Monday, 31 October 2011

Personal Slaves vs Bottle Bags

I like thinking ahead. When I write the first page of a new book, a part of me is already imagining what the hardback cover might look like. It's silly, it's fun and it's harmless - I expect a lot of us do it. So in the interest of brightening up this Monday, I thought I'd share some of my expectations vs. the reality.

Two years ago, if I'd imagined what today might look like, my Fantasy To Do list might have looked something like this-

1. Buy gorgeous new dress for movie premiere
2. Acquire personal assistant/slave to deal with things like taxes and cooking
3. Buy new house. The old one's only got six bedrooms
4. Switch on Christmas lights
5. Write fourth bestseller
6. Buy plane tickets for holiday in Italy

Today, my actual To Do list looks a lot like this-

1. Copyedits
2. Get wall in (the only) spare bedroom fixed before baby is born
3. Ring HMRC about double taxation form
4. Buy insulated bottle bags (might be cheap on eBay?)
5. Write some more of a New Book (The One I Really Want to Go Somewhere But Which I Fear May Not Because I'm Having a Crappy Dry Spell)
6. Fix Twitter button on website

Ah, so glamorous.

What are your most outrageous (or exaggerated) fantasies?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

It's another blog hop day - a big welcome to any new visitors! - and this time it's for the Halloween weekend! Hosted by Jeremy Bates, this blogfest is all about favourite monsters and costumes - a full list of other monster-talkers is up on Jeremy's blog here.

Normally picking a favourite anything is hard for me, because I usually have so many, but this time it's a no-brainer. My favourite monster book is Frankenstein.

Apart from the fact that I think it's an amazing, deliciously creepy concept and such a sad story, this novel will always have a special place in my heart because it's an enormous part of the inspiration behind my first book, THE LOST GIRL. Without Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, I'm not sure I'd have been able to write a book about stitching a person together from scratch. And without Frankenstein's Creature, I'm not sure I could have made my stitched-together echoes quite as real.

So there's what I'm celebrating this weekend! Who's your favourite monster?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

FINALLY... website is up!

I've been working on an official author website for months. Literally, months. I could bore you with tales of failed designs, awkward web hosting, rewrites, broken links... but I won't. Finally, it's UP. It's not about to win any awards or anything - though who cares? It's mine and it's there and I am Official. I will be updating it regularly so this is by no means the End Of It, and there are still a few annoying buggy things I want to fix (like a Facebook button that keeps mysteriously vanishing), but it's up and it seems to be working and I'm so relieved!

You can find it at

Such is the fruit of my Tuesday. How has your week been so far?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Dark and Stormy Nights

Write what you know. Snoopy does.

It's what we're supposed to do, right? And that's fine. But sometimes I think we could be doing one better.

Write what you want to know.

Something you're passionate about. Something new. Something you have to learn about. I've always been fascinated by Venice, but I've never yet set a story there because it's not what I know. But maybe I should. Maybe that's exactly the kind of story that will haunt my sleep.

So I guess that's my thought for this weekend. Write what you love, not necessarily what you know. What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to Write a Novel

The thing friends and family inevitably ask me, at some point or the other, is 'how does it work? How do you write a book?' So here it is. In a nutshell. How to write a novel.

The Ten Step Plan

1. Get hold of an idea. Or a character. Or a concept. Something that interests you enough that you want to talk about it. If you want to talk about it, you'll probably want to write about it. Beg. Borrow. Pilfer. Buy one at a shop if you have to. Just make sure you get your hands on one.

2. Write about your idea. Make it Something New and Original and Different.

3. Burst into tears and throw it away because you don't like it anymore.

4. Lather, rinse and repeat Steps 1-3 many times.

5. Start over a variable amount of time later with a) a Fresh Take on the Old Idea, or b) a Brand Spanking New Idea. Now it's special, folks. Now you're in business. (At least, you tell yourself so, to avoid going back to the agony, heartache, blood, sweat and melodrama of Step 4).

6. Write six chapters and give up. It sucks, quite frankly. Stinks. Smells like poo. You're not a writer. You can barely spell. Give up the dream. Become an accountant instead. Or Wesley Snipes's stuntman. (Assuming Wesley Snipes still has a career after all that tax stuff. He should have been an accountant.) This creativity lark's not for you.

7. The Idea nibbles at you. It's probably stewing with malaria. Swat it away. You're not a writer, remember?

8. The Idea nibbles some more. It gives you sleepless nights. It breaks you out in a cold sweat on a hot day. It consumes your thoughts. Your dreams. Your soul. You bite your fingernails to the quick. You get tested for malaria. For various personality disorders. You take strong medication, otherwise known as wine. Nothing works. YOU HAVE TO WRITE AGAIN.

9. So you do. Doesn't help you sleep any better, though.

10. Finish the book. Sleep for a week. Wake up. Carefully count your new grey hairs and dye them before anyone notices. Shed many tears over the fact that you now have crows' feet and your bottom is twice its original size from all that Sitting at the Computer.

Then stop sobbing long enough to realize you finished the book. Suddenly your bottom is no longer a concern. Possibly because you've fainted and concern is therefore beyond you now, but whatever. YOU WROTE A BOOK.

