Well, I like it anyway…

Some wise writer once said something about if you cannot find the story you want to read you must write it yourself. I wish I could remember who that was and the exact quote (answers on a postcard, but, remember, it’s just for fun…), but never was a truer thing spoken… unless, of course, you just find a bigger bookstore…

But surely self-indulgence is the province and privilege of the writer. After all, much as we protest to cater for our readers, first we must like what we’re writing ourselves. I love fantasy, I love sci-fi and magical realism, and I love young adult. So this is what I write. I could never do justice to a gripping crime thriller or police procedural because I rarely read them (never say never!). I love jeopardy, so I write it. I love to see my protagonist compromised or vulnerable in some way, but to come out the other side a stronger character, so I write it. I love happy endings, so I write them too. There is a long-standing joke amongst my friends that I can’t write a story without snogging. So guess what?

But is it right to simply sit at a keyboard and please yourself? What about the author-reader contract? What about fashions and editorial requirements and moral responsibilities? I have read many disgruntled reviews over the years that complain of the writer of some book or TV series not paying the slightest regard to the wishes of their audience. Lost is a case in point – viewers hated the ending because they felt they had in some way been cheated. Yet some self indulgent writer sat at a keyboard and ended it just the way they wanted to. The same can be said for BBC’s Merlin – for 4 years the writers steadfastly refused to give the magical reveal that they knew their fans were clamouring for and, seemingly, only budged in the end to avoid the death threats that would undoubtedly come their way if they didn’t, not to mention the fact that the climax created a distraught army of fans just in time for Christmas day.

Aren't you proud of me that I resisted the urge to post a Merlin photo here?

Aren’t you proud of me that I resisted the urge to post a Merlin photo here?

The other side of this is the dreaded market.  I don’t say this because I have no regard for the people who may read my books, but because I never seem to be able to fit into the industry categories, nor, indeed, stay in one when I do.  I tend to flit from style to style, depending on my mood, and through genres and sub-genres.  It’s early days, but I suspect it might prove difficult to sustain a loyal audience this way.  Recently, I’ve begun final edits on a YA romcom, a bleak YA paranormal story and an NA thriller/urban fantasy.  If life is like a box of chocolates then I’m afraid that my brain must be a bag of Haribo.

For now, I have to write what I love, self-indulgently and regardless.  Only that way can I produce a story I love and hope that others will too.

With a little help from my friends…

old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879I’ve made a lot of friends through writing. Many of these are in real life: through my university course and local writing networks. Many more have been via social media. It’s been a strange experience in many ways, particularly ‘meeting’ people virtually.  Some of my online friends I’ve since met in real life and they’ve been every bit as delightful as they are in the ether. Some, I know I will never meet, and that makes me sad, because they are people I feel I have a strong friendship with, even a deep affection for, despite never having met them face to face.

In today’s writing world, I think there is no stronger tool than collaboration with other writers. In the days of ink and quill, writing was considered a rather solitary affair, but not anymore. In our rapidly shrinking world, we have so many ways to link up. We’re in constant contact every day, updating each other from across the globe about how many words we’ve done, when we’re taking a break, how our editing is driving us nuts.  We participate in blog hops and Nanowrimo and virtual launch parties. Some of us take these relationships, cherish them and build on them, because we understand that you can’t make it alone. People just like you are the people who will root for you, will retweet you, will send readers to your blog, will beta read for you and critique with the best of intentions, will give you heads-up on news, will egg you on when you flag. And you will do the same for them. In my opinion, that’s how it should be – a community based on mutual respect and collaboration.

But I have also encountered the flip-side of this.  Take this example:  A friend on twitter chats to a friend of theirs who has exactly the same interests as me, has other mutual friends, even writes the same genre.  I follow that person, attempt to chat to them, and I’m ignored.  I don’t understand why.  Not for a minute am I suggesting that everyone has to follow me because I follow them, or reply to me when I mention them, but I fail to see the logic in not doing these things when we quite clearly have so much in common.  We have all the necessary ingredients to make another strong link in the chain; why would you throw that opportunity away? Why would you actively set yourself apart from other writers like you? What does this achieve?

