2013 – a bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of fun…

photo2013 was such a mindblowing year that I hardly know where to start.  It was mixed, of course, and the good things that happened for me were, sadly, matched by the bad things that happened to friends. But good things happened to friends too, and I suppose that what I’m trying to say in my characteristically crap way (writer, apparently?????) is that it was, in most respects, a fairly typical year.  Except that I published a book.  Then I published another one… until I couldn’t stop writing them. Even more excitingly, people started to read said book.  And then they read the other ones… some even said they liked them…

My favourite thing this year has been finally getting the validation I’ve always craved for my writing. When I started out, years ago, I always said that all I wanted was for people to come into my worlds and share them. People have done that and truly taken my characters to their hearts and it has meant more to me than I can say.  It’s been hard work, every single spare moment has been spent doing something – if not writing then promoting or researching opportunities to reach more readers – but it’s been the most enjoyable nervous breakdown I’ve ever had.  I’ve had pen names this year – more than a few – and I love the books that each and every me writes, even though they’re all very different. As their creator, I think I’m allowed to say that, right?

My other favourite thing has been the wonderful friendships I’ve found through the writing community, both online and in the real world. Some of you I’ve managed to meet, some meetings we’re working on, some of you, sadly, live too far away and it’s likely I’ll never get to meet you.  But you’ve all been fantastic. You’re all ages and all walks of life and everyone has a different agenda, but we get along and support each other. And we’ve all shared each other’s journeys in many ways. I’ve seen some friends release their fabulous debuts and enjoy the same experiences as I’ve had as people have discovered their books. Some friends have finally found the professional success that they’ve worked for years to achieve – book deals, new agents, competition wins…  and so much more good stuff. Some of my friends have started new book blogs and gone on to find enormous and faithful followings as people have discovered their reviews and come to love and trust them.

Most of all, 2013 has been a year of change. I’ve learned so much about writing and marketing, but I’ve learned about life too.  I think this year has changed me as a person – I know now that I can do so much more than I ever believed I was capable of.  And as if the family dramas, friendship dramas, two children’s books, six young adult books, and an adult book on the cusp of release weren’t enough, there was one more lovely surprise, tucked right at the bottom of 2013’s stocking.

I finally got my fabulous agent…

2014 is a new chapter. And even I don’t know where this plot is going…


The Sky Song trilogy is a year old! To celebrate, all three books in the series will be reduced to 77p or 99c each for the next week. Thank you to everyone for your brilliant, valuable support and Happy New Year!


The best three little words…

I’m going to say three little words, the best three little words in the whole world, and even though I’m as romantic as the next girl, it’s not the three words you’re thinking of.


I can now officially begin sentences with those three words, should I wish to, which at the moment seems to be quite often!  I have just sent back my signed agreement to be represented by LAW in London. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am by this development in my career.

I’d often heard writers talk fondly of their agents, saying it was like a marriage, and you need to find the right person who ‘gets’ you and your writing, and honestly, although it sounded like a wonderful sentiment, I never thought it would happen to me.  Until now, that is, because I really feel that I have the best, most gorgeous, most perfect agent I could have ever found in Peta Nightingale (sorry all you other lovely agents, I’m sure you’ll forgive my enthusiasm). I have yet to meet the rest of the gang at LAW, but I can’t wait!

And we’ll have some exciting stuff coming up this year and next – new books to spring on the world and maybe old ones to spring on the world again in new and surprising ways.  But for now, I’m going to sit and gaze upon the most beautiful envelope I’ve ever seen, which bears the logo of LAW, and smile for a while…

Will the real author please stand up?

212_profile_img1_michelinLast Monday I was extremely privileged to be invited  to be part of the Michelin Inspiring Women event.  My  lovely writer colleague, Mel Sherratt had attended the event last year,  and this time she passed the baton to me so I could have a go at inspiring  young girls aged 13-15.  Ten ladies were on the panel, and it was our job to make sure that the girls went away feeling like they could do anything!  We ranged from  racing car drivers to blacksmiths to consultant gynaecologists, luxury  car engineers and crucial cornerstones of local business.   There  were ten tables of girls from local schools and the plan was that the  guest speakers all took turns to visit each table, in a sort of speed  dating style, to answer questions about what we did for a living, our  backgrounds, and what inspires us.  Before that began, we had to  stand at the front of the room holding up a number and the girls played  a  stereotype quiz.  We didn’t speak but stood there while  the girls tried to work out from a list provided which of us ladies  did which job.  When that was over we started the table visits.

