Another milestone in my self publishing adventure.

It’s been almost two weeks since I released Sky Song to an unsuspecting public. When I say public, of course, I have my tongue firmly in my cheek.  It has been a low key affair – I just stick the odd tweet out now and again and badger my friends and family.  I don’t have the knowledge to do a decent job of organising blog tours or reviews and whatnot but I’ve been bumbling along doing my best with it.  But the overwhelmingly positive response has made my little face glow.

It’s a funny feeling, offering up the darkest corners of your imagination for all to see.  I noticed on Goodreads that someone in India is reading it.  That was a very strange notion, that someone across the world in a completely different culture, someone who doesn’t know me, owes me no allegiance or has no reason to consider my feelings, someone who simply reads and judges, is looking at the thing that I spent hours lovingly creating and doing just that.   I love the idea that people I don’t know are entering the world I made – after all, that was what I’ve always said I wanted as writer – but at the same time it’s strangely terrifying.   It opens you up in a way that makes you feel naked and vulnerable, like your soul is up for inspection.

Closer to home I’ve had wonderful support from friends – writers and otherwise –and from people I’ve never met apart from in the Twittersphere.  Offers of help and encouragement have come from the most unlikely places, as have opportunities.  Another thing that has struck me is how the people I naturally assumed would buy a copy haven’t, but people that I never expected to have bought one, read it and given me wonderful feedback.  All it takes these days is a couple of lines from an old uni classmate on facebook to reduce me to tears (good ones, I hasten to add).   I know the backlash will come, I know that we all get one star reviews, but for now, the ones I’ve had I stare at lovingly for hours.

Right now, I feel humble, but I don’t feel the need to be falsely modest about the work I’ve put in on this trilogy.  People who know me will know that I’ve been writing them for years while trying to hold another life together, that I’ve stayed up all hours of the night and ignored family members when an idea had to be worked through.  I’m not saying that no other writers do this – I know they do.  What I’m saying is let us have our little moment in the sun.  Because we’ve earned it.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported, encouraged and downloaded.  One day I hope I can repay your kindness.  And roll on book two!

P.S.  After all that, I’m off to watch re-runs of Merlin.


The gang’s all here…

You may remember me introducing Luca, my little Italian stud-muffin. Well, now it’s time to meet Jacob and Ellen.

It’s taken six long years to get here. And there were times when I seriously doubted that Jacob and his friends would make it off my hard drive. But, finally, this weekend, I gave them their freedom and they sailed out into the world.

Sky Song started off as a little tale about a young girl whose dad watched the skies every night for something. The little girl didn’t know what but it soon became clear to her that whatever it was he searched for, it was something that didn’t belong to the world she knew. As I worked the story out in my head, the little girl became an older boy named Jacob and the thing that came from the skies became an unexpected destiny. I’m always fascinated by the thought processes that make a plot and, looking back, the ones that got me to this point must have made some pretty amazing leaps!

Despite the fact that Jacob came from my head, I find him a difficult character to sum up. He’s an academic high flyer, though he doesn’t want to be. He’s attractive in his own quirky way, though he doesn’t really know how to deal with the attention that it brings. Aware that he is one of life’s outsiders, all he really wants is to fit in. He has grown up not really knowing who he is. So when his destiny is sprung on him one fateful night, all these things suddenly start to make sense.

Once I had Jacob and Luca I knew I needed a girl to stir up trouble. So along came Ellen. With a tougher upbringing than either Jacob or Luca, Ellen is the anchor of the trio. She’s grounded, nurturing, loyal, perceptive, intuitive and unfailingly optimistic. When there is chaos (and where Jacob and Luca are concerned there usually is) Ellen is the one who cuts through it to the truth. But sometimes she lets her heart rule her head and it gets her into trouble.

I hope you get to know them all and love them like I do. As I do the final edits on the final book of the trilogy any time now, I might shed a little tear. After all, they’ve been with me for six years and they’re like members of my family. But, as a good friend once said to me, every time another reader gets to know your characters, they breathe on their own a little more. I think I know what she means. I just hope I don’t end up having to give them mouth-to-mouth…

2012: My year of rain, running, writing, and random chance…

This time last year I had given up on ever writing for a living. Almost six years had passed since I completed my first novel and three years since I graduated from Staffs Uni with a first in English and creative writing. I had spent a good many months of those bright, hopeful years trying to find an agent and get work published.  I had some small successes – no less pleasing for their humbleness, I hasten to add – but as a viable career option, my writing was going nowhere. I continued to edit and enjoyed that, but knowing that the books I worked on were going into print and mine weren’t was a little depressing. And, I think, if many editors were completely honest, editing stories, despite being a worthy and necessary pursuit, is a small substitute for writing your own. As time went by I continued to tinker about on my laptop penning the odd tale, but it became more about my own enjoyment than the notion that it might be for anyone else’s. Resigned to my desk job, I started 2012 with other objectives on the horizon.

