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Oops…

Gosh, has it really been that long? I have come to the conclusion that I am not very good at blogging. Writing effort goes into novels or tweets (if you want to scare yourself, try calculating how many words you have written in tweets – you will have produced several encyclopedias worth).

But, I have not been entirely idle, just mostly. I have been reading. And when I say reading, I mean building a cave of books and charging in wearing my hat with a light on. I think it’s no coincidence that the period when I didn’t read, around 10 years, when I was either studying or building my career by working stupid hours, I barely wrote anything. When I started reading, the writing started flowing too.

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Reading is like practice writing: you are watching someone else doing it and learning from them. When I read someone like Margaret Atwood, my reaction is generally wow – how can I make words perform like this? When I read other things – no names mentioned – I wonder how on earth it got published/ shortlisted for an award.

I have been asked whether this type of critical reading spoils the enjoyment of the book and the answer is no. I love a book where I can get lost and then the thought comes afterwards. With many books, working out why I don’t like it is often the only way to get to the end. Either way, the simple act of opening a book at the bookmark (NB there is no hell to low for people who turn down the corners of book pages) is still one of the most exciting moments of the day…

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On this day…

How often do you have a dream come true? I don’t mean when you get something going your way, I mean something that you have planned for, worked towards and, occasionally, given up on only for hope to be revived?

That was getting a book published for me, one year today. What struck me was just how fleeting the moment was compared to the build-up and effort to get there. That’s not meant to sound ungrateful, it was meant things were just a bit of a blur.

A year on, a couple of things have happened. I’ve seen my book on a shelf in a real shop and acted like a kid with my nose pressed against the window of a sweet shop waiting for reviews. My second book is finished – it was a 30k word embryo a year ago.

And that is the single biggest thing I have learned in the last year. Once you have achieved a dream, it doesn’t go away, it grows. It encourages you to be more ambitious: a second book seemed impossible not that long ago and now that is done, why not a third? Looking around, on this day, anything is possible if you shake a tail feather…

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Roll up, roll up…

How quickly time goes. It is almost a year since He’s Gone was published and while I am excited about that, my focus is on finishing its follow up – no, not allowed to say yet.

In the meantime, have I mentioned the competition to win a signed first edition of He’s Gone? Well, yes of course I have but were you paying attention? And have you entered? The deadline is midnight on 28/07 and all the details are here Flash fiction competition.

Good luck!

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The end. Again…

I’ve had a wonderful break. I have written some non-fiction articles, taken lots (and lots) of photographs and done a lot of constructive nothing (partly as this time coincided with a particularly busy period in the day job).

One thing that has been a joy over the last few weeks is a number of friends have had successes. The joy of writing is that it’s never a zero-sum – she wins, so I lose. If you have a group all striving to the same goal, their joys become yours and worthy of a party.

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All this has successfully distracted me from doing any work on my own book. But now, it is time to (metaphorically) crack my knuckles, top up the coffee and get back to editing book 2. I have a fresh file of comments from my editor and I must dive in. The good thing in, I’m looking forward to it. Partly because getting someone else’s views on your book is always a precious resource. Things you thought were crystal clear are clearly not and there is the odd case of a tactful ‘are you sure the character would do this?’, which of course translates as ARE YOU MAD?

 

 

 

 

 

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Empty to depot…

Is a good description of my head at the moment. On 20 May, I submitted the second DI Robyn Bailley to my publisher. And with one bound, she was free, to paraphrase Dick Barton…

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It is an odd sensation, when something you have been living with, nurturing, cursing for 14 months is suddenly not there any more. I was able to do radical things like take a lot of photographs, taking advantage both of the additional time and the better weather. (NB anybody who’s thinking, now why does that sound familiar, you can give yourself a gold star. Yes, I gave my character my own hobby – it means I stand a chance of knowing what I’m talking about for at least part of the time.)

Probably the biggest single pleasure is to be able to read books in the way I like to read, being able to take a solid hour and immerse myself in another world. For around 15 years, I read almost no fiction because I was building my career and either studying, reading text books, or looking at industry blurb. I’m going to be using this time before my book comes back to read because I found when I started reading, my writing improved. When my book comes back, it will no doubt need a good wash and brush up, so to be able to see it with fresh eyes, I’m going to fill my head with as many other worlds as I can beforehand…

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Lost in a good book…

This weekend, I spent a reasonable amount of Saturday editing and an equivalent amount of Sunday reading. Guess which one I got more pleasure out of?

Of course, being me, there was also a lot of hmm, what’s he doing here and how can I get a similar effect going? I find it wonderful that books can both entertain and make you think, truly multi-tasking entertainment.

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I have been lucky enough to produce a book and count myself even luckier to be able to hear, directly from readers, what they thought of it…

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What you really need to be a writer…

Out of interest, I typed ‘what you need to be writer’ into Google. Any guesses as to how many results? Go on – no, up a bit. 88 million (and an odd 100k). I had a look at a few and the majority stressed the skills you needed, like good language skills; the ability to generate ideas and persistence. A number of famous writers have also opined on the subject, possibly the most famous being Virginia Woolf’s comment that a woman needs a room of her own.

Of the two, after my recent experience, I am in team Virginia. I write on a laptop while commuting. Recently, my laptop has developed a fault and no longer types the letters a, s, d, l, or one side of the shift. I’m stuck (especially as I have characters called Lorraine and Chloe).

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I once read a very clever novel Ella Minnow Pea which described the experience as a community gradually banned the use of letters, restricting language and consequently thought and action. The prose became ever more dense until life becomes a nightmare. With only a little exaggeration for effect, I am stuck in this nightmare scenario, unable to edit until I can get to buy a new laptop. I sometimes think it would be easier to go back to the days of paper and pen, until I hear a fellow-writer, who writes longhand, say that she manages 200 words on a good day. Sigh, technology – can’t write with it, can’t write without it…

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