Working

Things I’ve learnt from being a part-time working parent (forgive me, you probably all know this already!)

  1. It is possible to live in ten times more filth than you ever believed you could
  2. Laundry breeds like gremlins in a bath
  3. A husband can locate clean socks on top of the tumble dryer if needed
  4. Children cannot locate clean socks anywhere
  5. A husband can make dinner (heat pizza) if required
  6. Dogs still need walking when you’re busy, or they misbehave
  7. Guinea pigs poo a lot. It doesn’t stop when you’re busy
  8. Kids can survive being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  9. Kids mostly ignore being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’ and will take it as permission to do a full song and dance routine when you’re trying to look up the plural of piranha
  10. Half term passes much less painfully if the kids are frequently told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  11. Coffee is not a food group, but it comes a close second
  12. A working coffee machine is essential. Make sure a new stove-top espresso maker is on order from Amazon
  13. If you go to bed exhausted at 8pm you will be woken up at midnight by husband and dog snoring and will lie awake for three hours
  14. 5.30am feels really really early when you were awake half the night
  15. Ironing doesn’t go away if you ignore it
  16. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ give you energy. Not hearing it makes you tired
  17. You can miss vegetables
  18. You can miss exercise
  19. You can miss boredom
  20. Getting paid is really satisfying
  21. Knowing you’ve done a good job feels good
  22. The saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is complete rubbish
  23. Eye strain sucks
  24. You can forget how to spell
  25. You can have to look up whether ‘hers’ takes a possessive apostrophe
  26. Working in bed is really cool and surprisingly productive
  27. It’s easy to take an accidental power-nap when you work in bed
  28. It’s nice telling people you work for a living
  29. Editing helps you understand what makes good writing
  30. You will edit everything you read forever

 

Learning Characterisation from Humans Of New York

HONY Facebook Page

HONY Facebook Page

I’ve talked about the Humans of New York Facebook page many times before, mostly in passing. Today I wanted to discuss what an amazing resource the page is for writers.

For me, one of the hardest parts of being a writer is coming up with three-dimensional characters. When I start a first draft my characters are usually pretty vague. I know their motivation or I know the key story problem (Helen getting pregnant, Rebecca’s dislike of the upper class, Lucy’s need for a family and to fit in), but the character starts out as a hazy version of me at some earlier point in my life. They move on from that, and by the end of the first draft they become living, breathing, talkative people in my head. But I think one of the reasons I like my male characters better is because the starting point for them is more often men I know and admire or love, rather than versions of me. (There’s a lot of hubbie in Marcio!)

The problem now is that my novels are starting to have mirror scenes. I’m stuck with Finding Lucy because it starts with a death and a funeral – as does Class Act (although Finding Lucy came first.) Now, it’s unlikely many people will read both, as Class Act bombed, but I can see the reviews now. “Amanda Martin’s latest novel is dull and repetitive, with chunks lifted directly from her previous release.” Oh joy.

Similarly, the protagonists often have similar upbringings and backgrounds because I write more authentically when I can really live it (or have lived it!)

Brandon's Latest Post

Brandon’s Latest Post

So where does HONY come in? I’ve been editing Dragon Wraiths this week for one final time before entering it in the Chicken House/Times competition, after having had the lovely lady who proofread Class Act run through it. She pointed out the bits where I lose the sense of Leah being a teen (my editor has teenage kids, which is fantastic). But she also pointed to the bits where I evoke Leah’s backstory well, when she was in foster care.

I did a lot of research online for the care scenes, and the snippet of Leah’s time on the streets. I wanted it to be realistic but not sensationalist, genuine but not too gritty. A fine line. But then I read a HONY post yesterday which gave an insight into care in one paragraph. In fact it created a whole story and three-dimensional character in a couple of hundred words. Each HONY post does.

When Brandon Stanton (the amazing man behind Humans Of New York) was on his UN tour, the stories were beyond my ability to visualise, but now he’s back in New York the wealth of material is incredible. Not just for main characters. I think one of the reasons Baby Blues resonates with people is because all the characters have stories of their own. I chose not to develop the bit-characters in Class Act, because some reviews of Baby Blues said it was crowded with people, but I’m learning you can’t please everyone!

What Brandon shows is that a person’s whole life and character can be depicted in half a page. He has a way of getting under people’s skin to their very essence. He gets them to tell the core of their life story succinctly but with feeling. I read his posts to keep me grounded in the stories of the world, but also I read them to learn from a master.

