Tiny Acts of Love ~ A Funny Romantic Novel
Today I'm delighted to welcome
a guest post from the author of 'Tiny Acts of Love'. Today is a very special day as it's PUBLICATION DAY!
Surviving motherhood? It's all about having the right support network.
Lawyer and new mum Cassie has a husband who converses mainly through jokes, a best friend on the other side of the world, and a taskforce of Babycraft mothers who make her feel she has about as much maternal aptitude as
Husband Jonathan dismisses Cassie’s maternal anxieties, but is he really paying attention to his struggling wife? He’s started sleep talking and it seems there’s more
on his mind than he’s letting on. Then sexy, swaggering ex-boyfriend Malkie saunters into Cassie’s life again.
Unlike Jonathan, he ‘gets’ her. He’d like to get her into bed again, too…
And on top of all her emotional turmoil, she also finds herself advising a funeral director on ghost protocol and becomes involved in an act of hotel spa fraud, never mind hiding cans of wasp spray all over
the house to deal with the stalker who seems to be lurking everywhere she looks. Marriage and motherhood isn’t the fairytale Cassie thought it would be. Will her strange new world fall apart around her or will tiny acts of love be enough to get her through?
Funny, perceptive and real, Tiny Acts of Love portrays the rawness of motherhood, the flipside of love and the powerful lure of paths not taken.
I’d been awake for eighty-six hours when I realised what my husband had done. We’d just got home from the hospital and he was upstairs holding Sophie so that I could make myself a
cup of tea and possibly have a nap.
But by the time I’d inched my way to the kitchen, tea-making seemed too daunting a task – something I’d been used to doing in a
previous life, but not now. From the fridge magnets and the Isle of Skye tea towel to the strand of spaghetti dried onto the hob, everything seemed familiar but distant, as though I’d returned to a house I’d lived in a long time ago.
My eye caught the laptop, open on the kitchen table. People were bound to have heard about the birth by now – maybe I should check my emails. Perhaps some words of congratulation would flick
a switch, jump-start me, and shake me out of this jittery, twilight world.
To my surprise, I had a hundred and four unread emails, all with identical subject descriptions. I opened
up my sent box, a terrible suspicion forming in my mind. The offending communication was right there at the top.
Subject: 48 Stitches Later!
She has arrived! Sophie Louise Carlisle, a bouncing baby girl 7lb 5oz. Cassie’s waters broke on Monday afternoon
(at work!) and we rushed up to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in a taxi (taxi driver NOT happy). However, she wasn’t dilated enough, so we were sent home. Contractions started overnight, and when we went back the next morning, we were rushed up to the
delivery suite where the midwife decided . . .
Unable to read any more, I opened the attachment. It was a photograph of my top half, naked and white against hospital sheets. I was frowning
in concentration as I tried to coax my nipple into Sophie’s mouth.
It had been sent to every name in my contacts list, including the following recipients:
1. David Galbraith, Senior Partner, Everfield Chase, London office. He’d been the lawyer acting on the other side of a multi-million pound joint venture called Project Vertigo. I’d been advising
on transfer of employment issues and for some reason got involved in some late-night emailing from my home computer.
2. Everyone else from Everfield Chase who had ever worked on Project
Vertigo. This ran to dozens of people, including: Nadeem Madaan (employment law), Bill Harkness (banking), Julie MacDonald (tax), Benjamin Trent (property), and Ashley Green (night typing secretary).
3. Doreen King of HM Revenue & Customs – provider of guidance in relation to a tax issue that had arisen in another corporate transaction.
4. Elliot McCabe, Manager
of Braid Hills Funeral Home – correspondence concerning Great Auntie Judith’s funeral.
5. Renato Di Rollo, Reservations desk, Hotel San Romano. Holiday booking.
6. Malkie Hamilton. Ex-boyfriend. Oh my God.
He eventually appeared, carrying Sophie snug against him on one forearm, supporting her head in his palm.
time for your paracetamol?’ he asked with a bright smile.
‘What . . . is this?’
I whispered, my hand pointing somewhere in the direction of the screen. The effort of twisting my head to look up at him had dissolved my vision into a field of black swirls.
Let me see.’ He peered in closer. ‘It’s the email I wrote in the hospital – remember, the one I showed you?’
‘What? I’ve never seen this before
in my life!’
