By Cherry, 26-Apr-2013 15:03:00
‘Adtwentures in Twitterland’ I called it, the post about my befuddled entry into the magic of Twitter. But that was over a year ago.
I know how it all works now. These days I promote two novels on there, when I remember that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, although since I’ve only ever once bought a book seen on Twitter (pause to listen to the chorus of clicking authors unfollowing me) I’m not convinced it sells many.
The good news first. I’ve got some wonderful twittermates, and I’ve now met four of my favourites in person. Unbelievably, this includes the top flamenco artist with whom I’d started doing a language exchange (we’ve even done a bilingual radio show together) – although we’ve rather moved over to Skype these days. I’m grateful to Twitter for putting some very special people in my life.
Possibly also good news: I’m more aware of current events, and by following the right people I can be fed all the latest about dance, music, flamenco, Spain, Lindt chocolate flavours… Great. But do I have time for all this, as well as all the banter with my twiends?
I did, when my tweeting was confined to the computer. But then I got a mobile with internet, and now… Well, a study has showed that Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes or alcohol, and I can believe it.
Are you going to join me at Twitterholics Atwonymous? Take my test and see how you rate. Twitterholism (IMHO) can be measured by three main features. I’ve added my own shameful examples to set the ball rolling.
How often do you tweet absolute drivel? It’s not a good sign; you’re starting to see your daily life in terms of tweetability.
Almost Daily Score 2
Sometimes Score 1
Never Score 0
• Sandwich choices on plane: ham and cheese, bacon and cheese…#Queasyjet
• Aaaaaa-TCHOO!!! :-((
How often do you waste a significant / worrying amount of your day on Twitter? E.g. you later realise you could have finished a book chapter.
Almost Daily Score 4
Sometimes Score 2
Never Score 0
Too many days there’s an extra hour in bed in the morning while I catch up with Twitter and its newsfeeds. This morning in fact, instead of getting on with the monthly blog post. So I changed topic and decided to shame myself on here.
How often are you on Twitter when loved ones are with you in the room or needing you elsewhere? And no, if they are also on Twitter at the time, that doesn’t make it any better.
Almost Daily Score 4
Sometimes Score 2
Never Score 0
I’ve left a teenager waiting to be picked up at a freezing station while I finished a gripping twonversation. Although I did send him a tweet with emojis to apologise :-/
ARE YOU A TWITTERHOLIC?
Score <3/10: No. You have admirable control / infrequent internet access
Score 4-5/10: Mild Twitterholic. Careful.
Score >6/10: Twitterholic. I’m at 6. Where are you? From TODAY, let’s beat this thing.
PS I just did a Google search and found a long list of signs of Twitterholism. Including: You still think adding "Tw" to words is clever. #ohtwuck
By Cherry, 26-Apr-2013 15:00:00
Here’s the post about my befuddled entry into Twitter. In all its happy innocence. Read, and then I’ll give you an update…
‘Facebook yes, but I’m just not doing this Twitter thing,’ I emailed my publisher.
An emergency meeting. An impossibly young thing from Marketing, an illustrated hand-out. Sipping tea while watching myself christened @CherryRad and assigned a ‘profile’ that would surely make the Twitterworld think I was the sassy salsera on my book cover – was that a good idea?
Although a flutter of interest when a handsome famous ballet dancer suddenly popped up and ‘followed’ me – perhaps thinking Men Dancing was a technique book. Next came a grinning fellow author woman from Texas with whom I was a perfect match with regards to genre, piano playing and chocolate. I was allowed home once I’d been seen graciously reciprocating their followships.
The idea, I’d been told, was to attract Followers. Before my novel was even out. Utterly ludicrous. But I set to, feverishly clicking Follow next to every woman claiming to be an avid reader and/or Strictly Come Dancing fan. Tweets: 0, Following: 83, Followers: 7 (but including my publisher and the local pizza take-away). Occasionally pausing to reward myself with some non-productive following of top flamenco artists, marvelling at their real-time exchanges about a show or a plate of tapitas.