Of course, like all the ladies, I was fascinated to  know what they had got me down as.  Two tables had an unfair advantage,  as I had already done an author visit for their school and they already  knew me!  The other guesses included the racing car driver (two  tables), the consultant (two tables) and the music service director.  Some couldn’t decide but nobody thought I was the engineer, so clearly  I have nothing about me that says ‘I can fix machinery’!

I loved talking to the girls.  Even though many  of them weren’t particularly interested in writing or reading, they  still asked great questions about my profession and were very interested  in me as a person and my career journey. I did meet one girl who wanted  to write, and we had a great chat about that. I also sat at one table,  pulled out a copy of Runners and a girl immediately said ‘I’ve read that!’  which made me so happy.

My fellow panellists were all incredibly interesting  and amazing too and we got the opportunity to eat lunch together and  swap tales about our professions. I was mesmerised by all their journeys  and what their jobs entailed, and I will endeavour to stay in touch  with them.  I found that listening to their stories inspired me  too, so I’m sure that the girls who came for the event took away as  much, if not more, than I did.

E=M…. something or other….

untitledI’ve always been fascinated by science, so it’s a crying shame that I’m too dim to understand how it works beyond a really basic level.  I read ‘layman’ books about science and I watch those TV programmes full of pretty pictures (or equally pretty professors… *cough…. AMAZING*…) that real scientists point at and laugh, and that’s about as far as my understanding will stretch.  My book, Runners, has a little bit of science fiction weaved into it which is integral to the plot, though, and I enjoyed the research I had to do for that, so when Runners was released and people began to comment on that aspect of the story, it got me thinking about the way science is used in fiction, not just in a sci-fi way, but in a more general way. Things that get me thinking generally lead to a blog feature, so I put a shout out on Twitter to see if any of my lovely and super-clever writer friends had any ideas on the subject.  Today I’m happy to announce that this coming week my blog will be dedicated to the musings of four such people.  The lovely thing about all these posts is that they each cover very different areas: Jack Croxall will be talking about parallel universe theories, Rebecca Bradley will be discussing the computer age and mobile technology, Dan Thompson will provide a fascinating insight into the psychology of phobias and Eleanor Reynolds will give us her views on the evolution of the horror genre including a look at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I also have a blog tour scheduled to stop next week, so Thursday will see Clare Davidson talk about her new book Reaper’s Rhythm.

It looks as though it’s going to be a packed one, so I hope to see you around!

No heckling please, I’m only a poor author.

speechOn Monday I went along to a local school to talk about writing and publishing. I had been invited by the school librarian of Haywood Engineering College, a lovely lady who is as passionate about literature as anyone I have met (and she’s also named Sharon, which can only be good!). Sharon emailed me to ask whether I would be happy to talk to year seven. Talk to year seven? I can do that, I thought with a modicum of confidence. Two hundred year sevens, Sharon said. Ok, I can still do that, I thought, with slightly less confidence.

I made up cue cards so that I could remind myself of everything I wanted to say on my ten minute introductory talk. I carefully chose a passage of Runners to read that didn’t contain too much dialogue (doing voices is not my forte) and I rehearsed it. I thought about all the questions I might get asked at the Q&A afterwards.

Was I ready? Was I hell!

After a brief chat and a cuppa, lovely Sharon led me into the hall where I’d be meeting the kids. With row upon row of chairs laid out, it was at that point I realised that two hundred was a lot more than I’d imagined. It’s ok, I thought, I’ll keep it together. Then the kids started to file in, a class at a time. I was getting more nervous with each row of chairs that filled. Then I was introduced and it was time to talk!

In the hours beforehand, I had carefully gone over a succinct and chronologically correct version of my life and career, I had even prepared a few jokes to throw in, and the reminders for each bit were on my cue cards. But as I started to talk, my brain decided that it couldn’t read cue cards – I kept looking at them but the words on there didn’t mean anything. My clever little introductory chat turned into an outpouring of breakneck speed and I missed almost everything important out, especially my jokes. We were supposed to view the Runners trailer next but as we all know that technology hates me, the sound wouldn’t work. We went to a reading instead, which I’m sure I rushed through even quicker than the intro, and then went back to the trailer (phew, a break!) and then came the Q&A. This was where it got fun!