A Ramble About Life

Kids and their new go-kart

Kids and their new go-kart

I’m sorry about my recent silence; I’ve been in a strange world where I’m actually enjoying editing. What’s more amazing is that I’m editing Dragon Wraiths. You’d think that finding anything wrong with a book that’s been published for eighteen months would send me into a spiral of despair. Especially finding grammar mistakes and typos, rather than just poorly worded sentences. But surprisingly it hasn’t. I knew there would be some errors, especially as it’s the only book that I haven’t paid someone to edit, relying instead on family and friends.

(That said, my mum found a few glaring typos in Class Act and that was edited, so you can’t catch everything.)

I think I’m enjoying it because I know the book has received great reviews (and awful ones!) so I can read it knowing at least some people like it. But the main reason I’m enjoying it is because I can see how much I’ve learned about writing in the past year or two. I’m not changing the story but I am tightening the prose and it’s surprisingly empowering.

My original intention was to try and cut 35,000 words (30%) from the story so I could enter it in the Chicken House children’s novel competition. So far I’m only cutting 8-10% from each chapter. Unless I find half a dozen chapters that are redundant it isn’t going to happen. But I’ve decided that’s okay. Instead I’m going to try and get the book below 100,000 words and resubmit to agents. Who knows, I might have more success this time.

The nice thing about editing is that it structures my day. Aside from the two hours of school run mayhem in the morning, and the four hours of whining, crying, shouting and chaos from pick up to bed time, my days are calm and focussed. I carry my manuscript round and edit at the school gate and waiting for my coffee. Having a deadline of the end of term really helps keep me working. My only distraction is constantly checking for Class Act reviews!

On the trampoline

On the trampoline

This morning I wrote a response to a post on Helen Yendall’s blog about having too much to do and how much harder it can be to manage your time when you don’t go into an office to work. This was my (edited) response:

This is how my boss used to tell me to do to prioritise work: categorise things into ‘what will get me fired if I don’t do’, ‘what will get me promoted if I do it,’ ‘what do I enjoy?’ and everything else. It’s tough to do that when you’re self-employed, but for me I’ve roughly translated it as, ‘what has an immoveable deadline that will either make or cost guaranteed money’, ‘what will clear the biggest headspace most easily (usually niggly admin),’ ‘what will make me happy and therefore make everything easier’ and everything else.

Of course stuff like school run, cooking, dog walking, kids’ homework have to happen. But non-essential ironing, cleaning, Facebook, even the blog, go by the wayside in peak times. I’ve also found the routine of the school run and walking the dog can help. I constantly feel overwhelmed by stuff, too. Getting diagnosed with depression taught me to take better care of myself for everyone’s sake.

Writing it made me realise that it’s all true. Life has been tough recently, for me and for hubbie, and the routine hell of the school run that tops and tails my day makes me yearn for twelve-hour office shifts and getting paid. But I’m learning not to compare myself to others, or even to who I was before kids, and get on with it. My struggles are mine, no one else’s, and I’m certainly not the only person fighting to survive (as hubbie pointed out this week). Life is what it is and you have to make the most of it. If that means watching Queens tennis or drinking too much Waitrose coffee (it’s free! I come four days a week to work…) then why not?

As Lauren wrote recently on her blog BetweenFearAndLove, feeling guilty that you haven’t got it as hard as others is a useless emotion. I haven’t learnt that lesson yet but I’m working on it.

Research and The Raven Boys

What Alex's London flat might look like

What Alex’s London flat might look like

I miss Claire. There, I’ve said it. I miss writing an installment of her journey each day, with a reasonable idea of where she was in the world, at least, and where her story was going. I miss guaranteed word count.

I’m in redrafting hell at present, trying to rescue two characters I love from a badly plotted and planned novel awash with backstory. The problem with loading a first draft with backstory is that changing one thing has a rippling effect across the entire manuscript, especially if you’re trying to rewrite two lines of throwaway history into a whole chapter or even two.

My lead man Alex has a friend called Philip who is essential to the story. Starting In Media Res I didn’t have to worry too much about their relationship before; where they first met, how they met, considering they’re so different. Now, though, we first see them catching up down the pub, setting up the rest of the story’s action, and I have to understand all these things. How do people from different backgrounds meet? How do their different careers and incomes affect their friendship? What’s the age difference? I managed 700 words of stilted dialogue today and gave up in disgust.