Impossibly Young emailed to say well done, but now Tweet. Meaning create clever <140 character sentences designed to sell the book, you-are-a-writer-after-all. I wasn’t sure about that, but nervously put out thoughts about the usual things I bang on about – writing, Spanish, music, dance and chocolate.
Something happened. A host of characters started to emerge – I felt like I’d fallen down a hole and entered an extraordinary new world. Yes, people do say what they’ve had for breakfast. Yes, I’m ‘followed’ by individuals with inexplicable motives (war veterans, hot rod racers and female porn stars), and a stream of people shouting about their novel or steadily working their way through a book of quotes. Can’t like everyone; worlds are like that. But I now enjoy the company of some wonderful human beings with whom I’ve got much more in common than many of the people I call friends. They’ve taken over my instruction; questions about Retweets and #hashtags prompted a flurry of helping hands. We share our passions and humour, good days and bad. I’m now Tweets: 589, Following: 347, Followers: 400. Books Sold: who cares. Oh, and I’m swapping languages with my favourite flamenco artist in the vaulted Direct Messaging area. #Whowouldhavethought.
By Cherry, 06-Mar-2013 14:08:00
Mother’s Day. But do I deserve it? Both my novels take a long, challenging look at the issue of mothering.
FLAMENCO BABY follows Yolande, a single musician deafened by her body clock after yet another romantic rejection. During the course of the book she looks at most of the options… Here she is after her gay best friend Jeremy has just declined to be a sperm donor:
Love and sex. Or rather love, sex and trust: was there any hope of finding one man who could offer all three? On the evidence so far, no.
But I’ll be seeing Jeremy later, I told myself, and he might still change his mind… I busied myself tidying up the living room, practised a tricky accompaniment.
Then they came, and I was glad to be distracted by Olivia’s grinning chubby face as she played The Entertainer; Romilly’s wilfully wacky take on the Grade One piano pieces; chatty Alison, who used to come in a tartan school pinafore dress but was now my height and considerably better made-up. Then there was Michael – already producing a beautiful tone on the flute, an intelligent boy with a dry sense of humour. Sensitive. The sort of child we could have if…
Love, sex, trust and… children: an even taller order. In fact, I didn’t know anybody who seemed to have achieved all of these – or not with anybody I considered worth having them with. That was the problem; nobody was ever going to match up to Jeremy. He’d spoilt me, set a standard, queered my pitch – ha-ha – literally.
Perhaps I’d have to separate the factors. Love and trust with Jeremy, intermittently sharing him with a man; sex with whoever was healthy, attractive and available for it; and a baby with… well, whoever was healthy, attractive and available for it. Possibly the same man, initially. What did they call it on that website? Natural insemination by the donor.
I should have been leaving for the rehearsal, but I was back in the second bedroom, the computer helping to conjure the father of the room’s future occupant. I clicked on the sperm donor website I’d saved in my favourites – under a discreet ‘sd’, as if keeping it a secret even from myself. But up came a message: The traffic limit for the site you are attempting to access is exceeded. There were obviously bloody thousands of us; you’d think there’d recently been a war, there was such a dearth of Mr Rights.
And here she is considering dishonourable solutions to her dilemma:
I pulled it from my pocket. ‘It’s [ex-boyfriend] David. Helen must have called him. I’d love to see you. Lunch soon? Please call. Four kisses.’
‘That’s kind of him,’ Jeremy said. ‘Perhaps you should.’
‘Should what?’ I snapped the phone shut. ‘Although, actually… it’s not a bad idea. I’m off the pill now…’
‘What? That would be horrendously deceitful, I can’t believe you—’
‘He’s been horrendously deceitful—’
‘My God, you can’t really be thinking of becoming a sperm bandit.’
‘Sperm bandit. That’s what they call women who trick men into fatherhood.’
‘Really?’ I grinned, seeing an image of myself pulling at David’s clothes with a scarf over my mouth. ‘I’m joking, you idiot!’
‘Hm. Just leave this baby thing for a few months and concentrate on getting healthy, learning flamenco, feeling good about yourself. Then you’ll be able to think straight and make some decisions. Okay?’