I loved the question and answer session. I was really worried that none of the audience would have anything to ask me and we’d be staring each other down in some sort of High Noon scenario, but I needn’t have been. The kids were fantastic, hands shot up all over the place with brilliant and funny questions (are you rich, are you famous, how long does it take to write a book, will you write a book with me in it?) and before I knew it I was bouncing around the hall like an over-excited chicken trying to not to miss anyone and trying to come up with the best answers I could.

The school very kindly supplied lunch (yum, good choice by Sharon) then I went into a class to help with a creative writing session. We took our cue from the Runners extract I had read out to talk about dystopia and utopia and, once again, the discussions and ideas coming from the kids were lively and interesting and in some cases hilarious. I haven’t had so much fun in ages.

I felt so welcomed by the school, its children and staff, that I needn’t have been worried or nervous. Next time I do an author talk I’ll be ready to enjoy it.  A big thanks goes out to Haywood year seven for being amazing!

My murderous friend

About a year ago, I was passed a newspaper with an article about a local author called Mel Sherratt. To be honest, I almost didn’t read it. I put it to one side with the intentions of reading it later and promptly forgot. But then I noticed it as I was doing the recycling and I’m so glad I did.  This particular author was doing things in a way I hadn’t encountered before – making a splash on Amazon KDP. I’d heard loads about KDP and, I admit, like many others before me, I had dismissed it as a cop-out for people who couldn’t get published. It certainly wasn’t an outlet I had considered for my own work. I went online and read a sample of Mel’s book; it was really good, it didn’t seem like the sort of thing that couldn’t get published. I was even more intrigued, so I contacted her on facebook to chat. Despite my stalkerish tendencies she replied, and we had a few messages go backwards and forwards before we finally met up in the real world.ms-9-colour-cropped

When we met in a local coffee shop, there was an instant rapport. We spent the morning sharing writing ideas and experiences as well as lots and lots of coffee. I don’t think either of us stopped for breath and certainly not for the toilet (that was one close call, I can tell you). At the time I didn’t actually own a kindle so I went home and ordered the only paperback that Mel had produced, which was Somewhere to Hide, one of the books of the Estate Series. It wasn’t my usual sort of read but I was interested and had enjoyed meeting Mel so much that I wanted to read one of her books. It duly arrived and for two days I walked around with the book practically glued to my hands. I was in shock; I hadn’t expected it to be so good! Mel had managed to depict an underclass of society in a way that I could understand instead of the vision that the popular press are so fond of showing us; here was a writer who understood what life could be like at the thin end of the wedge.  I could empathise with the predicaments that her characters found themselves in, quite often through no fault of their own.  After I’d read Somewhere to Hide, I simply had to go out and buy a kindle so that I could read all her others! Even better, we’re still great friends and I owe so much to Mel for showing me how much fun publishing on KDP can be.

The point to this very rambling blog post is to tell you that the fantastic Estate Series books are all on offer on Amazon right now (79p and 99p – a snip, as they say) to celebrate a year since the release of Somewhere to Hide (but not for you YAs, they have rude words and deeds in them… ha, as if that’s going to stop you!) but if you want to see what Mel’s writing is all about, then now is the time to go and grab yourself a copy.  While you’re at it, why don’t you check out her blog, Writer of Murder and Mayhem.  Here are all the linky links you need…

Somewhere to Hide

Fighting for Survival

Behind a Closed Door

Mel’s blog

Can you learn how to be a writer?

As most of you know, I studied creative writing at university. A few people have asked me recently whether I think you need to study formally to be a good writer. This question will be even more pertinent when I go to a local high school on Monday to talk to two hundred twelve-year-olds about a career in writing and publishing. I figured I had better give it some thought!

