Category Archives: Wednesday Wafflings

What makes a real writer? #amwriting

Photo of a DiarySometimes I don’t feel like a writer at all. I mean, what is a writer supposed to feel like? Grand? Intelligent? Full of ideas that over flow from their fingers tips to the page? Buggered if I know.

There are days when I wait for ideas to come and others when I simply listen to what’s in my head and let it come out onto the page. Is that right? is that the way to do it? Waiting? Listening? Drumming your fingers on the table, everything set out neat and pristine in front of you? I have absolutely no idea. But maybe that’s a good thing. I pick up my pen some days, laptop others and just get going, but even through this as I write in what ever medium comes to me, there is doubt. A sod of a thing, it grows roots inside, doubt, if you let it. It takes up home and is a proper pain to get shut of. You need weed killer for doubt, good strong stuff, industrial strength, because once it sets in, it’ll spread across everything, starving it of oxygen, wringing out the necks of every other living bloody thing that’s around it. Just cracking on – that’s a good doubt weed killer, as is exercise, reading (although, beware reading a book of the same genre you write in when you’re in the middle of a Project – this can send you either way).

So what is a real writer? God only knows. But, hang on a sec, here’s the thing – maybe that’s the point, you know, the fact that I don’t know. I mean, there is no one size fits all, is there, really when the chips are down (or your pens are). No pre determined prescription of the grandiose writer that’s scribbled out and thrust into your hand to take three times a day with water. If you can write, if you can pick up a pen or open a laptop and simply write, then you’re a writer. Simple. Can I do those things? Um, yup. Can you? Quite. So I guess that’s what we tell ourselves in those moments of doubt, that’s what should be our weed killer to it, the question: ‘Can I write?’ And then the answer will trip of our tongues, will waltz off our lips they were the prizewinners of a major competition, ‘I write therefore I am a writer.’

I write therefore, I am.

I’m an #AmazonRisingStar for 2015.

Spider-in-the-Corner-of-the-Room-CoverBig news this week: Amazon have selected me as one of there Rising Stars for 2015. I know – who knew?

So, naturally, had to share the news on the blog with you guys. The selection is for my new book – The Spider in the Corner of the Room – out worldwide in all good bookshops on 4th June.

Not plugging this or anything (plugging it), but you can pre-order now. The link’s below. Spider is the first in a trilogy about Dr Maria Martinez, a plastic surgeon with Asperger’s who find herself in prison for the murder of a Catholic priest, only she has no memory of the murder.

So, thank you, great blogger, for following me all this time. We are all #teamspider. Hell yeah.

Pre-order Spider here

 

NEW Diary of a hopeful author: How I got to my three-book publishing deal

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

Previously, I had never believed that the phrase ‘a dream come true’ was real. I mean, look at it. It uses the word ’dream’, and dream implies unreal, made-up, in your head. Bottom line: it may never happen.

And so, my friends, to the present day. Mad busy has this year been that I have had to, with hanging head, take a time out from my Wednesday Waffling blog. But the reason – oh the reason – has been a mighty good one, a reason so fantastic, so unbelievable that even now I don’t believe it myself. I’d kick me, but that would hurt.

The reason is this: I have a 3-book publishing deal. And not just one deal, but multiple deals, around the world – digital, paperback, hard back, audio, the lot, from different publishing houses spanning from Random House in Germany to Harlequin Mira in the UK. I have met with editors and sales teams and TV execs and it has been a ball. Yet all the time, all the while as I meet and talk and compute, the same thing goes round and round my head like ticker tape: it’s like a dream.

See, thing is, I’ve been working hard at writing for a heck of a long time now. Years. And I’ve tried everything. Radio sketches, TV sitcoms, plays, short stories, novels. I’ve got my head down and tried it all because you never know. You never know what might just work if you give it a shot, and if it doesn’t go your way? Then at least you got a whole heap of writing practice in.

