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Thank You 2015

 

Can it really be? The end of another year? Already?

I blame the kids, little blighters. Never has time whipped by so fast. They’re a constant visual reminder that, despite still feeling and regularly behaving like fifteen year olds, Knighty and I are indeed notching up the years now. Our babies are constantly in change, at nine and eleven (age, not shoe size) the big two’s feet have outgrown mine this year, while the little one’s plump toddler body is giving up its wary clumsiness for balance and purpose and all those other talents that will tempt him towards independence and other unthinkable things. I can ignore my wrinkles laughter-lines in the bathroom mirror, pretend I don’t watch Country File with the same fervour I used to save for Hollyoaks, but I can’t not see it every day in my three beautiful sons, that the times they are definitely a changin.

2015 has held a lot of changes for us. There’s now a toddler in the house; a highschooler; the Knight clan’s first family hound. For a fleeting moment there was a newly retired grandparent kicking back around here too. Our home finally went on the market, Knighty and I relived happy, happy clubbing times with old friends, Swedish pals not seen since uni days came to stay, book deals were signed and all the positive optimism of the first half of the year helped buoy the reality of the second half no end. Nothing slaps your world into focus quite like illness and so 2015 has been a see-saw year for us, ups and downs of hefty degrees but from all that commotion has come a steadying and recurrent thought, that life is short, and that we really do need to stop faffing around so much.

Next year, I’d like to live bigger. I’d like to take more risks. Try more things, say ‘Sod it, I’m going to bloody well do this,’ loud and often. I’m going to care less about non-issues and non-people, concentrate on the good, the true, the decent and inspiring. I’m going to sod the dishwasher off for another chapter of what I’m reading, another song with my son, another twenty minutes in the fresh air. I’m going to add more chaos to the clan wherever I can, and hope it disappoints the easily disappointed, the uber-tidy, uber-organised, uber-safe brigade.

Changes are good, I’m hoping for plenty more in 2016 because I’m grateful for almost all of the changes 2015 held. Even the awful brings something with it but it’s NYE and I don’t have time to go into all of that and I’m pretty sure you don’t either! So because I’m trying to write this with the chaos of children, Knighty burning something and a new puppy tearing around the house, I’m going to cheat with pictures.

Happy New Year, all. Hope you can look back with fondness. Here are a few moments 2015 brought to us…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone get me a freakin’ gold jumpsuit!

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I am a tad excited. Okay, that’s a big fat mahoosive lie! I’ve given myself another excitement headache I’m so completely and utterly chuffed! Because today, a couple of hours ago actually, I did something that once upon a time I would’ve thought was completely out of reach. But then very little is ever really out of reach, I understand this now. Not even body-popping with Johnny Depp in matching gold jumpsuits. (Although that particular fantasy’s on hold after the latest Dior ad put me right off him. Sigh.) Anyway, poppin’ with Johnny’s another issue entirely, and probably not one anyone else needs to know too much about. So, an hour or so ago…

After scribbling my signature on a few cheques for the school bills I owe, drumming lessons, lunch money, typical Monday stuff… I eagerly moved my clammy hands to sign a couple of other bits and bobs I’ve been anxiously watching the letterbox for. Paperwork. Contracts, to be more specific. The business end of an offer totally inconceivable a few years back, my next two book deals.

Say what? Booky what’s? TWO BLOOMIN BOOK DEALS! With publishing colossus, Harlequin/Harper Collins?!

Holy moly, I need an aspirin. This doesn’t happen, does it? Somewhere between loading the dishwasher this morning and burning dinner this evening, people don’t go around signing book deals, do they? Hell yee-HAW they do! The very lucky buggers, anyway. Y’know I might need two aspirin, actually. This really is pretty wonderful. A couple of years ago, when I still fancied Johnny to death, I didn’t have any grasp, whatsoever, on how things would pan out for me and this writing lark. I was given a pretty darned fantastico opportunity, a shot at being an author. I never, ever, expected more than that initial book deal, let alone to still be hanging around two years on indulging in something I love and getting to call it my job, something I’ve managed to perfect saying now while holding a straight face.  Because it’s true! It’s flipping true! It wasn’t a flash in the pan, it’s here… in black and white… with my signature scrawled at the bottom of it. I am a writer. I’m still here! And I’m going to be here for a while yet, thank goodness. Thanks Heavens. Thank the universe. Thank the good folk who buy my stories.

After three novels, lots of ups and downs, the occasional bout of self-doubt and thankfully a whole load of utter contentedness, we’ve come a long way, baby. And we’re still going. Signing on the dotted. Raring to go. Now all I need me is a gold freakin jumpsuit, because Johnny or no, I’ve got me some serious body-poppin to get done tonight :) xx

C is for Cancer, X is for Courage

Of the wayward monikers our mum bestowed upon each of her three daughters, Ximena (Mena) definitely got the top spot over Anouska (*waves*) and Tarien (the middle one) for name awkwardness. You try sitting in a waiting room, listening out for someone to call that mouthful out. Zim-mee-nah… Hex-zim-mennah… Sacagawea.. Jeez, Mother. Give your kid a chance. You know that bit, on Four Weddings and a Funeral? When Rowan Atkinson tries to say ‘Sinjin’ or ‘Singeon’… see what I mean? Can’t even spell it. But yeah, there’s a lot of that for Mena.

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Anyhow, I’m digressing, soz. These days ‘X’ not only stands for my sister’s dodgy initial, but for everything I think is marvellous about her, not least her courage.