I’m also trying not to be overly influenced by the book I’m reading – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – as her novel contains a character that could be, or at least have known, Alex as a public school boy. Maggie Stiefvater’s character is so convincing I’m finding parts of him creeping into my prose: except Raven Boys is set in America, whereas Alex would have gone to an English boarding school (which I know very little about, another fact that wasn’t especially important before.)

As each of these random strands of research crop up, I keep losing the flow of writing because I need to research the role of a stage hand or investigate pubs in North London or apartments in Chelsea. I might even have to watch an episode of Made in Chelsea – *shudder* – to try and understand Alex’s present girlfriend Paige more, as again she has moved from a paragraph of explanation to a speaking part.

I swear this is the last time I rescue an old manuscript by moving the timeline back a few months. Next time it starts where it starts and that’s that!

The Never-ending Edit: 2013 365 Challenge #241

Paper flowers (Mummy to the rescue!)

Paper flowers (Mummy to the rescue!)

Today is my daughter’s last day at nursery. A sad day for me, an exciting day for her.

We spent yesterday shopping for flowers for her nursery staff, writing cards and making tags. Little man wanted to get involved, so – after some frantic searching of the craft drawers and a few tears – we also made paper flowers for his key-workers, as he moves rooms now he’s nearly three.

Today also marks my last full nursery day, ever! Readers of this blog will know I view this with fear: I like my eight-hour days twice a week to have some head space and get my writing done.

Knowing this is the last one, I want to make it a productive one. Of course it won’t be. What I really wanted to do was finally to put Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes to bed. Hmmm not sure that’s ever going to happen.

Flowers and tags

Flowers and tags

In my two hours of preschool time yesterday, I finally finished going through the proof reader’s amends on the Baby Blues manuscript. Hurrah! you might think. Except it wasn’t. Because I’ve realised why you normally have an editor and then a proofreader go through your manuscript.

My lovely proofreader, Sarah Nisbet, actually did more of a light edit than just a check for grammar and spelling errors. As a result I ended up rewriting scenes. Which leads to more potential errors.

I happily loaded the new manuscript to Smashwords just as I was about to collect the children from preschool, only to immediately spot two typos. Given how tired I’ve been for most of August I’m sure there are plenty more. So now I have to read it through again and try to spot mistakes, which is fiendishly hard in your own work! I’m also scared to read the book through again, as I’ll want to change more and more things. I know this isn’t the best book ever written and, following on from the free book debate, I feel like I’m letting down every other self-published author if I publish a book that isn’t outstanding.

I long for the day when I can afford a structural edit, a final edit and a proof read, though I can’t see when it’s coming.

Shopping for flowers

Shopping for flowers

The general view on the cheap and free book debate was that it goes hand in hand with the poorly-edited mistake-ridden books of the self published author and how both are potentially career ending. Maybe I should have published under a pseudonym, thus giving myself the option of a fresh start should it all go wrong.

In the meantime I’m seriously considering having the book converted to an audio book so I can at least save my eyes when I run through it again. Has anyone ever done that? I’d be interested to hear your views. I have so many books I want to read right now, mine just isn’t one of them. I know how it ends for a start!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

_____________________________________________________________________________

All around was chaos. Children screamed, parents shouted and still the ship rocked. Claire dug her fingers into the arm rests and concentrated on not vomiting. She sensed Bethan looking round, calmly assessing the situation, trying to ascertain what was going on. A tiny part of Claire’s mind envied the girl’s calm, while the rest was grateful for it. At least one of them could stay together in a crisis.

Eventually Bethan got up and went to peer out of the window, gripping onto chairs for support as the boat pitched around like a fairground ride. Claire closed her eyes and waited for her new friend to return. When she felt a touch on her arm she jumped, and Bethan’s squeal made them both laugh.

“Sorry, you scared me,” Claire said through gritted teeth. “What’s happening?”

“We’re in Picton, as far as I can tell, but we haven’t docked. It looks like we might have hit the wharf. They’re scurrying around out there like rats.”

Claire glanced around the ferry. “Not much difference in here.”

She stopped talking as a voice came over the loud-speaker. Straining to hear the words above the hubbub, Claire groaned as they sunk into her foggy brain.

“We apologise for the delay. We are unable to dock due to some damaged sustained to the docking equipment. Please remain seated and we will keep you updated.”