I read out my reply to David. ‘Thank you. Will call and have lunch in…’ How long is it going to take me to get my head together, d’you think?’
‘Working full-time at it? Well let’s see… three months? April. Spring. A fully-fledged flamenco bailora by then, dando la verdad, as they say. Giving the truth. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?’
Meanwhile back in MEN DANCING, Rosie has moments of feeling she has two more children than she should have had; many things in her life have come easily to her, but motherhood isn’t one of them.
I can relate to this. The baby stage – hopeless with the paraphernalia (once trapped my finger in the pram for a full fifteen minutes). The toddler stage – Jesus. Only survived by spending every possible moment within the sticky, reassuring walls of soft-play gyms. Primary school age – conversation, books, music, football… at last, the motherhood I’d dreamed about. But by then I had a second child, who – although now delightful at 14 – has Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit; we had a chequered and often painful first ten years. The adolescent stage – I never discuss work-in-progress! But if you read Men Dancing you’ll form an opinion as to my success there. I’m hoping to redeem myself with the young adult period.
Meanwhile I’ll leave you with this not completely fictional excerpt in which Rosie takes her Aspie son to his second dance class:
His shoulders were going up: not a good sign.
‘That’s Charles,’ he said loudly. Oh dear. The same height as Kenny, meaning he’d be two years older and therefore about four years ahead in social skills. Charles walked past with a gracious nod and sat down to change into his dancing shoes.
‘I want those,’ Kenny said.
‘Please may I have. Of course we’ll buy you some, once we know you’re...’ Once we know you’re not going to get kicked out. Because otherwise they’ll hurt me every time I open your wardrobe – just like the taekwondo outfit, Arties overall and Dolphins swimming cap do.
The teacher arrived with her register and cash box. She was vast; do these ballroom dancing teachers so miss competing, when they get older, that they eat themselves into elegant battleships? But fat and jolly she was not. She took my four pounds without a word and left me wondering whether I was supposed to watch the class, in case Kenny became difficult, or wait in the cramped reception area – where pictures of her and her protégées encouraged you to question whether you were wasting her time.
I took a seat just outside the door. Kenny was talking at the black-girl-with-wet-hands, who smiled briefly and moved away. Battleship was demonstrating the steps, her thickly muscular legs improbably supported by dainty high-heeled feet. They were asked to pair up. In my salsa class the out-numbered men are immediately grabbed like musical chairs, but for these pre-teen girls this potential new partner, a real boy for heaven’s sake, seemed to be surrounded by a negative force field.
There was music now – a passionate Latin number that could have been a tango. A couple of older girls arrived early for the next class and pushed the door open wider.
‘A new boy – look.’
The other girl nudged her out of the way. ‘Oh yes.’ She watched for a while. ‘Charles doesn’t look too happy.’
So I wondered whether Kenny had latched on to Charles and bored him to bits. Or taken offence at a misread facial expression and stuck his leg out. Either way, distraction of the class star would be a heinous and probably unforgivable crime.
The girls sat down to share a bag of crisps so I took up their position. But I couldn’t see Kenny; either he was on the far side of the room or he’d been told to sit down.
So I went back to my chair and texted one of the most talented male dancers in the country. Then sat daydreaming about him teaching my oddball son to dance salsa... with one of his sister’s sunny-natured daughters. That’s it; she and her children would be over from Cuba and staying with him in his flat, in the spare room. He’d move the sofa over to make space and put on a Cuban CD, show Kenny how to lead his niece put his shoulders down and look like a man...
‘Kenny’s Mum?’ She turned on her heel before I could answer.
Shit. I was tempted to say no, we’re leaving, fuck-you. After all, it wasn’t school; I didn’t have to listen to her. But I followed her into the studio, where other parents, I now noticed, had been sitting on chairs watching.
‘I just need to catch Charles’ mother,’ she said, sailing over to her.
‘Did you have a good time?’ I asked a spinning Kenny.
‘A good time? It’s good time, good timing, time to be good...’
I nodded and looked away. He was on overdrive; there was no chance of getting anything sensible out of him.
She’d floated back. ‘Have you ever done any of this kind of dancing yourself?’