See? Easy peasy.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Pay It Forward

Today is the Pay It Forward Blogfest, hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish - and if you don't know what that is, pop over to their blogs for the details and the list of participating bloggers, because it's such an awesome idea! Basically we're supposed to pick three of our favourite bloggers, people we think everyone should follow, and say a little bit about them. It seemed like a great way to discover new blogs and meet new people, so I signed up as soon as I had a chance.

Picking my three hasn't been easy, though. There are so many blogs I absolutely love and so many people I'd want to mention - in the end it was pretty much a case of 'pick three names out of a hat of favourites'.

Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks
Alex is smart and funny and so nice and everyone should check her blog out at least once! It's primarily a fashion blog but she also talks about books, work, life and she's just started working on a novel - so go over and encourage her!

Bethany Yeager at Ink-Splattered
A writer (like many of us), Bethany's posts about characters, plot and writing in general are always fresh and interesting and I never get tired of reading her.

Jim Murdoch at The Truth About Lies
Jim's posts about novels, poetry and plays are always incredibly detailed, thoughtful and illuminating. It must take him ages to write up each one; seriously, I'm always in awe when I stop by his blog.

Quite a random pick of choices, but, like I said, it was so hard to choose just three favourites I had to grab at a few names from a great list.

A big thank you to Alex and Matthew for hosting this blogfest - and happy weekend, everyone!

PS. I think I'm going to struggle to comment on every blog in the master list of participants, but I am going to try and make my way through the whole list and follow - so if you don't see many comments from me, it's not because I haven't been round!

Monday, 10 October 2011


What with all the baby shopping I've been doing lately, it was inevitable that sooner or later I would get to baby and children's books. That happened about a month ago and it kicked off a nostalgic wave. Since then I've been trolling Amazon and eBay looking for some of my childhood favourites, like the Complete Works of Beatrix Potter (ah, Peter Rabbit. So timeless!), and making new discoveries, like Kate Di Camillo's The Magician's Elephant (sob, so lovely) and The Tale of Despereaux (LOVE).

It's astounding, but I'd completely forgotten how much I love children's books. I read so much YA and adult but it's been months since I've read or reread a truly classic book for younger readers. I hadn't even realized I missed it.

And as I'm incorrigibly greedy about books, I want more. What were your childhood favourites? Found anything new and classic you'd recommend?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Reader Request: The Business of Writing

It's been a while since I've done a Reader Request - apologies to anyone who's still waiting on a post, I will get to all of them, I promise!

The 'business' of writing. Ack. The decidedly not-fun part. In her email, blog reader Clara asked me about this side of the process. More specifically, she asked me what new or hopeful writers should bear in mind if they want to make a career out of it.

Like taxes (also known as That Big Fat Black Hole in Your Bank Account).  If, like me, you've never been self-employed in any capacity before, taxes will come as something of a shock to you.

They're a nuisance to sort out. You need to keep accounts of all your outgoings and incomings if you're making money off of your writing. It doesn't have to be a complicated spreadsheet like the one in the photo (my personal nightmare!), but it can be tedious and hard to figure out at first. And don’t even get me started on trying to understand VAT.

Taxes are also emotionally traumatic. At least to me. With most jobs you see your money after tax. So while you know you're paying taxes, I guess psychologically you don't feel the pinch as hard. You definitely feel every pinch when you're self-employed. You have to physically, manually account for taxes; you have to put away and save some of your money because you'll have to pay it up at the end of the tax year. Which does not end in December.

Oh, and if you sell foreign rights, you will also have the unparalleled delights of international tax laws and tax exemptions to deal with.

Then there's the fact that the work never stops. I love what I do. But it's not all joy. When you're employed by someone else (most of the time, but obviously this doesn't apply to everyone), you generally leave your work at work and go home. As a writer, I can't do that. I might be able to forget about it for a while, but I am always a writer. Things to do, jobs to tick off, ideas, they're always rushing around my brain.

And let's not forget you're not alone anymore. When you write purely for fun, you can stop when you like. You can pick it up again when you like. It's you and only you. When writing is your job, you have to do it even when you don't want to.

When you're published, or working with an agent, it's not just you anymore. There are other people to consider: their opinions, their thoughts, their advice. You have deadlines. You may have to do tough things to your precious, bloody, sweaty, teary manuscript. You may have to get your hands stuck in stuff you don't enjoy, like taxes, and sending angry emails to your web host because your website's not working properly, and self-promotion even if you're shy.

You have to treat it like a job or it's going to fall apart.

I will admit I don't always treat my work as professionally as I should. I have whims. Frenzies. Dry spells. Sometimes I'll work for twelve hours in a day, sometimes for less than an hour. It's not as disciplined as I'd like to be. But I try to find a balance. I try to make sure all the boxes on my To Do list are ticked.

And I guess that's what I'd leave you with. If you want to make a career out of writing, you have to treat it like any other career. And adjust your expectations accordingly. It won't be all fun. It can't be. It will involve a lot of work. You'll have to do things you find boring, or painful, or irksome. And only you can know if it's worth it.

It is for me.