In March I ran the Stafford half-marathon.  When I say ran, what I really mean is hobbled and almost collapsed at mile twelve.  We had fundraising to do for my niece, Katie, who has cerebral palsy, to raise £60,000 for an operation in America that would help her to walk and my three brothers and I all agreed to run.  It was a family show of solidarity and love for Katie and there was no way I was going to miss it. Most people who know me, however, will freely admit that they thought I wouldn’t even complete half of it.  I’m overweight, middle aged, the furthest I had ever run before was three miles and that was two years previously.  Since then I had done very little regular exercise.  I had three months’ warning and not enough training sessions. But one thing that anyone who truly knows me will tell you – for me, there’s no greater drive to succeed than everyone telling me I will fail.  I did it in just under two and a half hours, the maximum time they keep the course open for. To this day, I honestly can’t remember anything about the final mile apart from the finish line that kept moving further and further away.  My reward was best McDonald’s milkshake ever and not being able to walk after I’d done.

The rest of the summer we packed bags in supermarkets, did bake sales and car boots, braving the regular weekend rain and called-off events, and eventually, by August, Katie was on her way.

Earlier in the year, I’d had an email asking if I’d like to contribute to the debut publication of a creative writing magazine called Indent.  I sent a story in called ‘What Billy Saw’ and was thrilled to see it finally appear in print in July. I hadn’t expected the email and I certainly hadn’t expected them to print the story.  I don’t really know why, I think I had just spent so long in a literary limbo that all ambition in that field had left me.  But it is tiny events that can sometimes change the path of your life, and looking back, this may have been one of them.

Newly charged and ready to dust off my laptop again, August saw me at a barbecue at the house of one of my uni lecturers. The conversation turned to PhD study and teaching and why I was doing neither of these things considering my BA grades.  I had always wanted to continue into post grad education, but money had always been an issue.  As the drink flowed money suddenly seemed less and less important and I left the gathering drunkenly tripping over my maxi-dress and promising to apply.  Which I did, and now I am a very happy (but poor) post grad student, able to pass on my knowledge to undergraduates and with the best creative writing teachers and fellow students I could wish for.

Remember that first novel I wrote all those years ago?  Weeks after the fateful barbecue I landed a deal to publish it.  Another moment of random chance from a conversation with Storm Constantine of Immanion Press.  I had done a lot of editing work for Storm over the years and we were talking about her new foray into YA fiction.  Storm knew I also wrote my own fiction but her area had always been adult fiction and mine YA and children so, although she had read some of my work and liked it, she was never able to offer me a contract before.  But a mutual friend had told her how much she had enjoyed reading my novel, Runners, and Storm wanted to know would I like to publish on her new imprint? We expect Runners to be ready for an April release.

Did someone say random chance?  Because it didn’t stop there.  My husband happened to pass me a newspaper one Sunday morning because there was an article I might be interested in.  Usually, I put the paper down, go and do something else, and then promptly forget about the article until it goes into the recycling.  But just this once, I picked it up and read about another writer from Stoke who lived literally a mile away from me.  How had I not known about this lady? I tracked her down on facebook and decided to get in touch – writing is a lonely business, as anyone who does it will tell you, and the more friends you can share it with, who really get it, the better. It is true to say that I have made, and continue to make, the most incredible friendships through writing; friendships that I sincerely hope will stand the test of time. And this one turned out to be no exception.  We met and hit it off straight away and I’m so proud to be able to witness her current success.  It is true to say that her perseverance in the face of many years of rejection has inspired me to keep going now, whatever happens.

2013 will be all about kindle too.  Sky Song, the first book of The Sky Song trilogy (which was planned for December 2012 release, but I’m terribly disorganised) is due for release January 2013, hopefully followed by the second two: The Young Moon and Not of Our Sky in February and April.

It’s been a gloriously busy year. And I can only hope 2013 is as random as 2012 was.

My Little Italian Boy

When I was about five or so, I had a friend at school.  He was an Italian boy, a head of thick, dark hair and eyes like melted chocolate.  He was funny too, I giggled constantly whenever he was around.  I had a massive crush on him, one of those kiddie crushes where you feel some sort of attraction to someone without really understanding what it is you feel.  Then, one day I got to school and he wasn’t there.  He never came back and I never found out where he went.  It was a long time ago, and I still think of him surprisingly often.  But Time, as is its cruel way, has faded many of the memories.  To my shame, I can’t even remember his name. So what does a writer do to keep the ones that are still left? I made him into a book character.

For Sky Song I grew my little Italian boy up and called him Luca.  That’s Gianluca to his mum, of course, who adores him. He’s gorgeous, naturally, an outrageous flirt with a razor-sharp wit.  His enthusiasm for life is infectious, as is his humour. He’s the class joker who doesn’t think beyond his next gag.  But he’s a loyal and true friend with the heart of a lion and a hidden depth of keen intelligence.  A boy just waiting for the right moment to be glorious. Exactly the sort of boy you want on your side when you’re saving the universe.

So, ciao, my little Italian boy, wherever you are.  I hope you like your imaginary self.