Recent years have thrown me a few hoop shots: a festival story award, short listed for The Guardian newspaper travel writing competition, long listed for a BBC talent scheme. But each time, I didn’t quite make it, didn’t quite get to the top of the mountain, so to speak. And boy were there times when I just wanted to give up, to chuck it all in, to shout at it and shut the door, walk away, never come back. But I didn’t. I didn’t because I love writing and I knew, I knew somewhere in the deep sticky recess of my head that it would all work out, that if I just kept going one more time, it would all work out.

I stuck with it, did my research, taught myself what makes a good novel, how it’s constructed, how the market works, what sells, what agents want, what readers want to read. And I combined that with my stubborn, heels in the dirt attitude of not giving up. There is a saying that went through my head the whole time: when others give up, we give more. It’s actually an SAS phrase, not that I am in the SAS, although, to be fair, I’d love to give it a go. Just without the guns.

So, the book, the first in a trilogy is coming out in Spring/Summer 2015. It’s called The Spider in the Corner of the Room. It’s a psychological conspiracy thriller, or psycon (I just made that phrase up…). It will be out all over UK & commonwealth, Europe, Taiwan/China, audio in the USA so far, and hopefully, as things are looking, in a whole heap more territories. And the great new is, NBC Universal have optioned the trilogy for a major international TV series (there’s a couple of links below about it all).

I guess, when I look back, when I think of when I started this blog and why – i.e. to document my messy, pot-hole ridden journey at trying to make it as an author – I never really let myself imagine that it would actually happen. I love literature festivals, for example, but never let myself go to Hay-on-Wye festival, telling myself that I only wanted to go there as a published author. And where am I now going in May 2015? Hay Literature Festival. As a published author. Hoozah. I’ll be talking at other festivals too – Harrogate Crime Fest, Cheltenham Lit Fest, ones I have attended myself as a reader. And now I’ll be there – as an author. Surreal.

So, thanks for following this blog, for reading my dirt-ridden ups and downs over the past two years. It’s been really hard, I’ve put in so many hours, made so many sacrifices, but it’s worth it. Worth every single second. Because being a published author has always been my dream. And now it’s come true.

Click on the links to The Bookseller (here) and my agents, PFD (here) to read what they’ve said about The Spider in the Corner of the Room…

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Now is the future we haven’t recognised yet…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

Ok, so, a LOT is happening, but still I cannot divulge events. Not specifically. Not yet. But hold on! Soon, I can tell you what’s a foot writing wise for me, and it is BIG.

So, until then a) thanks for hanging on (it’ll be worth it, promise), and b) here’s something for you to read that I wrote earlier. It’s a column I did last year for the Citizen and Echo, and it’s about the future. Not in a sci-fi/fantasy way, you understand, although that, to be fair, has a lot going for it. Step forward The Hunger Games. And Spock.

No, this piece is about how while sure, the future and our planning for it is good, seeing what we have in the here and now will get us equally far in life. If not a little further.

Stay tuned…

“Now is the future we haven’t recognised yet” – Citizen & Echo Column, Saturday 6th April, 2013

In 1988, the LA Times asked 30 futurologists what life would be like 25 years in the future. Some predictions they got right, like knowing we’d all end up with Satnavs in our cars, use emails to replace paper, or teleconference via Skype. Others they got utterly wrong. Robotic man-servants were one failure (or not, depending on your viewpoint), and body paint that protected against radioactivity was another doomed prophecy.

Thing is, what we tend to do, us people, us humans, is spend our time forecasting what the future will bring. We can’t help it. A bit like running away from something scary, we’re inbuilt to guess the future, to envisage technologies, to foretell catastrophic world events. It’s like a whole new way to be nosey, just with permission.

And so to pondering on our own lives. 1988, the year the report was compiled, found me at 14-years old, my mind on Madonna song lyrics and my heart won over by Morten Harket from A-ha. Days, weeks would be spent gabbling about our futures. It was our topic du jour, desperate as we were to know what was going to happen, to predict like some cosmic crystal ball what was in store for us.

Some of it I got right. I did go to University, although no one could have predicted the almost world-record breaking amount of times I missed the final two lectures each Friday afternoon to hit the student union bar early. And married, I got married, happily, gladly and without the need to be dragged down the aisle.