Dropping her head back against the seat, Claire heaved out a sigh.

Great.

*

Two hours passed, and then three. The same announcement came across the tannoy, asking them to remain calm, informing them that every effort was being made to allow them to disembark. The children around them had mostly fallen asleep, or were plugged into iPods and tablets. Claire was surprised no one was handing out free drinks or food, not that she could have eaten anything. Despite its lack of forward motion, the ferry still rolled around until Claire had forgotten what it meant to be still.

When the tannoy crackled into life again, Claire barely heard the words, until one stood out.

“… Wellington. Once more we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”

The cabin erupted. All around her, adults began talking, gesturing, demanding to see a manager. People talked of missed appointments and events. The children, sensing adventure, came to life, adding their yells and screams to the mayhem.

Claire turned to Bethan for more information and saw the girl grinning. Is she ever bothered by anything?

“Why is everyone so upset?” Claire stretched, conscious of just how long she had sat in the same chair, without food or drink. “Aren’t we getting off? I need to pee.”

“No, we’re not getting off.” Bethan laughed, quietly, drawing frowns from the passengers around her. “We’re going back to Wellington.”

***

Heat and Time-Eating Hell: 2013 365 Challenge #191

We are so lucky to have these beautiful birds flying overhead

We are so lucky to have these beautiful birds flying overhead

CreateSpace approved my cover PDF yesterday (I wasn’t expecting them to). I am impressed, because they adjusted the spine width and the bleed area, at no cost, in order to approve the picture for print.

Unfortunately I spotted a missing full stop in the ‘blurb’ and I wasn’t entirely happy with their revised spine. But, boy oh boy, tweaking an adobe file EATS time. I spent so long working on it last night I didn’t get around to doing my post, so I’m desperately writing this when I should be making the kids’ pack lunches for preschool this morning.

(Pre-school drop-off takes so long I don’t get home until after my 10am deadline. Unless I get my Claire post written now, too, today’s post will be a tad late!)

Dive-bombing the paddling pool

Dive-bombing the paddling pool

My only complaint about CreateSpace vs Lulu (my preferred print-on-demand service) is I can’t seem to find a PDF template on CreateSpace. That’s not to say one doesn’t exist. And they do have detailed instructions on sizes. However, I followed those detailed instructions and still apparently got it wrong.

With Lulu, you can download a PDF template and include it as a layer in adobe, to build the cover on top of (sorry if this is too much boring information!). Ah well. The proofreader won’t be finished for three weeks, so I have time to play! I just have to be stronger-willed about when.

Sliding in super-fast

Sliding in super-fast

The heat is also frying my brain at the moment. I know, it makes people in proper hot countries laugh, because it’s only in the high twenties (C) here. But we’ve had eighteen months of rubbish weather, so I’m acclimatised to rain and jeans. I don’t have the clothing or the temperament for hot! Chasing kids with sun cream, hats and water is exhausting.

Thankfully, I am super-fortunate that there is a drop-in centre in town on a Tuesday where some lovely ladies from the Methodist (or Baptist?) church provide tea and coffee, toast and toys, so the children can play and the Mummies can chat.

Hot dog trying to stay cool

Hot dog trying to stay cool

My son doesn’t normally enjoy it, but yesterday the courtyard was open and they sat out having a picnic. Kids love picnics. Plus there was cake. Can’t go wrong with free cake.

Then we went to the pocket park and another picnic. Home for milk and quiet time (and more tea for Mummy to try and stay awake!). Why is it that hot weather is so exhausting?

In the afternoon we took the dog to the Farm, because it’s getting hard to walk her with all the fields overgrown. She enjoyed the fuss made of her by the staff, but she didn’t like that she wasn’t allowed to chase the ducks and birds. My kids spent an hour watching the staff feeding the ferrets, mice, rats and guinea pigs, and I spent the time convincing Kara that they animals weren’t her dinner!

Then home for paddling pool and tea. At least the kids found a way to stay cool, sliding into the paddling pool and covering the decking with water. I’m really impressed with how my daughter has overcome her fear of getting her face wet. At the weekend she swam for the first time without her float jacket on and last night, in the paddling pool, she was more adventurous than her brother! That’s a first.

The kites are loving the weather. We have two or three pairs of them that fly over the house. When the electricity cables are taken down later in the year, we’ll be able to entice them into the garden. I’m looking forward to getting some amazing pictures. Life is good.