Sometimes, I admit, I feel envious of others I consider vastly more talented/ successful/ popular than me; I’m a human being, after all.  But I fight those feelings because I think that life as an indie author is hard enough without negativity taking hold and without alienating yourself from the people who could support you on your journey, just as you can support them.  I’d rather try my best to be happy for others, even when I have a down day and I don’t feel like it, than sit stewing in my juices.  The writing journey is a much more fulfilling one when you can share it with people who understand each step.

5 steps to happiness – the meme!


I was tagged by the lovely Rebecca Bradley in this meme to share my five steps to happiness.  I must admit that, in spite of the fact that I am naturally quite a happy IMG_0693person, I struggled to come up with a list.  Perhaps because so much makes me happy that five items just didn’t seem enough.  So I thought I would ask my daughters, Liv who’s almost 12 and Mia who is 10.  This is what they thought happiness was about….


1.  Zingy – he’s awesome!

2. Lily’s Wand – it’s the best book ever (no prompting from me, honest!)

3. Family – they lift you when you fall down.

4. Friends – because they’re the best pals ever.

5. Dogs – they’re like your best pals.


1. Fun

2. Challenges

3. Friendshipuntitled

4. Love

5. Adventure

So there you have it, the secrets to happiness as decided by the Sant girls.  Incidentally, Liv asked me to ask you all if you’d like to check out her blog, The Great World of Geek

Serial Spoilers

I’ve recently seen two separate blog posts about spoilers in reviews (check out both excellent sites, Liz Loves Books and Between the Lines)  and many other tweets/Facebook comments.  It started up a Twitter conversation of my own with fellow authors and we got to the point of how difficult it is for the author themselves not to spoil when writing a book series. 3065361442_21d4cc62e7

This was a problem I wrestled with for some time when writing the blurbs for The Young Moon and Not of Our Sky, which follow on directly from Sky Song.  While it was difficult enough to write a blurb and talk about The Young Moon in interviews, it was particularly problematic when it came to Not of Our Sky.  In the final book, almost everything that happens is as a direct result of what happens in the final chapter of The Young Moon, and without referring to that, it was pretty much impossible to give any indication of the story.  The other side of this issue is that I want to give some information, and it has to be enough to hint at something that will tempt the reader to come back to books two and three.

I’ve read one or two reviews of the follow-on books to Sky Song, and some give away more than others.  While this makes me a little nervous, I completely understand how difficult it is to comment in any meaningful way without referring to events that might be viewed as spoilers.  It’s a tough call when you have to decide how much information is too much.  I can also see why potential readers would be put off by spoilers.  I can’t tell you how angry I was Christmas 2010 when the Radio Times gave away the series finale of Merlin by printing the teaser before the penultimate episode had aired!

As usual, everything comes back to Merlin!  It’s not like I’m obsessed or anything. But the question remains: When it comes to series sequels, how much is too much?  What are your thoughts?

Knowing when to stop…

You may be heaving a silent sigh of relief that my blog has been quiet this week.  You could say I’m on location!  I’m on holiday with lots and lots of family members and there isn’t much time alone for blogging.  The fact is, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t blog or write anything this week.  Since the end of last year, I’ve worked every spare minute trying to make some sort of impact on the world of publishing, not to mention new books that I’m desperate to write.  But I know that time away from all that is good for the soul, or so everyone keeps telling me, so I decided that time away from it is exactly what I would get.  blackpool sands

Except I just can’t do it.  The laptop came with me ‘just in case’.  Internet is sporadic at best here but I’ve wrangled and fiddled to get it working in a fashion, ‘just in case’.  Yesterday I went to the most beautiful beach, Blackpool Sands in Devon. It was gorgeous, however, everywhere I looked I saw not scenery but stories. It’s just no good, this bug has me gripped.

