'educational experience' since I'm taking all my children to that one. What do you think???? And, maybe 'hero research' again as David Tennant is playing Berowne. You'd better get a move on if you want to book any yourself because to get seven seats together I'm a fair way from the action.

Oh and he's doing 'Hamlet', too. Sacrilege maybe, but I find that play depressing.

As is 'Romeo and Juliet'. I took my daughter and my eldest son to see a student production of that last night. I've now seen it ... umpteen times and I've come to the conclusion I just don't get it. Firstly, why didn't Juliet just run away with Romeo as soon as he was banished? I mean, it wasn't as though she didn't know marriage to poor old Paris was on the cards. And, am I the only person who thinks everyone being 'sorry' isn't a very upbeat ending - however nice the statue???

Now, enough is enough. If you haven't seen 'Romeo and Juliet' recently you won't know what I'm talking about and my credit card has been flexed enough. Send me back to work.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thinking Positively!

I had one of those epiphanic moments last night. You know the kind that stops you in your tracks and makes you look at something again with fresh eyes.

Last night I met up with some writer friends - a nice mix of published and unpublished, fiction and non-fiction. I suppose we manage to catch-up every two or three months to swap writerly news and life stuff. Always nice to have a reason to get dressed! :)

So, we began ...

It's now just over a year since my lovely mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I spent the beginning of 2007 trying to make it possible for her to die at home. And I failed. Although I know she was happy to go to the hospice in the end, I still wish it had been possible.

Then, just in case things weren't bleak enough, the decision to pull funding on the place where my husband worked coincided with the reappearance of his cancer. Redundancy and illness is never a great combination, is it! Consequently he's spent the last six months redundant AND on chemo.

Anyway, I gave my update on all that - and my friends ask how my writing is going. The answer to that is 'slowly'. Still slowly. Under normal circumstances I write a fairly comfortable 2000 words a day. 50,000 publishable words in a couple of months. That's just not been happening this year.

For a start I've been incredibly tired. Bone tired. And, with five dependant children, I'm juggling lots of things. On the whole I think I've done well. The children are doing fantastically well. I'm so proud of them. But, of course, sometimes they've needed to talk - sometimes my husband has needed to - and by the time they've finished with me I feel like a wrung out wet towel. None of that is conducive to a productive writing life.

And that means I've committed the unforgiveable sin for an author under contract - I've missed my deadlines. I'm so cross about it, feel incredibly guilty, but I've reached the point of acceptance and my editor at Harlequin has been absolutely wonderful and very very supportive of me.

Sue, a published author sitting next to me, remarked 'your sales must be good!'. And I kind of shrugged and said I thought they were okay and that the last three books had made the Waldenbook Bestseller lists and the Romantic Times' Magazine had chosen 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' as a Top Pick.

And that was that. We talked about other things and laughed a lot. I stuffed the diet and plumped for sausages and mash with an onion and balsamic vinegar gravy ...

Much later on someone said something and I replied that I thought thought the whole millenium had been fairly grotty. Then Sue provided my epiphanic moment. She said that, considering what I'd just been telling her about being on the bestseller lists and a Top Pick, she didn't think I knew how to celebrate the good things when they happened.

And, you know, she's right! This last year I've had some lovely things happen to me, all mixed in with the bad. There wasn't one person at that table who wouldn't like to be on a best seller list. Some who are still hoping to sell a book. How selfish am I!

I feel like I've been in a dark tunnel for the longest time. I don't 'do' depression. I have friends that do and I've seen how wretched that is. I've always been a glass half-full kind of a girl, but I think I've been as close to it as I'm ever going to get. I've been really busy getting through the day-to-day, making sure everyone else is okay, and I've not really paid any attention to me.

Now, tomorrow is my husband's final chemo day. Which is great, isn't it! Only he, of course, doesn't feel so great about it because he's going to be sick for the next week and continue to feel tired and ache for a few weeks after that. And then he has to find a job. Oh and then there's the scan in January and the prospect of a stem cell transplant looming after that.

And that's what I'd gone to dinner thinking. You know, I hadn't realised how negative I've allowed myself to become.

So, let's do better. Tomorrow IS the last planned dose of chemo. And my last three books HAVE been on the Waldenbooks Bestseller Lists, my contribution to the Niroli series IS a Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick and my editor is really wanting my next book whenever I can get it to her. I think I need to look up and see the light at the end of this particular tunnel, don't you?

Time for some positive thinking!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's all Trish's fault

Again. There was I happily writing up a storm. Hero behaving himself reasonably well when that orange light starts blinking at the bottom of my screen to say that Trish wishes to talk - despite the fact I'm still showing as 'away'. That woman knows me too well!

On her blog today - click here - you will see she's replied to my Dear Trish letter. It's very funny. But I do feel she doesn't fully appreciate my Richard Armitage addiction. So rather than clog up her comments box anymore I'm going to post some 'hero inspiration' here.

Now, that's quite enough of that. Coffee break is over and I have a book to write.

Oh, and tomorrow I'm blogging over at the Pink Heart Society. Come play.

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