Monday 29 October 2012

Celebrating independent bookshops, and an award

My small town has an independent bookshop. It's always had a bookshop, and yet I didn't fully appreciate it until last week.

I've always tried to support my local shops. Our high street currently has a wonderful selection of shops (it goes in weird phases of great shops, great shops failing, empty shops, great shops again) and I use them as well as my local big-city shops. I can buy myself croissant and a cup of tea for breakfast, treat myself to a massage and manicure, and buy myself a painting of my local landmark. I can have lunch at an Italian cafe, read a magazine down on the river, then wander back up and have afternoon tea in the bookshop's tea room. And all of this within a ten minute walk of my house.

So, yes, my town is pretty cool. But this bookshop is the coolest thing of all.

To understand this post, you have to know that the day before my revelation I went into Waterstones. Now, I actually like this shop - whenever I'm meeting friends I'll always duck in and have a quick look around. But this particular day, when I walked in, I was confronted by a whole table of celebrity autobiographies... some of whom I didn't realise were celebrities. And on another table there was a display of 50 Shades of Grey-style erotica.

I felt my heart sink a little. I know that's a cliche, but that's how hard my heart sank!

Twenty-four hours later, I was stood in my local independent. Okay, so the choice wasn't as vast, by a long shot, but I was browsing for about ten minutes before I finally chose the book I wanted - and, best of all, there were about ten different self-published local authors on the shelves. How brilliant to have them side by side the traditionally published books. In an age where publishing is a state of flux, to put it mildly, I hope this shop and all the others like it continue to thrive, because we need them!


The wonderful Patsy has given me this lovely Top Commenters award. Thank you so much, Patsy!

I am so grateful to everyone who reads my blog and comments - it means I'm not wasting my time by sharing my ramblings with you. I'm going to pass this award on to some of my most regular commenters:

Kyra Lennon at Write Here, Write Now
Linda at Excuse Me While I Note That Down...
Elizabeth Seckman at Use Your Words...
lizy-expat-writer at lizy-expat-writer
Allison at Geek Banter
Suze at Analog Breakfast
Joanne at Word Splash - Joanne Faries

I know I've missed loads of people, and I apologise whole-heartedly for that. You guys are all awesome!!
(Oh, and due to the fact that there are loads of people on my list, and I'm not feeling well, I'm going to test their commenting awesomeness and see how long it takes for them to notice they've been awarded... *cue Dr Evil laugh*)

[edited: 30/10/12 to include a link to Patsy's blog - sorry for forgetting to do it Patsy!]

Saturday 27 October 2012

NaNoWriMo Eve

As I've already mentioned on this blog, I'm participating in my first ever NaNoWriMo, and what's fantastic is so many of my blogger friends are doing it too - some for the first time, some have done it before and still signed up again! Most of these wonderful people are more prepared than me, so I thought I'd have a little run down of the progress I've made so far.

1) The Soundtrack. Yep, the first thing that happened after I decided to sign up was I listened to the album Tales of Grime and Grit by Ruarri Joseph, and suddenly my head was filled with a feeling. If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll be aware that I usually have a sense of my project before I have any of the details. This is the title track:

2) I came up with the title, which is... (drumroll)...

The Day That Nothing Happened

3) Then I woke up with the first line running around my head... (2nd drumroll)... Yesterday, something happened. (See what I did there?)

4) There's a man in a coma, somewhere - not sure who he is, or why he's in a coma, or what is going to happened to him, but he exists!

5) Erm, there is no 5. That's all I've got. But I'm not worried. I'm looking forward to it. Really.

This is my profile: please feel free to buddy me!

How are your preparations going?

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The pitfalls of being a pantser

So, it's probably time for another post. I've been trying to think of a topic for a while, but nothing's coming to mind. My publisher offered me the chance to guest post on their blog - and I can't think of a topic for that either!

The reason is: I'm working on a story (possibly a short story, probably a novella, maybe a novel), and it was going really well until two of my characters walked off in different directions, and I'm not sure how to get them back together again. For the next part of the story they need to be in the same room, in agreement.

I know this is the curse of being a pantser, instead of a plotter, because if I was the latter the father would not have walked out of the house - he'd have stood in the garden having a sneaky cigarette and his son would have come out to offer him a bottle of cider... (ooh, now I think about it, that might work...)

