Friday, 13 December 2013

Thrilled, Delighted, Honoured, Proud!

So it's been a tough year (and it's not over yet!) and this week hammered home to me how much has changed in the last twelve months and how much more it will change before my personal life gets sorted out. In the work-write-kids-eat-sleep- repeat of everyday and the feeling that nothing is ever quite finished or good enough, it's very easy to get lost in a downward spiral.

Thankfully the powers that be in the universe have decided to give me an early Christmas present ...and on Friday 13th as well! (They obviously have a wickedly wonderful sense of humour)

Not only have my book babies made it onto a 'Top 12' Christmas list but the list is on the blog of Uproar Comics who I am in awe of and all fangirly (if that's not a real word then it should be!) over. Excited much? Me? Yes, thank you!

Check out the blog post HERE and please feel free to do a little happy dance with me (and the Doctor!). Oh, and be sure to check out the rest of the Uproar Blog - there are some really fabulous posts on there.

Best wishes

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Creative Writing Workshop

Looking forward to this! And yes, I know I'm much too old to attend but they are very kindly allowing me to go along and chat about writing. Happy days :)

Monday, 11 November 2013

You Meet Some Interesting People in Bookshops....

I had a book signing in Waterstones, Coleraine on Saturday 2nd November. The weather was atrocious - in Northern Ireland we call that kind of rain 'a deluge' just comes down in sheets and doesn't stop for ages; great fat drops of water thundering out of the sky and soaking everyone in seconds. It was okay though - I was happy inside a nice warm shop, surrounded by books, drinking coffee and signing books while I watched the lads from Uproar Comics sign their copies of Zombies Hi and draw zombie portraits of the customers. It was excellent.

One of the most common questions I get asked at book signings is 'What are your books about?' And the man who stopped by my table around 3pm didn't disappoint. He lifted one of my books, flicked through it and asked 'So, what's this about?"  I launched into my description about Emily, demons, angels, teenage angst and paranormal romance. The man nodded, put the book down and lifted another. "So, are you famous?" he asked. ", sorry," I told him. He nodded again, put the book down, lifted the third in the series, flicked through it and said "So, have you written any books about witches?"

Now at this point my mouth dropped open - the new series that I'm writing is indeed about witches but no-one, and I mean NO-ONE knows about it. "Um..." I managed to splutter. The man seemed unconcerned about my lack of brain-to-mouth coordination, he set the book down and said, "Hold on a minute." Off he went and I got distracted by someone else wanting some signed books, got lost in chatting about the new books that's coming out soon, giggled at the antics of the Uproar Comics clan as they clowned about biting each other on the neck for photos and then the man came back and showed me a photo on his phone - it was of the cover of a book about a history of witches. "I don't really like witches," he told me, "But I thought you might find that book interesting."

I think I managed to thank him and he nodded, said it had been nice chatting to me and he'd be sure to come back and buy some of my books and then he disappeared out into the rain. 

As chance encounters go it was right up there on my 'well-that-was-weird' scale but I've taken it as a sign that I should keep going with this series (I was wavering a little) so thank you mystery man! 

Friday, 25 October 2013

In Defense of Dreamers.

I'm concerned for the future of the human race.

Well, obviously we all are to some degree since we're managing to make such a complete horlicks (mess, for those of you not familiar with the term) of the planet that we live on. My concern isn't about the fact that fossil fuels are going to run out, global warming is going to turn us all into crispy critters (or drown us all when the polar ice caps melt) or whatever else the worry of the day is. No, my concern is that eventually all us dreamers will cease dreaming and the world as we know it will grind to a halt.

Am I being overly dramatic?  Um...well, maybe.

The fact remains that for every dreamer on the face of the planet right now there are probably several thousand realists ready to stomp all over your dreams in their hob nailed boots and then tell all their friends what an important service to mankind they are providing by 'keeping their feet on the ground'.

You've had this happen to you, right?

You: I'd really love to be a writer.