I decided today that all I can do is give in and write where I have a quiet spare minute.  I realised that there really is no need to feel like I’m a workaholic who can’t stop, because writing doesn’t feel like work to me.  It’s what I do.  If I never sold another book again I’d still do it.  Where others go off and play tennis, I get as much fun out of telling a story.  I may be less able to find the time this week to do as much as I normally would, but I’m not going to feel guilty about wanting to sneak the odd 500 words in here and there.  The hours I spend every week at the laptop may be long, and at times and I may get frustrated, but it’s only in the same way that my daughter will sit for hours trying to complete a level on Temple Run.

So, I’m off to tap out a thousand words on a very close to being finished WIP before I hit the cider and one epic game of Trivial Pursuits begins.

C is for Chaos

Chaos is what this A-Z challenge has become for me already.  And we’re only on C!

Secretly, though, I love chaos.  I’m never happier than when I’m up against a deadline, or a project is driving me insane because I can’t make it work or I’ve got too much to do. I thrive on nerves.  I love spontaneity and unpredictability.  Secretly, my brain is a world of chaos all the time.  It’s a miracle that anything I do ever gets finished.  I can’t help flitting from task to task like a little project butterfly.

If you’ve ever seen the video to Fireflies by Owl City, then you’ll have a pretty good idea what the inside of my brain actually looks like (forget all that hippocampus and synapse stuff that you read in biology).  And if you haven’t seen it, here it is (the video, not my brain.. although they do look the same.  Did I already say that?).

The letter C also stands for cheat.  I’ll make it up to you with a real academic post for D, honest….

A to Z blogging challenge 2013

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9Ok, so I said I wouldn’t do this because I don’t have time, etc, etc, but then fellow blogger,  Rebecca Bradley (Murder Down to a Tea) persuaded me that it was a good idea.  I may not be so fond of her once April is over!

The idea is that you post for each letter of the alphabet every day (except Sundays) during the month of April.  So watch me crumble, guys.  Point and laugh as I unravel trying to keep up with the challenge and still work on manuscripts.  But at least check out the posts first.

As you might expect, A is up April 1st.  I’m thinking Aliens or Agents.  Maybe I could write a post that proves they are one and the same?  Ok, maybe not…

Check out the challenge for yourself or sign up here.

World Book Night

Here is the list for 2013 World Book Night.  To my shame, I’ve only read one of the books on this year’s list.  I probably shouldn’t admit to that.  I wonder if you can guess which it is *cough, Treasure Island, cough*

treasure island

I have a good friend who seems to have an uncanny ability to get her favourites on the list, or maybe that should be that she predicts that her favourites will be on the list.  Joking aside, World Book Night is actually enormous fun.   In 2011 my friend voted for Beloved by Toni Morrison.  It made the list and she was sent a gorgeous haul to give away.  We spent the evening at Stafford Gatehouse theatre pouncing on unsuspecting theatregoers and confusing them with gorgeous free books. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who wouldn’t take them because they thought there must be a catch!  It was a lovely feeling, though, like being the magical book fairy, spreading beautiful literature to everyone.

Looking at this year’s list, I feel rather guilty and badly read that I’ve only managed one.  I guess my TBR list has just grown to massive proportions.  I’m thinking of hollowing it out and moving my family in.

Operation Spitfire

spitfireLast night I was privileged to be invited to a special fundraising dinner, along with a writer friend, as a guest of The Sentinel newspaper.  For those of you who might not know, the creator of the Spitfire plane, Reginald Mitchell, hailed from Stoke-on-Trent, where my father was born and where I live now. The Spitfire played a crucial part in the Battle of Britain, and in helping the allies win the Second World War.  In 1969 the city of Stoke-on-Trent was gifted one of the last remaining Spitfires as a memorial.  I can still remember, as a child, passing the glass house that it used to sit in and staring at it in awe.  It is now housed in the Potteries museum in Hanley for people to visit.  The purpose of the fundraising dinner last night was to help raise money for its upkeep, and to build a new, more fitting way to exhibit it for future generations, something that would keep its memories and significance alive.

So, regular visitors to my blog will wonder why I’m being so serious about this when I’m usually casually flippant about most things.  Well, last night was a special night for more reasons than a posh dinner.  The guest of honour was a 94 year old ex-pilot who flew a Spitfire during World War II.  We were shown actual footage of a mission he flew on.  To be in a room with such a man was humbling. It is true to say that, without this man, who risked so much for people he had never even met, and thousands of his comrades, I would not be sitting here writing this post now.  My maternal great-grandparents were Polish Jews and, had the war taken a different path, our family would have almost certainly been wiped out.