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes... I suppose having these two characters in completely different places builds the tension. I occasionally conclude a story too quickly, too easily. Most of my tension and conflict is internal due to the nature of who and what I write about. If I plotted, I'd see where that conflict needed to be heightened; I'd have known how to stop the characters walking away from each other.

But whenever I've attempted to plot, I've felt trapped and constrained, In fact, I tend to rebel against the plan at the first chance I get. So I know it's not for me. And equally I know that if I don't have a topic, I can't pluck one out of thin air... hehehe

So, that's my inflated excuse for not posting since last week.
Do you ever find your characters run off and start having ideas of their own too?

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Bits and pieces, and the Man Booker Prize 2012

Today I'm really excited to be featured on The Writing Nut, answering Nutschell's great questions and sharing what I look like in a bridesmaid's dress! Please pop over and take a look - at the interview, not just the dress.

I've also got a couple of new stories up on the Alfie Dog Fiction site from today, if you fancy popping along there too.

The Man Booker Prize
It was the Man Booker Prize last night. Hilary Mantel won for a second time - the first British author to win twice - so it was a great achievement for her. I haven't read either of her winning novels, and I actually had my fingers crossed for Alison Moore. In general I'm not overly keen on historical fiction, because I spend far too much time wondering which bits are fact and which bits have been made up. I know I should just read the story as I would any other novel, but I can't. Maybe it's time to give historical fiction another chance?

What do you think of the winner? Have you read the book? Who were you hoping to win?

Sunday 14 October 2012

Super Sweet Blogging Award, and some Sunday music

The wonderful Rachel at Writing on the Wall passed this yummy award to me recently, and once I stopped looking at the picture, I realised I should answer the questions!

1. Cookies or cake? Cake.

2. Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.

3. What is your favourite sweet treat? Chocolate cheesecake.

4. When do you crave sweet things most? After I've eaten something savoury.

5. If you had a sweet nickname what would it be? I'm sure there used to be a kid's character called Chocky - I'd love that one. My actual nicknames are not sweet.

Once again, this is one of those pass-it-on deals, but once again (again) I've seen this award on so many blogs and I think everyone has had their cake, eaten it, washed up and put the dishes away. So, feel free to grab this award if you haven't done it yet - and enjoy the cake... or cookies!


A couple of weeks ago Hubby released his first music video (made by Hole in the Wall Media), so as it's Sunday, I thought I'd I share it! This is the link to Peter Crawford's website, where you can check out his latest gigs and buy his CD!

Wednesday 10 October 2012


At half past eight this morning I wrote #579,495 on my Twitter feed. You might have seen it and thought "Eh?"

Right now - two hours later - it would be #579,643.

What am I talking about? have helpfully included author ranking on their Author Central pages - you know, those pages you go to to see how well/badly your books are performing. Well, now there's something else to make you feel all warm and snuggling and secure.

Except, losing 150 places in two hours hasn't made me feel any of those things.

Amazon say: This list makes it easy for readers to discover the best-selling authors on overall and within a selection of major genres.

Only the top 100 authors will be on lists visible by buyers. Sorry, Mr 101, you've lost out!

But, if you are the best selling author in your genre, your readers probably know this. It's your books that pop up in the advertising, in the lists, first in the searches. It's your books that have the marketing budget so everyone knows your book is arriving weeks or months before the publishing date. It's your books that can have half a million pre-orders.

What about everyone else? The mid-listers, the self publishers, the small press/ebook exclusive writers (ahem...) What if you happen to be the very bottom author, the very last person in the list, will anyone at all buy your book? I, for one, really don't need to see any more graphs on a gradually downhill trajectory.

Amazon are big. It would have been a lovely thought if someone could have said, in one of their big meetings, "Why don't we flip the list and have that bottom person at the top? Wouldn't that be a warm and lovely thing for us to do?"

Because, to be fair, the best sellers don't really need help. It's everyone else - the people who sell one or two books a week, rather than an hour!