________________________________________________________________________________

Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

________________________________________________________________________________

Ruth’s words haunted Claire. All during the evening, as she battled to put Sky to bed. During the night, instead of sleeping, the phrase Life’s too short echoed round her head. The lure of running away to New Zealand grew stronger, the longer Kim remained silent. Claire had sent her friend a grovelling text message, unwilling to intrude on the remainder of her wedding weekend by phoning. But Kim’s silence was deafening.

Would it be running away? Or running to? She tried to imagine what it would be like, being so far from home. No different to being on holiday. Four hours on a flight or twenty-four, it isn’t all that different. And how different could it be, staying in Kiwi hostels, compared with the UK ones? They looked a bit more informal, but some of the bunkhouses in the UK were pretty basic.

By the time the sun peered through the curtains, Claire dragged herself upright with a muggy head, no closer to a decision. Heading downstairs to make Ruth breakfast in bed, she was surprised to hear laughter coming from the kitchen.

Sky and Ruth sat opposite each other at the pine table. Sky was gesturing, telling some story from their trip to the Farm, and Ruth’s face was alight with amusement. When Claire caught the drift of her niece’s words, she flushed.

“Well, it was disgusting. I’m sorry, I had no idea a cow’s tongue is about a foot long and covered with slime. It slobbered halfway up my arm.” Claire shuddered at the memory of feeding the giant black and white beasts in the barn.

“I can’t believe you did it. I won’t go near them. Sheep, yes, they’re gentle. Even the goats are okay, if they don’t head-butt you. But those cows! Yuck.” Ruth giggled.

Claire blushed hotter as her sister and niece revelled in her discomfort. After a moment, she joined in. “I got my own back, anyway.”

“Yes!” Sky said, snorting with laughter, “You wiped your hands all over me.”

Ruth turned to raise an eyebrow at her sister, her smile slipping.

“Only her hands, and we washed them straight away.” Taking a seat at the table, Claire poured cereal into a bowl. “You’re both up bright and early for a bank holiday.”

“School hours become a habit,” Ruth shrugged. “Besides, I feel great today. You must have tired Sky out, yesterday, as she slept right through.” She shone a grateful glance at her sister.

“Glad to help.”

There was silence, as the three of them concentrated on their food. Claire was relieved to see Sky and Ruth both eating well. It was gratifying to see that her presence had a positive effect. The see-saw of indecision in her mind swung back down to staying put in the UK. Her job was to help her sister get better, not gad about on beaches and in rain forests.

“Where to next then, Claire?” Ruth looked up with genuine curiosity. Claire realised it was the first time her sister had shown any interest in her career.

“I don’t know. There are still loads of hostels in Wales I haven’t covered. Plus, of course the whole of the South of England, and a bunch I need to pick up that weren’t open when I was up north.” She said the last phrase in her best impression of a northern accent, and Ruth giggled again.

“It must be fun, seeing the country, getting to meet new people. I love the blog. You should write a book.”

With a stab of guilt, Claire thought about the job offer. She wondered if she should tell Ruth, ask her advice. It was so nice having a normal conversation with her, though, she was reluctant to spoil it. Ruth’s reactions could be unpredictable, particularly where opportunity and money were concerned.

“Maybe I will. Write a book. Lots of the people who follow the book are authors, with self-published books to promote. It seems quite easy, although I don’t know who would buy it, when all my adventures are there on the blog for free.”

Ruth sat forward, her hands clasped loosely round a glass of juice. “I’d buy it. There must be stuff you don’t put on the blog. Things that the YHA wouldn’t approve of?”

Claire thought about the unnamed Scotsman. Josh. The wedding show-down. Yes, there was plenty of drama. Perhaps that would be a better option than running away down under. She could head down to Cornwall instead, and lose herself in words.

“I’ll bear it in mind. Thanks, sis.”

***

RUE (Resist the urge to edit!): 2013 365 Challenge #183

Cheeky Thomas

Cheeky Thomas

I finally sent Baby Blues to the proofreader today.

I like that sentence. Somehow it makes me feel more like a proper author.

Even though I know the person I chose is more used to working on business documents, I have every confidence that she will pick up all the typos and poor grammar in my novel. And, the bonus part? I don’t have to read it again and find another dozen things wrong.