He paused for a moment, frowning while he considered his response. ‘Well, maybe you were a bit . . . out of it . . . at the time . . .’
Scenes from the birth, fragmented and disconnected, surfaced in my mind: Jonathan fiddling with his BlackBerry during the pushing stage, at around the point where I’d reached a calm acceptance
that I would never get out of that room alive; Jonathan taking pictures as the midwife hauled a purple, blood-stained Sophie onto my chest for skin-to-skin contact; Jonathan waving the BlackBerry in my face just as the haemorrhaging started . . .
‘You needn’t look like that, Cassie. You said it was okay.’
‘I might very well have done. But
I was not of sound mind at the time.’
This lawyerly pronouncement didn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. He merely bent his head and kissed Sophie’s nose
six times. Her arms flew out in a startle reflex. It occurred to me that we’d have to take off the hospital bracelet that still encircled her thin, translucent wrist; she was ours now. I could scarcely believe they’d let us take her home.
‘And anyway.’ I glared at Jonathan again. ‘Then you decided to email it to half the lawyers in the UK?’
‘You’ve managed to send it to all my contacts, which seems to include everybody I’ve ever sent an email to since I got this
He was quiet for a moment, taking this in. ‘Hmmm. You’ll need to change your default settings.’
‘So it’s my fault now?’ Rage was bubbling up in the pit of my stomach, but somehow it wasn’t reaching as far as my voice, or the part of my brain that formed words. I sat back with a big shuddering sigh.
‘Don’t you think you might be overreacting? And besides,’ he said, narrowing his eyes, ‘you’re not supposed to do work emails from a personal email account. You know that,
‘There were other people on that list too.’ I scanned through it again. ‘The damp proofing guy, the fish deliverer . . . people who are now going to
think I’m mad.’
‘So? I hardly think that matters. If you like, I’ll send out another email saying it was my fault, and that it wasn’t intended to reach
Before I could reply, the doorbell rang, and Jonathan rushed off to answer it. He came back beaming, an enormous bouquet of flowers in his non-Sophie arm.
The cellophane screeched as I tore off the card, making Sophie startle again.
‘Congratulations! With best wishes from
the Joint Ventures Team at Everfield Chase.’
With a squeal, I tossed the bouquet onto the table. ‘For God’s sake! It’s from bloody Everfield Chase!’
Jonathan seemed delighted. ‘You see, Cassie, everyone is going to be happy for you. I hope there were some clients on the list too. It’s quite an original marketing tool – you’ll
certainly stand out in their memories, look at it that way.’
‘Yes, I should think the mental image of their employment lawyer naked and breastfeeding in the delivery room
will be quite hard to erase.’
‘I’m sorry, Cassie-Lassie.’ He came over and folded me into a hug with his spare arm. I detached myself and took Sophie from him
– a process that took several moments as I eased my hands around her back, working my fingers upwards to support the back of her head. She felt more like a kitten than a baby; a pliant bag of bones. She curled into an upright position against me, nose
nodding into my shoulder as she tried to move her head, sensing milk nearby. I stroked the nape of her neck with one finger, lost in the utter softness of her skin.
own joint venture, Cassie,’ said Jonathan, curling his palm around the back of Sophie’s head, his eyes looking moist.
And although it was a terrible line, it did make me smile. Because it was his way of saying that
Sophie had been born out of our love, because of our love, and would grow up in our love like a little bud unfurling its petals towards the sun.
Lucy Lawrie was born in Edinburgh, and gained an honours degree in English Literature from Durham University before going on to study law. She worked as a lawyer in Edinburgh for several years, specialising
in Employment and Pensions law. When Lucy was on maternity leave with her first baby, she unearthed a primary two homework book in which she’d stated, in very wobbly handwriting: ‘I want to be an AUTHOR when I grow up.’
To appease her six-year old self, she began writing her first novel.
The overall giveaway on tour is one paperback
copy of Tiny Acts of Love and is open Internationally.
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Tiny Acts of Love is about a young lawyer whose seemingly perfect life unravels in the aftermath of having a baby.
I used to be a lawyer. I’ve had two babies. So people often ask the question: ‘Is it based on your own experience?’