It’s another big week for Mena. Tomorrow she will have the scans that will take a detailed look at what exactly is going on inside the mass occupying her right lung. We know there’s a lot of cancer in there, there’s also fluid and infection and other nasties her body is trying to deal with. In my last vlog about it ( https://anouskaknight.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/fabbo-friday-feeling/ ) I was a little overwhelmed by the fact that at last… AT LAST… Mena had received some positive news from her oncologist in that, after changing around her cocktail of drugs and crossing every finger we had between us, the scans had finally shown a reduction in the size of the mass.

The mass. Not the tumour.

A fact that dawned on me with a swift kick in the guts shortly after I posted that vlog.

So on the evening before these more detailed scans will take place, the fronds of anxiety are starting to creep back in, ever thick and fast. And if I think on how hard it is at times for the rest of us to plaster a smile on it, I can only imagine what Mena’s thoughts must be like to deal with before she falls asleep each night. This Thursday night coming will be bloody awful for her, I should think. Waiting for the results to hit on Friday. But we’ll never know because she’ll never say.

Because Mena is courageous. I know this because instead of falling to pieces (which incidentally she has never done) she keeps it together so the rest of us can cling to her calmness like a raft. At a time when I tell you now, I’d be milking the cancer card for every favour, scrap of sympathy, cooked meal and foot rub going, Mena is always just chilled. Always ace, always facing her illness beautiful bald head on.

So whilst cancer has taken the letter C in our world, it hasn’t taken the top spot. Because around here, folks, courage very definitely got crowned with the X.

Lunch with the lovely literary lot

There I am, like the ham filling in an Agent Milburn/Editor Baggaley sarnie. Not a bad spot!

There I am, like the ham filling in an Agent Milburn/Editor Baggaley sarnie. Not a bad spot!

It’s a funny old existence, being a writer of novels. You spend half your year, maybe more, maybe less, shuffling around the house in ‘comfy clothes’ (manky old pj bottoms, odd socks, coffee-stained tees) racking your ravished little mind for some spark of creativity you might be able to bully into a marvellous sentence if you’re lucky, or maybe just an intelligible one if you’ve already lost the will. And then all of a sudden, it’s done… you have a manuscript, and mostly it makes sense, and before you know it, it’s edited and smartened up and out of your hands, free from the shadows of that grotesquely messy garret you’ve been confined to while the rest of the world carried on having regular sleep and showers and meals and fresh air and snogs.

So yesterday, rested and scrubbed up and still chilling in the afterweeks of a recently released novel, I waved a hasty goodbye to my favourite ankle-biter, took a deep breath of I’m-out-of-the-house-and-doing-something-grown-upness and headed off down to London for lunch with my agent Madeleine Milburn and new soon-to-be-frustrated editor, Anna Baggaley from Harlequin/Harper Collins.

The ankle-biter I mentioned, looking innocent. Don't be fooled.

The ankle-biter I mentioned, looking innocent. Don’t be fooled.

We yacked away about the next two contracts Anna’s just having drafted up for me (eep!) and which I’m completely frothy-headed with relief and excitement and gratitude to have been offered. Then over a pretty badass goat’s cheese salad I gabbled off my ideas for book 4 (latest ideas I should say… the first plot outlines I sent off were a bit naff) and, hoo-bloody-rah, everyone seemed to be enthused!

‘Book 4 is going to be so topical!’ said someone. ‘And your feelings about these issues will show through your writing!’

‘Yes!’ I agreed. Yes! Yes! Yes! I am feeling PUMPED, because this is that stage of writing a book, when your ideas are shiny and new and the mountain to climb ahead, whilst big and slightly intimidating, looks more of a jolly old adventure than a spirit-breaking endeavour that just may kill you.

Yes! I thought, book 4 is going to be relevant and funny and thought-provoking and impassioned because I do feel strongly about the issues I’m going to be writing about and I do want to do my characters’ stories justice and I DO want to become a better and betterer writer who can feel chuffed to death with myself once I’ve made it to the other side of that big-assed mountain! I am gonna write the shizzle outta Book 4 and…

…and then the dessert menu landed and it all became about chocolatey pancakes and caramelised bananas.

So anyway, that’s a little snippet of my very lovely day. A sniffter of the other side of writing. The side where you get to leave your writing room and wang on a bit of mascara and feel quite groovy trundling along the streets of London to meet the professionals who’ve got your back and are going to kit you out in the best crampons they can for the adventure ahead.

Didn’t manage to shake off my comfy shoes, mind…

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A bit about the books I’ve written…

Since You've Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone

The one that started it all! Since You’ve Been Gone is the book that won me my publishing deal on UK national television, thanks to ITV Lorraine and publishing giants, Mills & Boon.

A story about young widow Holly as she learns to live, and love, again while safely carrying the memory of her husband, Charlie.

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A Part of Me

After years of trying, Amy Alwood and James Coffrey have finally been accepted into the adoption process. At long last they are going to get their ‘happy ever after’. And then it all starts to fall apart. Amy throws herself into her work for the distraction, her new client Rohan Bywater is certainly keeping her on her toes. He’s frustrating, lives on the edge… and she can’t stop thinking about him. Rohan’s very clear on one thing though: kids are not part of his future.

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Letting You Go

A lapse in concentration. A tragic accident. A lifetime of guilt.

Can you ever leave the past behind…?

Alex Foster has spent years away from her home town and the people she left there, trying not to inflict herself upon the family she let down. Now she must return and face a past full of ghosts, and a family full of secrets.