The Realist: Do you know how many people try and fail every day? Millions! And now that the market has opened up and every Tom, Dick or Harry with internet access can upload their 'masterpiece' onto Amazon, we're all inundated with so much rubbish that pretty soon no-one will want to read anymore.

You. But...

The Realist: Besides, you never did well at school, your grades were always mediocre. You need to be smart to be a writer.

You: I just really feel that I want to...

The Realist: You're a nobody from nowhere, how would you even get someone to read what you write? Your attempts at writing would just get lost in the ocean of books already out there so there's not much point really.

So what's the big deal? So what if a few people quit daydreaming and start being realistic? Well, what if it spreads like a disease? What if it spreads to the visionaries, the designers, the builders, the creators, the star gazers, the romantics, the artists? In short, what if we lose those people who have always provided our momentum, pushing society forwards? Who make life colourful and interesting?

This may be a tongue-in-cheek blog post but hey, I'm a writer; I can't resist asking 'what if?' 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Time to Press the Panic Button. Again!

You'd think it would be simple, wouldn't you? I mean it sounds simple; just press the 'send' button and the new book will be on its way to the designer, ready to be given a brand new suit for its publication day so that it can be unleashed into the universe.

Okay. That sounds just get on with it!

*finger hovers over 'send' button*

But wait...what if I've forgotten something.


Fine, let's go over the checklist. AGAIN.

1) Book is finished?  Yep. All done. 

2) Book has been to beta readers? Yes. Several times...

3) Book has been revised as per beta readers' observations? Done. Several more times...

4) Book has been edited? Yes. Oh, yes.

5) Book is a good as you can possibly make it? Yes. Probably. Hopefully.

6) You've written a short blurb/synopsis for the back page? ....yes...

So it's all done? What exactly are you waiting for? Someone to do it for you? Just press the damn button.

FINE! *presses 'send' button*


Oh. My. God. It's on its way!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Guilty (Book) Pleasures

Not so long ago, adults who read books aimed at a teen audience were either in a minority or hiding their reading material behind a fake cover just in case they were laughed at or considered...weird - this piece by Joel Stein in the NY Times shows what a number of people once thought (or a minority still believe?)

Along came JK Rowling and her young wizard. Reading about the adventures of Harry Potter and his pals was SO inclusive that the publisher produced editions with updated covers especially for the adult market. And it wasn't just the Potter books that received this treatment - Philip Pullman, Mark Haddon, Lian Hearn (to name a few) have also been successful in the 'crossover' market. Twilight, The Hunger Games , The Mortal Instruments Series and a huge number of others have all earned a popularity beyond their intended audience.

The same is true for readers of erotic fiction and the kind of speculative fiction which challenges society's ever-expanding list of taboos. The HUGE popularity of the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy (and its vast number of looky-likey clones) pushed readers from behind their newspapers and out of the dark recesses of their guilt-caves and into the spotlight - suddenly you were weird if you HADN'T read it (I haven't, in case you were wondering, but then I've always been a little weird).

So, I'm wondering - what's next to be crossed off the list of 'Reading Taboos'? Women reading Haynes car manuals? No, wait...that's already been done. Men reading 'Instructions'? Pah, what am I saying? That'll never happen!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

What the...?!

I'm not one of those people who 'Googles' themselves but occasionally I look up my website to make sure it's performing the way it should. 

I have never authorised any advertising on my website, not because I'm against advertising or anything like that but simply because I haven't been asked by any companies that I actually use myself! So imagine my surprise when I checked on my site this morning and discovered, not only one of those bloody annoying 'Oyodomo' pop-up, questionnaire things but also a rash of links throughout my content sending people off to other publishing sites, online dating companies and even the likes of Tesco!! 

Half an hour of mumbling to myself, making a coffee, glaring at the screen and scratching my head, I figure that either a) the company who manage my site (1&1) have authorised the advertising or b) some cheeky chappies have hijacked my pages and added their own links. 

Neither of these possibilities gives me any kind of warm and fuzzy feelings; in fact both of them are downright rude!

So, do I go into my account and delete all the links one by one (is that even possible?) or do I contact each company and tell them to clear off? Hmmm.