A book is never finished. But, having a deadline, giving it to someone else, that marks an ending.

I used to find the same with my paintings. Often they were better if I worked to a tight deadline, because I didn’t over-think or over-work them. In the end, my paintings became too bland, too safe, as I worried about giving them a professional finish. I think the same could happen with a novel. I merrily hacked out sections of Baby Blues, to both reduce the word count and resolve point of view issues.

I'm as happy as a little boy on a train!

I’m as happy as a little boy on a train!

Once you start hacking, though, it’s hard to stop. There were at least two chapters I thought about pulling but kept in, lest the story become too bare. Has the manuscript suffered from losing 7000 of mostly internal thought? Probably not, although possibly some of the depth of understanding about character motivation may have gone. Unlikely.

There’s an acroynm, a phrase, in editing. RUE. Resist the Urge to Explain. Trust your readers get it, without hammering it home with a mallet. The first time I edited BBWS, I wrote RUE all over the manuscript. It’s easy to want to make sure your readers know what you and your characters really mean.

I think that’s why so many scenes ended up with me presenting the internal thoughts of both protagonists (and I can also see how confusing that can get).

I really hope Baby Blues does well, but for now it’s out of my hands. Time to get back to Claire, back to the children, back to Wimbledon and walking the dog. What would I really like to do right now (it’s 5pm)?

Go back to bed!

______________________________________________________________________________________

Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

______________________________________________________________________________________

Claire strode down the corridor, hoping the surge of anger didn’t fade before she reached her room. In her head, she replayed Michael’s words, and pushed all thoughts of Kim aside. Time enough to worry about her friend when she had her things and was safely away from the wedding. She had no idea where she would go, but that, too, could wait.

As she stalked past guests, she caught occasional glimpses of their faces. Some merely looked shocked to see her striding past like the grim reaper. Others glared and made noises as if to berate her. She shook them off like pesky flies.

At last the bedroom door was in front of her. She hoped, for a moment, that Michael had been bluffing and had re-joined the party. It would be a relief to collect her things and leave, with no more words spoken. Then his voice echoed in her mind, as he called her childish. His smug, arrogant voice, as he’d explained how he intended to brow-beat her into submission.

Bastard.

Claire flung open the door and had the satisfaction of seeing Michael jump. Before he could gather himself, she swept in and began collecting her things together. Hot words filled her mouth, but she knew the shaking in her limbs would betray her if she spoke. If she could gather everything up before Michael had a chance to open his mouth, he could hurl whatever accusations he liked at her retreating back.

It was a vain hope.

“What are you doing?”

“Packing.”

“I can see that.” He leant back against the headboard. “I mean, where are you going? It’s nearly midnight. We’re miles from anywhere. You can’t leave.”

“Watch me.”

Michael sat up, narrowly missing head-butting the top bunk. He swung his feet to the floor and glared up at her.

“Claire, you’re being childish. Go and find Kim, apologise. We’ll sleep on it and everything will seem a hundred times better in the morning.”

“Apologise? I have nothing to be sorry for. It was you who blurted her secret out to the whole party.”

“And who told me that secret in the first place?” He raised an eyebrow at her, and she itched to slap him.

“I only said she wanted a baby. You put it together in your mind, because you’re obsessed. Honestly, Michael, what is it with you? I didn’t think men had a biological clock?”

She looked over at him, on her way to the bathroom to get her things, and saw something in his expression, a vulnerability, that made her hesitate. There was a reason behind his desire to be a dad. For a moment she wanted to know what it was. Then his face shifted and resumed the smug expression he had worn since the party. Resuming her journey to the en-suite, she spoke over her shoulder.

“I will apologise to Kim when she’s had a chance to calm down. I won’t encroach on her special day any further.  Walking back into the bedroom, she stood facing him, hands on hips.

“As for staying here tonight, I don’t think that’s appropriate, do you? I shall find a motel. Make yourself scarce tomorrow. You are not welcome, and I do not want to see you here when I return.” She stuffed the last of her things into her bag, enjoying the stunned silence.

Soon everything was packed, and it seemed she would escape without any more words from Michael. As she reached the door, he spoke.

“You’ve changed, Claire. You’ve grown hard. You never used to be this confrontational.”

She turned and smiled. “Well, more fool me. I haven’t grown hard, Michael, I’ve grown up. You should try it some time.”

With that she wrenched open the door and stormed down the corridor.

***