The Secret Ingredient

Or a little shameless self-promotion.

I had written another post for today, but it felt wrong not to give this space over to the launch of my new novel, officially published today. The Secret Ingredient is my eighth book. Coincidentally, my mum had eight babies. I wonder if she ever felt it would be expecting too much of people to be excited for her by number eight? Even though I have no doubt she loved that baby – my little sister – as much as the rest of us, and felt just as proud and elated … if perhaps, a little more tired!

By novel no. 8, I don’t expect everyone to experience the same thrill they did when my first book, Call Waiting, was published. My family are very proud of me, but it’s what I do now. There’s not the same level of excitement when my advance copy comes. It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s great, Mum. Congrats … What did you say we were having for dinner?’

Same with friends. ‘You’ve got another book coming out? But aren’t you writing at the moment?’

‘Yes, I’m working on the next one.’

‘So what will this be, six … seven now?’

There is no way the heightened level of excitement that accompanied that first book – even the first two or three – could be sustained. It would be impossible, and exhausting. I couldn’t do it, so I can hardly expect everyone else to.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not proud, and happy, and that I feel a very real sense of achievement. With the publication of The Secret Ingredient, I have over a million words in print. That boggles my mind. But more than that, the characters are part of my psyche now, taking their place alongside the characters from all my previous books.

So here’s to them! I hope they’re all right out in the big wide world, without me overseeing everything they do. They’re on their own now. I’m on to number nine …

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In sickness and in health

Well, any of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know I’ve had the flu, because I have had a bit of a whinge about it. I made it through winter relatively unscathed, so it was probably bound to happen. There are many perks when you write for a living – you can slop around in trackies, work at whatever time of the day or night that suits you – but one of the downsides is that you don’t get sick leave, or anyone to take over for you when you are sick. The book doesn’t write itself in your absence. You don’t return to your desk to find that the next couple of chapters are there, waiting for you to look over.

However, this early in the piece, and this far away from the deadline, I didn’t feel too frantic. I was just sick enough not to care. You know the different levels of illness? At a milder level – say, head cold – it’s just irritating, but when it steps up to include aches and pains and fever flushes, you don’t give a toss any more about missing work or missing whole days, you just have to go and lie down. I had to beg off a couple of social engagements that I had been really looking forward to, but even the idea of them was too much to contemplate.

The only thing that did get me out of the house last week was my youngest son’s graduation from Year 12. Mothering is another occupation with no sick leave. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world – it was momentous, the grand finale of 25 years of end-of-school ceremonies. However, feeling less than a hundred percent obviously stopped me from becoming quite as emotional as I thought I would, which was probably just as well for everyone around me. I’m not good at endings, they make me cry.

Coincidentally, I had the flu when this particular child weaned himself. They say babies sometimes do that when Mum is sick; it doesn’t taste right or something. Anyway, he had to be brought to me in my sick bed for his last feed of the night, and he had a little try, but then turned away, uninterested. He didn’t fuss or cry or fret, he just didn’t want it. I offered it the next morning, and through the day, and the evening, but he had no interest at all, he wasn’t at all bothered, and I was too sick to really persist. A few days later, when I was well again, I realised that my last baby had had his last feed ever, and I hadn’t been paying attention. And there was nothing I could do about it by then, which may have been just as well.

I read a beautiful quote on Twitter over the weekend from the singer, Kate Miller Heidke, “There was a day when your mum/dad put you down, and they never picked you up again. They didn’t realise it was the last time.”

Just as well we don’t realise it’s the last time, or how could we ever let them go?