So far I have sent an email to 1&1 asking if they know what's going on and phoned my you would!

Anyone else had this problem? What did you do about it?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Joy and Misery of the First Draft.

When people find out that I love to write books, one of their first questions tends to be "Where do you get your ideas?"

I would love to say that I am one of those tremendously organised individuals who has an 'Ideas Journal' or a day of the week set aside for 'Possible Plot Meditation' but the truth is that ideas are everywhere - it's a constant barrage of background noise inside your head; a stream of 'what if...?' and 'imagine if...' and 'maybe...'

Occasionally one of these little voices gains strength and speaks up a little louder than all the rest. It squashes the others down until it's all that you can hear and then you just have to write about it or go crazy! Erm...maybe that's just me.

Once you begin to write about it, it consumes you. It's feverish, that kind of writing - it flows out of your brain and onto the page (or the screen) at speed and in bursts of startling clarity. It's the most delicious feeling, to be caught up in that wave of creativity, surfing along its length and whooping with joy at simply being able to weave the story and follow the characters. 

Every wave, however, has to break and every so often I find myself sitting at my computer screen and staring at the keys, perplexed. The 3,000 words I wrote yesterday, or even the 10,000 I managed last week suddenly seem ridiculous, trivial...maybe even pathetic. The ability to add more or to see where the story could go is impossible and the temptation is to hit the delete button and start again - I've done that so many times. However, I've had an epiphany of sorts and I now realise what this is - this is part of the journey from forming the idea to writing 'The End': This is The First Draft. Even though a good 60-80% of this won't make it into the final cut (it tends to be back-story) it's still important in the grand scheme of 'getting-the-book-written'.

So, if you're one of those folk who has been writing constant first drafts and giving up when you hit the sandy shores of your idea then take my advice and next time, keep going. Even if you only manage a sentence today...well, it's a sentence more than you had yesterday and don't worry - the great thing about the 'writing and the sea' metaphor is that the tide will come in to rescue you again soon.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

This whole Social Media Thing is Damned Difficult!

I read a blog post a few weeks ago (sorry, I can't remember who wrote it or where...I was just browsing) which stated that the writer, in no uncertain terms, was fed up with being 'nice'. She'd spent the better part of a year attempting to build her 'online presence' with a decent weekly blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc. etc. etc and had a reasonable number of followers/friends/fans on each. Her books were selling well (for an Indie) and things were ticking along quite sweetly.

Unfortunately, she felt like a fraud.

You see, she'd done her homework before she went online - she'd told herself that she was going to learn from the mistakes of others and never blog, tweet, post, like anything controversial. She had toned her language down, selected her Facebook 'Friends' with care, only shared book related blogs via Triberr and she was starting to feel the strain of being...well, I suppose she was being the 'magnolia paint' version of herself. It got me thinking - is that what I'm doing too?

Isn't that the whole issue with the World Wide Web? Everyone wants to be liked and if you're promoting your book, music, art, whatever, then you have a vested interest in presenting yourself in the best possible light. However, as far as I can see, the people who are most successful via social media seem to be those who don't shy away from making waves, giving opinions and generally acting 'human'; which was surely the whole point of social media to begin with - one human being communicating/interacting with another. Of course...I could just be over-thinking it all!

Best wishes.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

This Summer Town.

Surfing in July.

I live in a seaside town in the very North coast of Northern Ireland.

In summer the population of the town swells to bursting, with the trains expelling another influx of day-trippers every hour and tour buses disgorging sun, sea and sand seekers onto the beaches and parks (and into the pubs).

The 'day job'.

My 'day job' is in retail and the store that I work in has a prime location a few hundred yards from the train station and on the main drag through the town. The shop sells fashion, footwear, home-wares, stationery, electricals, soft furnishings, gardening and pet items along with a small selection of grocery and perfumes. It's spread over two floors in a building that was once the old town station (and then a nightclub where I used to dance the night away, but let's not get into that). I started working there in December last year, enjoyed a fairly busy Christmas and then a cold and wet winter before the first serious tourists began to arrive around Easter.
The change of pace was incredible and I wondered how the main summer season would compare.
The summer season was insane.