It’s a more complex answer than a simple yes or no. Studying creative writing at that level has certainly made me more aware of everything I do as a writer. Before, I knew a good story when I read one, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what made it so in a way that was meaningful, technically. I could probably write a half decent one too, but I wouldn’t really understand what I was doing and whether it was working or not. My degree taught me about genres, literary tropes and motifs, about narrators and voices and points of view. It has made me understand the mechanics of the craft, how to utilise style and structure, how to choose the best words to elicit emotion. For me, it was a useful process and I think I’m a far better writer for it. You would think that would make the answer to the question of whether you can learn how to write a resounding ‘yes’. But, clearly, there are incredibly talented authors out there who understand all this with no formal training; they do these things instinctively with, perhaps, no clear insight into the process. So, maybe then, that’s a no.

Little old me! The hat kept falling off but after a couple of glasses of Pimms it didn't seem to matter.

Little old me! The hat kept falling off but after a couple of glasses of Pimms it didn’t seem to matter.

The most important thing I took away from my degree, ironically, was self-belief – only a smidgen, but all that was needed to make me actually finish a novel with a view to publication. Though I spent years making up stories, I never showed them to anyone. Doing well in my degree, receiving great feedback and support from students and tutors alike, did more to drive me towards writing to be read than anything else I can think of. The journey I’m on now all started at that crucial point. Perhaps, from that perspective, leaning to be confident is more important than learning to write. The other thing my degree course did was make me some fantastic friends who are as passionate about the written word as I am, and tutors I also consider to be lifelong friends who still support me as a writer now. I know that an online writing community exists and it is a strong and supportive one, but I treasure these first connections.

For me, my time at university was precious and over too quickly; it taught me so much about my craft. It’s not for everyone, I know, but I don’t think I would be where I am now without it. It might not make you a better writer, but it sure is fun!

Cute guys reading… You’re welcome!

After a mental week or so being crazy busy with the release of Runners, I don’t mind admitting that my brain is slightly fried.  Then  I looked at my poor neglected blog and thought that I probably need to post something.  As my brain is ever so slightly less functional than it was last week, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to say today.  Then I was perusing Pinterest (if I have a job that needs doing, I find avoidance a great tactic) and I came across a photo of the divine James McAvoy reading Narnia with the tagline ‘Hot Guys Reading Books’.   Anyone who knows me knows I needed no further invitation, I was straight in there with possibly the least politically correct post that has hit the net this year.  So here it is.  It’s not big and it’s not clever, the photos are a bit wonky on here, but I didn’t half have a lovely time researching it! Don’t panic, normal service will be resumed at some point this week…

Yes, he's crying a bit.  Hearts, you have permission to melt.ew readingrp readingNot strictly a book but who's counting, it's David Tennant, for God's sake.dr readignuntitledcm reading

Please Love Me!

untitledLately I’ve been pondering the relationship between book reviewers and authors, particularly reviewers with book blogs. It’s a strange and delicate balance. On the one hand, it can be mutually beneficial and highly productive (I don’t mind admitting that I’ve met many book bloggers this year that I’d like to call friends and that have certainly spurred me on to produce more work). Quite frankly, authors (particularly indie authors) need book bloggers like Wallace needs Gromit and there’s no getting around that. And bloggers need their books just as much to feed their passion for reading. The flip-side of that perfect union is when the relationship breaks down.

Authors are a needy bunch. We live to tell stories, to evoke emotions in others, and we crave approval for what we do more than anything. It hurts to hear someone say that they don’t like the thing that you poured your heart and soul into, the thing that you very likely spent a great many months – even years – creating. Not to mention the amount of money indie authors can spend on producing a book. I don’t mind saying that it hurts just as much to hear someone say they didn’t care either way about your book. To hear ‘nice’ is about as painful as ripping an author’s still-beating heart from their chest and eating it in front of them (melodramatic… me? Humour me, I’m a writer). Despite all this, we still don’t have the right to criticise someone else’s opinion about it. What makes one person’s view count more than another’s? A reviewer is no less passionate about literature than an author is – that passion just manifests in a different way.

So, because I’m a curious type, I thought I’d ask some of the writers and reviewers I’ve got to know over the six months I’ve been publishing what their take on the relationship was. I compiled a list of questions; some chose to answer them straight, some found that the questions took them on a journey of musings all of their own, which they very kindly wrote down for me. During the next week or so, I’ll be publishing these ramblings on my site (in no particular order, I hasten to add). Tomorrow will see the series kick off with the gorgeous Sharon Goodwin of Jera’s Jamboree. Enjoy!