But there comes a point when this wondering about the future has to stop, and you come to realise, in the twilight of the day that it’s not about what’s ahead – it’s about what’s happening now.

See, spend too much time pondering the future and you’ll miss things, you’ll miss life. Family, friends, the daft little things that make you smile. Watching your kids in school plays. Belly-laughing on a rare night out. Because that’s the stuff we have, the here, the now, that’s the gold. Obsess instead with prophecies and we end up with a future we didn’t intend to have all because we ignored the present we did.

Yes, our futures are important. Yes, heck, we need ambition, but I’m going to try concentrating on today. That way tomorrow will come all by itself.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: There’s lot you can learn from the pages of a book

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

I feel like I’m on Mission Impossible. You know that bit in the film when Tom Cruise gets the note and then it will, ‘destruct in 5 seconds’. You know that bit? Well, that’s me now. Not that I mean I’m Tom Cruise, you understand, although, to be fair, I did have a poster of him on my wall from the Top Gun days next to Goose. Ah, lovely, sweet Goose.

Anyhoo, I mean here the destruction note bit. By which I really mean, a lot is happening writing wise that I STILL cannot divulge and if I told you, I would explode (not really). Safe to say, it’s all good, but still, I am keeping quiet for now until the whole lot is finalised.

So, in the meantime, I have decided to unearth a Citizen and Echo column I wrote last year about books, funnily enough, and, specifically, what we can learn from within them. Turns out, it’s lot. But hey, you knew that, right?

 

“There’s a lot you can learn from the pages of a book” – Citizen & Echo Column, Saturday 20th April, 2013

There’s a lot you can learn from the pages of a book. From as early as I can remember, my life has been directed by the novels I have read. Rules on friendship? Try Mallory Towers. Want to know about poverty and the shame of society? Charles Dickens is your man. Need to understand how to talk to a boy without turning the colour of a beetroot? Have a Jackie annual.

Books, novels, the words on pages – they affect what we do, the way we think. They shape who we are. As the years have gone by, the learning I glean from books has changed just as my life, the rollercoasting, boat-journeying time that it is, has changed too.

Bleary-eyed and strung out on broken sleep, my first few months of motherhood a decade ago were saved by books. Sleep. Sleep was our heroin back then in those hazy first weeks. We craved it, fantasied over it, endlessly talked about it. We would have dreamed about it save for the fact that to dream you need to, you know, sleep.

Desperate and, quite frankly, shattered, I turned to a book for help – and it worked. The book, the words, the instructions, the delightful, exquisite advice it gushed meant our new baby, finally, slumbered and so too did us zombied parents.

As our children grew, so did my reading quota. Terrible two issues? I’ll have a book about that, thank you. First day at school and feeling sad, oh child of mine? I think I saw a picture book in the library on that, my girl.

Of course, the danger, the hidden terror of learning life’s lessons through the words of, what is effectively, another person, is that the message they give may not actually be helpful. The time, for example, when I followed the advice of feeding my then toddler chopped liver once a week, only for the stuff to be regurgitated by her all over my head half an hour later, shall be filed forever under, ‘what was I thinking?’

But it’s the good times, the good advice that stays with you, that shapes your thoughts, how you act, what you do. My girls are fast approaching teenage years and while I look forward to it, I am also – shocker – apprehensive. But it’s okay. I’ve got it covered – I already know what book I’m going to buy.

 

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: A blog post that can’t say much…Yet

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I can’t say much. I know, what a rubbish blog post is that, right? One that can’t tell you anything. What a muppet.

Thing is, a lot is happening with my book and, being a superstitious lass, I best keep my mouth reasonably shut about it until all is signed and sealed. I toyed with writing a post at all since I can’t waffle, but it’s been a while, so what I can say, for now, is this: I am so excited, so off my head with news about my book that, 6 nights out of 7 I cannot sleep. It’s all worth it, though. And, when I can spill the beans, I’ll be right on here to let you know.