Ready for the tourists.

The shop refilled regularly as people got off trains and buses, folk wandered in from the beach, often in bare feet and bikinis, looking for sunscreen, towels, shades, drinks, underwear (amazing how many people come away on holiday and forget to pack underwear!), queues built up and disappeared, the store got messed up and tidied. It passed in a flash of sunshine, sand, laughter and waves of tiredness that left me unable to do anything but fall into bed when I got home.
Everything else fell by the wayside - my writing suffered, my home got messy, my kids ended up cooking for me instead of the other way around. It was crazy.

Roller-coaster sunset.

And now it's September; the beaches are empty of windbreakers and sandy sandwiches, there's no queue for the Post Office and always plenty of chilli-chicken baguettes at the deli counter. The locals have reclaimed their parking spaces and their Sunday walks: Children are wearing coats again as the chill creeps back into the air and the waves send spray high onto the rocks. It seems to be a common belief that a Summer town is sad and depressed once the tourists have gone home; that it craves those few months every year when its streets are full, its beaches echo with the song of bathers splashing in the water and the late night party crowd stagger home through warm breezes from the ocean, their bare feet sinking into still-warm sand. 

My hometown.
My hometown.

Yes - during the winter months our town is quiet; most shops open fewer hours, the caravan dwellers disappear back to the city and the holiday-home owners sign their second homes over to the student rental market. It's peaceful, I suppose. So long as you don't mind the colder weather, lots of rain and storms that roll in off the sea, which I don't. 
But 'sad'? 'Depressed'? To be honest I think that this Summer town gives a sigh of relief once August ends, pulls on a heavy sweater and welcomes Autumn with a smile on its face and a fresh wind full of promises.

Best Wishes.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Hate Mail.

I LOVE receiving emails from readers. Whether they've loved one of my books or have something they want to point out about them - if it's a grammar or spelling mistake, and especially if it's from book 1, then it's usually deserved (!) and I take note. After all, if someone has taken the time and energy to let me have their opinion then I should show my gratitude by reading what they have to say, responding to them and learning from my mistakes.

Well, this week I received 4 emails which really shook me.

All four were in the same vein - basically I was accused of 'corrupting the minds of teenagers' by writing 'filth and blasphemy' and 'coercing young adults' into 'following dark paths' by 'documenting how to practice satanic rituals'. It was pointed out to me that as a mother I should be concerned with keeping the minds of young people healthy instead of 'insidiously leading them into immoral activities' etc. etc. There was a ton more which got more disturbing as time went on but I'm sure you get the gist. I put off replying because I knew that any of my first reactions (flippant  - 'did you know that I was off work this week and wanted to give me something to worry about?' or argumentative 'did you actually read any of the books?') would have been a mistake.

After receiving the first email I was a bit disturbed but put it down to someone seeing the titles of my books and making an assumption about their the lady who came along to my first book signing, handed me a card for one of my local churches and whispered that 'God loves you anyway'. I kept the card.

I've seen author melt-downs on Goodreads etc. where they defend their books vehemently, raging against reviews and comments in a way that makes me cringe and turns the blogging/ reviewer community against authors...and quite rightly so. Most authors would agree that when you put your work into the public domain you have to accept that not all the responses you receive will be positive, but you have to turn the other cheek and let it go.I think the same should go for one-to-one emails. Of course I have strong feelings about my books, characters, settings, storyline etc. etc. but that doesn't mean that everyone who reads them will like them or approve of them. As I've said before, criticism can be constructive and if it is then I welcome it; these emails, however, freaked me out and, yeah, they hurt. 

After the fourth email in as many days I lost my cool a little and (yeah, I'm not proud that I gave in and ignored my own advice!) posted on Facebook (on my personal account):

Dear Haters, It would be great if you could put 'Hate Mail' or something in the subject line of your emails from now on, rather than just the titles of my books, so that I know not to read your messages before fortifying myself with coffee and chocolate. Many thanks 

Wrong thing to do? Maybe, but getting it off my chest helped. And the emails stopped - coincidence? Maybe. 