There are two answers to this: ‘Yes,
absolutely!’ and ‘No, not at all!’ Both are equally true. To explain this, I want to talk about the three things you need to write a novel.
there’s the craft of writing – this is like a toolbox. The tools can be used at sentence or paragraph level - adjectives, metaphor, simile, the rhythm and sound of the words, dialogue and humour. Then there are storytelling techniques that work
on a bigger scale – whether that’s over the course of a scene, a chapter or a whole novel. Those include elements like pacing, suspense, unanswered questions, controlling the release of information, juxtaposition of characters, settings and events.
Craft can be learnt, whether that be from ‘how to write’ books, writing workshops, or simply though trial and error.
you need material - something to get working on with those tools. You might have ideas for a story, a plot, themes you’d like to explore, or for a certain type of character. These could be inspired by your own life, but don’t have
to be. If you need material, a useful way to begin is to play the ‘What If?’ game.
I started writing Tiny Acts of Love, I started with myself (I didn’t feel I had anything else to start with!) Cassie, the main character, had an outlook that was basically identical to mine. But then I added in ‘What Ifs’…
So, what if, instead of growing up in a happy, secure family, I’d been brought up by a single, widowed mother struggling for money? How would that have changed me, and the way I approach life?
What if, instead of marrying my real life husband, I’d married someone infuriating like Cassie’s husband Jonathan, full of bounding, puppy-dog enthusiasm, but dismissive of my worries and parenting angst, and not on the same wavelength
at all? How would that have affected my experience as a new mum? What if, instead of having a lovely, supportive antenatal group, I’d got caught up with a taskforce of ultra-competitive mums like the Babycraft group? What if, instead of an understanding
and reasonable employer, I’d had a boss who phoned me at home, three days after giving birth, to land a new case on me?
Once you start the ‘What If?’ game, there’s
no shortage of potential material. I applied it to almost every area of Cassie’s life, and she quickly became her own person, as real, and as ‘other’ to me as a good friend.
you have the material and the tools, the third part is that you have to somehow breathe life into what you’ve made. This is all about the emotions your characters feel.
As far as
this goes, all you have is your own experience. If a character feels jealousy, or regret, or fear, or hope, or heartbreak, the only way you can write that (the only way I can do it, anyway) is to remember a time you felt those emotions,
and incorporate that into the story. That doesn’t mean that your character experiences the same events as you, but rather, simply, that emotions have shapes. You extrapolate those shapes, drawing them on a bigger scale, or perhaps a smaller
one, to fit the events of the book.
To take a minor example, one day a neighbour came round to tell me that someone had been in her garden. There was no break-in, no damage. She only
knew because they’d picked up some stones and lined them up along the top of the patio wall. I remember my physical response to hearing this – a creepy, spidery sensation, like someone running a finger down my back. And a slippery, panicky feeling
at the thought of anyone watching me, or my children, or the house. A similar but more worrying thing happens to Cassie in the book – someone starts leaving anonymous notes, then rearranges the stones in the garden rockery to spell out a message. Cassie’s
reaction is an exaggerated version – a bigger version, if you like - of my own emotional response when my neighbour told me that story.
This technique works for deeper, more complex
emotions too, ones that play across the canvas of a whole book. In Tiny Acts of Love, Cassie’s long lost ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, and every time they spend time together (he’s working at her office), she’s overwhelmed
with yearning for him, and a sense that maybe he was the right one for her all along, and the only person who’ll ever be able to make her happy. This is potentially devastating, given that she’s now married with a new baby. Again, I played the
‘What If?’ game. I remembered back to the aftermath of one of my big breakups (a long time ago!) and the tumultuous feelings I’d had then – full of despair one minute, full of hope and longing the next, and a blind conviction that it
was all, somehow, still meant to be. Then I imagined what it might be like if those feelings had never been resolved - if I’d just buried them, rushed into another relationship, and was feeling them afresh now, in Cassie’s situation, married to
Other writers may approach things very differently. But I like the ‘What If?’ game, because it does something important – it keeps a thread of connection
to yourself. So there is a good chance that the emotions in your novel – and they are the beating heart of it – will come across as real, and honest, and true. That’s when your story will resonate with readers, because what’s real for
you might very well be real for them too, or at least some of them. That’s when they’ll give the magical response: ‘I felt like you were writing about me!’ And suddenly the book is not about me, at all, any more - it’s about them.
As a writer, that’s what makes me happiest of all.