The funny thing is that, as I sat laughing and chatting with the people at my table (getting a bit squiffy, if truth be told), none of this really occurred to me.  My great-grandparents are dead and gone and my grandmother doesn’t really talk of those times much, despite the fact that there are many more stories to tell (her family narrowly escaping a blast during the blitz once they had fled to Britain is just one of them).  And my life now is full of such current concerns that I don’t really think about how fortunate I am to be here, how so many lucky coincidences conspired to enable my birth at all.  It was only when I got home last night that it really began to hit me.

Being in the same room as that gentleman is something I will remember fondly.  We will never see his like again, and I sincerely hope that we never have to.

If you’d like to find out more about the Spitfire at The Poterries Museum, click here.  And if you’d like to learn more about the Spitfire renovation project, click here.

Desert Island Books are back. And this time it’s personal…

The moment you’ve been eagerly awaiting… drumroll please… five more of my desert island books. Ok, so maybe you haven’t been eagerly awaiting this moment. Maybe you just stumbled on this blog by accident looking for dessert recipes. Ah well, I’m posting them anyway…

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickensphoto

The first time I read this book, aged about fourteen, I stayed up the entire night (and I’m not exaggerating) to finish it. It’s long, like all of Dickens’ tomes, and takes a fair bit of commitment before you start it, but I’ve still managed to read it a couple more times since. And if I’m marooned, then at least with books this long I’ll never get bored. Most people will be able to quote the iconic opening line (I say line, some might call it a novella). Most people will be able to quote the closing line too:
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’
Unless you’re like me, because I’m usually too distraught to be able to focus on the closing line! Either way, you can’t deny that the man knows how to tell a story.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I know, I know, another Dickens. At uni I had a reputation for being slightly odd as the only girl who actually read them for fun. I adore Oliver, truly, and maybe, if I think really hard, I can trace my love affair with young adult protagonists back to him. Everyone knows this story, even people who’ve never picked up a book, even people who’ve never seen one of the hundreds of adaptations, and this is a testament to the endurance of the tale and the vividness of the creation.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The trouble with this choice is that, although I love the book and would happily read it forever, I adore the film and have watched it practically every six months since I can remember.  Since the film is only a fraction of the complexity of the book, I forget things when I’m telling people about the book. The main difference, for those who don’t know, is that while the film is a story within a story, the book is a story within a story within a story. The addition of a dysfunctional narrator undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis whilst searching for an elusive copy of his favourite book adds another, sharper, more contemporary layer. But, for all that, you still have to love Inigo, the vengeance obsessed swordsman, the best.

Island by Jane Rogers

This book, aside from being fantastic, has special meaning for me. I make no secret of my obsession with BBC’s Merlin, and the recent film adaptation of this book starred one Colin Morgan, who plays Merlin in the TV show. I was lucky enough to attend the premiere in Glasgow and to meet Colin and the film’s producers. Sad as I am, I took my well-loved copy of Island along. Now it’s even more precious, containing the autographs of Colin and the film’s producer/director/screenwriter. I take it to bed every night and hug it as I sleep. The book is a dark tale of one young woman’s unravelling mind. She travels to a remote Scottish island to track down the mother who abandoned her to a life in care, with the intentions of killing her in order to exact revenge. What she finds on the island is not only her mother, but a strange half-brother who shows her a new way of viewing the world. While the ending is far from happy, its uplifting message, that salvation is possible for anyone, stays with you weeks after you’ve closed the book.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

I love this series, except for the first book, which drives me insane! Luckily, I began reading the Dark is Rising first (the book for which the series is named) and, in my opinion, this is the best one. It can be read as a standalone with no problem. It’s full of ancient British mythology and magic, and a great protagonist in Will Stanton. I just wish someone had done a Harry Potter with it, instead of that awful film version that we ended up with; it could have been the start of a franchise to rival the best of them.