I deleted the emails.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

6 Things I Wish I'd Known...Before I Self-Published my Book.

In most schools I visit there's a small amount of time set aside for a q&a with the pupils (and the teachers!). Mostly I get asked if I'm a millionaire yet (I wish!), why I write about the supernatural (mainly 'cause that's what I enjoy reading reality sucks!) and when I realised that I wanted to write (I can't remember NOT wanting to, but reading 'Seaward' cemented the idea) but once I was asked if there was anything I wish I'd known before I decided to unleash my first book on the universe.

Well, that one made me pause for a moment.

There's PLENTY I wish I'd known...or perhaps it would be more truthful to say that there's plenty I wish I'd taken more time to read up on, and advice I wish I'd heeded! I thought I'd share a few things...

1) Writing 'The End' is just the beginning.

Writing the book isn't enough - there are millions of new titles released every year and your book baby gets lost in the maelstrom fairly quickly. To get it in front of readers means learning to market not just your writing but yourself. It takes time, energy, a huge amount of support and a lot of luck. I am NEVER going to be the master of marketing and I'm fairly useless at promotion, both of myself and my books, but I'm learning. Add in 'building a platform' on social media, finding a good designer to provide you with a great cover that gets noticed, locating a good editor that means you will not mess up your first book quite so beautifully as I did (see point 2) and a billion other jobs that need done and decisions that need to be made. Buckle up...there's a lot more to it than sitting in your garret scratching with a quill and looking tortured.

2) You will make mistakes.

Whether the mistakes be in grammar, spelling, punctuation, taking the wrong advice (or choosing to ignore the right advice), WILL make mistakes and they WILL be excruciating. Take my advice on this one...admit to the mistakes and correct them as soon as you can. I'm still working on this one.

3) Not everyone will enjoy what you've written.

I think that when you choose to share your writing then you are aware that this will happen; you kind of accept that there's a chance someone somewhere will lift your book, read the blurb, make a face and return it to the shelf or buy it, read it, make a face and never lift it again (you may even see copies start turning up on ebay). It's the chance you take when you choose to 'put your work out there' right? Of course. What I certainly wasn't prepared for were haters and those folks who detested what I'd written so much that they sent emails to point out every spelling mistake that I'd made and every plot twist that they didn't like. It hurts. Prepare yourself. 

4) Once your book is released you cannot defend it.

This kind of follows on from point 3. I've been lucky with this one because I've never felt the need to go onto a public forum and get into a slagging match with someone who didn't like what I've written - I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and although it hurts like hell that you may not enjoy my story or like my characters (ouch) and you choose to protest about it on every site on the web, well....that's up to you. It never turns out well for an author to argue their case or defend their characters. Go hide in your cave for a week if that's what it takes for you to get over it, but bite your tongue and let it go.

5) Reach out - there is support when you need it.

By and large the self-publishing community is very sweet. Most folks I've had the pleasure of meeting along the way are hugely supportive of one another and genuinely happy when someone does well. There's the odd difference of opinion but on most occasions when I've reached out for advice, support, company or just someone to rant to for a minute when my characters refuse to play ball, people connect and sympathise and send you on your way with a virtual hug and a 'talk 2 u l8r': I've made some good friends who, although I'll probably never manage to meet them in person, I would miss if I didn't 'see' them every day.

6) If you're just in this to make money then forget it.

Most self-publishers that I know are making a loss - once you pay an editor, designer, buy a proof, have some kind of marketing items made (bookmarks for example), pay the petrol charging all over the country to promote your work etc. etc. there's not much left in the kitty. Honestly, that's okay. I just wanted to find readers. Of course it would be lovely to actually make a living from it but I'm realistic to know that that will probably never happen. Those authors selling their books by the truck-load are the exception and fair play to them - they've worked their arses off to get into such a happy position.

So...6 things I wish I'd known. Any you'd add? Anything important that I left out?

Best wishes