Until then, have a cracking week. Ain’t long now. Stay tuned…

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: Why we should ALWAYS laugh at ourselves

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Things are going great. My book is with my agent. I’ve got to a stage where I think, heck, maybe I’m not so bad at this writing lark after all. Blimey, even my hair’s looking pretty okay these days, despite the extensive chlorine damage inflicted from a 4-day-a-week swim training commitment. (I’ve signed up for a triathlon – that’s what happens when you drink too much Cointreau on a Saturday night. Be warned…)

But, thing is, while it’s all very exciting, while my fingers are crossed solid for a very successful 2014 writing wise, here’s the thing: some things never change. I am still me. I still mess up royally. I still fall on my backside after tripping over on NOTHING. I fall off ski lifts BEFORE I get on them. I have kids who puke on me. I have knees that (literally) creak when I go up stairs. And that – those things – they are the funnies that keep everything real. Because life is bloody funny. And messy. And wholly nuts. And we should ALWAYS laugh at ourselves, because, otherwise, we end up taking ourselves far too seriously.

So, to that end, here’s something I wrote a couple of years ago about something hilarious I did. By mistake. Something nuts and daft and very, very funny. Like I said, we should always laugh at ourselves. Though, it seems I make this task easier than most…

So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a brief family trip away. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back.

Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers.

All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’  Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car.

I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman.

When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Any “funnies” of your own that keep things real for you? Do anything daft on a regular basis? Come on, fess up

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How sports mantras can help your writing

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

So, there I was, at Christmas, up a mountain. I was bricking it. I could see over the edge. It was snowy. My skis were on and in my hands were my poles. I was with my ski school team and, bar the odd tumble, all was safe. So why, oh why did I lose it? And I don’t just mean lose it, but totally and utterly melt right on down and get scared on the mountainside.

The reason was this: I told myself I couldn’t do it. That’s it. No more, no less. I mean, sure, the previous day I had fallen off the edge of a chair lift BEFORE I had even gotten on it. And yes, my backside, along with my skis, were sticking in the air. And of course, the nice French ski lift operator laughed and said, ‘I will take a photo.’ And, indeed, the only way to handle it was to stand, smile and wave. But that was then. Standing on near the top of a mountain with a long way down? This was now. And I was not liking it.

So, two things happened. First up, I realised I was being an idiot. Why? Because I was telling myself I couldn’t ski. Trouble is, when that sets in, that negative thought, like a germ in a petra dish, it grows. Until what you have immobilises you and you f**k up. Second, was someone (our instructor…) said I was a chicken. He was being funny. We got on really well. But that was the thing – he’d clocked me, knew what I was like. You tell me I’m a chicken? Then I’ll show you…

And then it happened. I got down the mountain. And the day after that. And the day after that. I got down by telling myself, ‘I can do it.’  (and by making chicken noises…Got some strange looks) I got down by reminding myself that if I fell, I could get up. And if anyone – anyone – called me chicken, I’d show them just what I could do. And, tell you what, I had an absolute ball in the process. The best time ever.

I’m at home now. My limbs are in one piece. My mind is rested. I re-began the final editing of my book last week. And that is when I realised something: that I was better at knowing how capable I was; that anything was possible. Skiing had taught me something about myself. It had taught me that if you think positively, you can do it. You can, quite literally, conquer mountains. And that it is a whole heap of fun on the way.

So, on that note, I give you, below, a link to the mantras that sports people use for running (my favourite sport) to get them in the right mind set for a race. My advice? Adapt them for yourself and use them when you hit a low point in your writing. Feel you can’t write a paragraph, never mind a book? Feel as if there are so many authors out there better than you? Then apply a mantra. A positive mantra. For running, they use ones like: ‘Be steady. Be strong.’ Or : ‘Better. Faster. Stronger.’

Because you see, whether it’s running or writing or getting a promotion at work, a bit of positive thinking can help you go a long way. Or, in my case down a mountain (or to a big book deal!).

So, mantras: required. Broken limbs: optional.

Running World’s MAGIC MANTRAS LINK

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**