‘No, I er…’
‘You’re going to have to learn.’
Ah. Here we go. Like Taekwondo. I’m going to have to be here at every lesson, a sort of Dance Learning Support Assistant, and if I can’t she won’t have Kenny in the class.
‘Or Kenny could come for one-to-one.’
Aha. Like the swimming teacher. At a monstrous price but that’s what Disability Living Allowance is for. But Kenny would want to dance with a little girl, not a battleship.
‘Or maybe both, because it’s early days I know... but I’m looking at Blackpool.’
‘The Junior Dance Festival. Probably with Keisha.’
And I thought, male dancers: a rarity. Musical chairs. Probably any boy that can be sow’s-eared into it will do. ‘He’s only had two lessons. Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to tell? And... my husband did tell you, about Kenny...?’
‘Yes, but if he wants to do it... Show Mummy your waltz Kenny.’ She patted his shoulders firmly. ‘We’ve got a lot of work to do on these,’ she said.
She pressed the button of the music player and counted him in. He took hold of her and waltzed her round the room as if she were Cinderella.
By Cherry, 05-Feb-2013 11:58:00
It’s been a slow seduction. Starting with a bit of flamenco ‘fusion’ (Ketama) and ‘chill’ (Chambao) bands in the car in Spain. Followed by my partner’s playing of these and some guitarist albums (Vicente Amigo, Tomatito) at home – for years, he says, with no comment from me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like them, I protest, but they were just warm Spanish background music; I was into musical theatre at the time.
But maybe there was some subliminal education going on there, because when I went to my first Flamenco Festival at London’s Sadler’s Wells I was so inspired that I decided to use flamenco as a resonant element in my new novel. Research was needed, so I started flamenco dance classes (read the August 2011 post!) and had to take a course in Granada – where I… well, started to turn into a flamenca.
The music took over my iPod and car, the classes intensified; I became entranced by the complex rhythms, the excruciating beauty of those exotic chords, the discordance, the sensuality of it all. Nowadays, even the florid cante (singing) – that used to have me giggling and fast-forwarding – hits me in the gut with its raw emotion.
It isn’t just the music. I also seem to have been taken over by flamenco’s live-in-the-moment ways, where the only things to worry about are being fuera de compás (out of time) or being told ‘no me dice nada’ (you’re not saying anything). I write flamenco: I have ideas as to where the story will go, but let the characters come in and do what they will with it – as long as they keep to pace. Strangely, this creates more truthful and intricate plots than I could devise with my brain. I’ve even started to think flamenco, with less fretting over the future…
Is all this a good thing? Well, there are drawbacks. Such as an increase in dust, clutter and unopened letters round the house. And I’m more easily distracted than ever; there are powerful tracks in my car – like ‘Dos Punales’ (Two Daggers) on Josemi Carmona’s ‘Las Pequenas Cosas’ CD – that often have me ending up in the wrong town.
But there’s no turning back now. On February 15th 2013 my flamenco seduction will have the happy outcome of the birth of my new novel, FLAMENCO BABY. Olé!
By Cherry, 09-Jan-2013 14:59:00
Do I like writing sex scenes? Yes. But only because I’ve developed some rules that keep me blush-free. I thought I’d share these with any new novelists out there getting their knickers in a twist.
1. NO BODY PARTS
There are simply no names for the relevant bits that don’t evoke an element of smut, comedy or memories of pre-teen dictionary-searching. Besides, we already know what condition the parts have to be in and what (usually) goes where; that’s just biology, we can do better than that.
Also to be avoided are unedifying descriptions such as ‘randy’; the ‘show rather than tell’ rule of writing is more important than ever in the bedroom (or wherever). And while a woman describing herself as ‘horny’ sounds a bit cheap, I think we can all sympathise with one who says:
I’d gone into a stupor, my brain taken over by a primal need to be as entwined with him as possible on a large soft surface; it was just a question of how to get there.
2. NO PUPPETS
Concentrate on the sensuality rather than the sexuality. Let’s have a multisensory experience while we’re at it! Visual description alone will just give you something like the hilarious (but highly recommended) puppet sex scene from the film Team America: World Police.