Saturday 6 October 2012

A couple of tags

Elizabeth at Use Your Words... tagged me in the Next Big Thing thing a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I'd give it a go:

1. Working Title? Our Beautiful Child and other stories

2. Where did idea come from for the book? There are three novella length stories in the collection. The first one I wrote is The Traveller, which contains my most favourite character ever. The second one Ella's Story wasn't supposed to be connected to The Traveller, but I noticed I'd set the story in a similar town, with similar landmarks. And then, eventually, I decided to write a a third based in the same town, because the idea of a trilogy felt right by then. Although some of the characters overlap a little bit, they are completely separate and can be read as individual stories.

3. What genre does it fall under? Contemporary alternative paranormal-ish romance!

4. One sentence synopsis? (Cheating: one sentence for each story!!)
  • Ella's Story - a recurring dream about her own death sends Ella into turmoil, especially when elements of her dream start to come true.
  • The Traveller - a stranger in town captivates most of the women, but he has his eyes on just one.
  • Our Beautiful Child - Rona is chosen by the local ghosts as a channel between their two worlds when a fake medium tries to hold a seance in the local pub.
5.Self-published or agented or what? Hopefully published by Vagabondage Press, my publisher for Cat and The Dreamer.

6. How long did it take to write first draft? The Traveller - the first story - started life in 1999 I think, but there were big gaps between writing stories. The final story took the longest, because I just couldn't grasp all the elements of the story - I was thinking about it for a couple of years - and now it's my favourite.

7. What actors would you choose to play your characters? Erm... I'm going to pass on this one because I can't think of anyone who could play them. My favourite character is based on two real people, so only they could play him - but I don't think either of them are actors!


Next, Teresa at The Wittering Woman tagged me in Seven Things About Me. I've done a lot of tags where I've had to share seven, or more, things so I'm not sure I can come up with anything new. I'll give it a go...

  1. I had two imaginary friends when I was little, called Iccance and Occance. (The spelling might not be entirely right!)
  2. I got so nervous on my wedding day that I couldn't eat until about nine o'clock in the evening. I hated being the centre of attention! (It was a long time ago, I'm much better now.)
  3. I've just sat here for five minutes thinking of a number 3, and I'll probably take the same length of time to think of a number 4.
  4. I'm very bad at singing, playing Trivial Pursuit and playing any kind of sport which involves hitting a ball with something.
  5. But I'm quite good at making omelette!
  6. I wave at train drivers.
  7. I own the DangerMouse complete box set.
Phew, I did it! 

I'm not going to pass this on to anyone specifically, but if you'd like to take part, especially with the Next Big Thing if you have something to talk about, then consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday 3 October 2012

IWSG - My NaNoWriMo announcement

A couple of weeks ago, Kate from The Suddenly Kate Show and I were discussing chocolate on Twitter, when the conversation took a turn and we were suddenly agreeing to enter this year's NaNoWriMo. Isn't it weird how things like that happen?

National Novel Wrtiting Month (NaNoWriMo) started life in 1999, which makes this year the 13th year (which happens to be my lucky number). It challenges people to write a 50,000 novel within the month. 1999 had 21 participants, 6 of whom managed to complete the challenge. Last year there were 256,618 participants and 36,843 winners (14%, if you're interested in figures).

There's a reason why I've watched other people taking part, year after year, and settled down contently not taking part. Actually, there are several:
  • the only novel I've ever written that was more than 50,000 words took me more than ten years to write
  • my mind goes blank when I'm given a deadline, and my procrastination gene kicks in to overdrive
  • I'm not keen on first drafts, I don't plan and I don't write in chapter order
  • I tried something similar in the past and did badly.
I have a whole month to panic!
And now for the reasons I'm doing it this year:
  • I've been bumbling along with small projects this summer, but haven't started anything big since Cat and The Dreamer was published
  • I want to know if I can do it... after all it's only 1666 words a day, how hard can that be?
  • if I can get a new idea written, I can spend the rest of the winter re-drafting and try to have something ready to submit next summer
  • it will give me a really good excuse to eat chocolate... brain food, don't you know???

But, I'm feeling a teeny bit insecure... what if I fail? What if I write rubbish? What if I end up writing the same chapter over and over again? What if I won't ever be able to string another sentence together, let alone have the strength in my hands to write out my Christmas cards? What if I eat so much chocolate I actually start to hate it?

Okay, that's enough insecurity! People have been doing this for years now, so I can definitely try!
What about you? Are you taking part? Have you done it before, or is this your first year too?