Sometimes I think humour is the sixth sense. Here’s a couple getting inspiration from that very scene in Team America:
‘And you want see marioneta sex again?’
Of course I did. More laughter, but holding back a little; aware that we could hardly act this one out. Or at least I was. Because he then lay back, his head on the arm of the sofa, and acted the hero.
‘I can’t help it, this feels so right and I don’t want anything mess it up,’ he said, with a hopelessly inadequate American accent.
‘Shh, mustn’t talk Gary,’ I whispered seductively, pointing with the guffaw-inducing vague puppet finger that misses his mouth and pokes him in the eye, ‘there’s not a thing in the world that can mess this up.’
Then we made explosion noises and tossed the cushions into the air, shaking and wheezing with laughter. Perhaps he moved the shoulder I was leaning on to keep my balance – perhaps deliberately, come to think of it – but suddenly I fell on top of him, our faces an inch apart.
‘Oh! That was close – I nearly head-butted you!’ I said, laughing again and trying to get myself up. But his arm came round me.
‘No, stay,’ he said, twisting his body slightly and his leg pushing on mine until I no longer had a foot on the floor, so that all of me was lying on top of him. It was suddenly very quiet in the room. I was sort of trapped and I couldn’t meet his gaze anymore, so I tucked my head under his chin and let myself melt into his warm, firm body. Just for a moment, I told myself. Just a bit longer. Oh God.
‘Is so nice, no?’ he said. Gently. The softness of his voice lowering my defences, lulling me into receptivity, an acceptance of the inevitable. After all, I could hear myself thinking, it’s going to happen sooner or later. Late or soon.
His hand slid under my blouse, stroked my back, tickling my sides deliciously. He started to kiss me. Then all of a sudden he needed to be in control: he turned me over and was swiftly undoing the buttons, kissing my tummy, his hand coming up under my skirt, murmuring something in Spanish that I couldn’t quite catch...
3. SEX = DIALOGUE
Think of sex as just another form of dialogue between the characters; it’s a great way of showing what’s going on between them. For example, look what this usually gentle chap does when he’s feeling threatened:
He led me into the bedroom without bothering with the light, and started to undo his jeans. No first clearing up and getting ready for bed tonight then, I thought, a flutter of excitement shooting through me. But when he pushed me down onto the bed before I could take my top off I realised there wasn’t going to be much else first either. Then he yanked down my jeans and knickers and was on top of me, pushing in hard then just lying there, silent, his face in darkness.
‘Javi?’ I put my arms round him, stroked his t-shirted back and waited for the Javi I knew to come back. I could hardly breathe. I wriggled underneath him.
He put a hand to my cheek. ‘Is where I want to be. Te quiero tanto.’ He wanted or loved me so much. Perhaps both. ‘Es problema."
‘No es problema."
And conversely, dialogue can be enticing, even if one of the characters appears to be declining…
‘Look, I’m sorry if I’ve given you the wrong idea but…’ I wouldn’t sleep with you again if you were the very last man on earth. That’s what I thought. Then, too weary to come up with anything else, said it.
His smile faded. ‘Qué?’
‘Well, I don’t think I can make it much clearer than that.’
‘No entiendo. In Spanish.’
I gave him a subjunctive-free rendition. ‘It’s an expression.’
He laughed. ‘Is stupid expression. Woman wants a baby.’
‘If one man in world. And any-way, why is so bad, if we sleep before…’
‘Sleep? That’s hardly the word! You just buggered off, scarpered, desapareciste in the night. Not a note or a phone number, nada.’ I started to feel shaky.
He breathed out heavily and shook his head. ‘Yoli, I have explained before, I try to make more easy for you.’
I sipped my drink. Damn it, I thought, if he knows I’m in love with him – if that’s what I am – he could at least have the grace to pretend he hasn’t noticed.
Hm. Perhaps I should reassure you that my heroines do occasionally fall for non-hispanics…
But there you are. Just concentrate on ‘how’ rather than ‘what’, listen to what they’re saying, and enjoy it!
Flamenco Baby (15th February 2013, available for pre-order)
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