Celebration! My 100th post and zooming past 7000 hits!

Love

Celebrations come in all sizes…small and intimate to the grandiose, and in all colours – from little hints of pastel, hues to match your mood, to the vibrancy of fireworks or the acid splashes of billowing streamers and balloons.

Well, this is a little celebration for a little achievement but a very special one to me.

At the end of January 2012 I started this blog. I had no grand intentions at the time, no aspirations beyond wanting to share my passions and thoughts in a random sort of way. Having never been able to adhere to the regimented nature needed to write a daily diary entry, this blog has been as close as I can get to it. A way of making some semblance of sense from my chaotic life, of organising my thoughts and perhaps a forum for discussing creativity, the language of imagination.

Blogs are as individual as their creators. Some become mere extensions of the people behind them, streams of consciousness drifting over the internet. For me, it is that, but is also a place to tell stories, share poetry, life events, illuminate my journey to becoming a published writer and all the strange oddities that happen to you along the way.

A little nook n’ cranny amidst the ebbing flow of the web. An ocean of information and dead-ends, a place to get lost in or be swallowed whole…

This is a little modest blog, unassuming, not showy, a welcoming and cosy snug with an over-sized hearth and a shabby rug which reeks of candle smoke and coal but a place which promises warmth and comfort, good advice and honesty. A home of creative thinking (hopefully) and somewhere simply to be.

To ponder…isn’t that what every writer does? To ponder, to think, to imagine, to dream…ahhhh…per chance to dream!

So, on this my 100th post, I say a genuine heartfelt thank you to every passing visitor, every friend and acquaintance, every fly-by one stop blogger, every lingerer, lurker or frequent returner…

THANK YOU!         THANK YOU!         THANK YOU!

Love

Biting nails, book signing and the road to publication – Part 2

Now where were we?

Writing advice…ummm. The tricky foothills and thick forests of the publishing world.

Well, you’ve written your grand opus, researched it thoroughly, edited and re-drafted the hell out of it and it’s finally polished enough to be publication ready.

Now that your work is prepared, it’s time to turn the microscope on yourself. Are you, the writer, the creator of your work, ready for the rollercoaster ride? To be sure, I wasn’t.

Despite having joined writing sites years before, like the wonderful UKAuthors and despite having every volume of the Writers & Artists Yearbook from 1998 onwards, and thinking I was ready and pretty savy…I really wasn’t.

The Writers & Artists Yearbook is a terrific resource to be sure and essential reading for all new authors and illustrators, but it is only the first step. As a debut writer you have so SO much to learn and the learning curve is pretty damn steep! …oh, and there’s always more to learn btw, it never stops!

So where do you start?

Well, writing sites are absolutely invaluable. If you think you can do this completely on your own…odds are you can’t. Writing sites are a microcosm for the industry in many ways. You will make new friends and contacts that will stay with you for years, meet dedicated writers with razor-sharp critiquing skills, and yes, you’ll meet the occasional troll, but that’s life, right?

You will learn not only the craft of writing but gain experience in marketing, promotion, entering competitions, raising your online profile, the merry-go-round of enquiry letters, finding publishers and agents or how to chart your own course by doing the self-pub route which in itself has a whole plethora of new skill sets to learn!

My advice?

Learn as much as you can and as quickly as you can, you’ll need all your skills and cunning, believe me. Oh…and if you’re work shy and not fully committed to becoming a writer, as harsh as it sounds, you won’t make it. The hours you will need to put in, to achieve your goal, are nothing short of insane. Forget social life, forget daily routines…it will literally take over your life!

These are some of the best writing sites to join:

www.authonomy.com  – The HarperCollins writing site (and home to my beloved The Alliance of Worldbuilders, the biggest thread/group on there, full of wonderful talented writers and fantasy and sci-fi nuts like me! If you pop in, my username is Tollam, a character from my novel…so come and say ‘hello’!)

www.ukauthors.com – The wonderful Andrea runs this site, full of amazing writers creating in every genre possible. Great for poetry too.

www.abctales.com – The first writing site I ever joined. Write a masterpiece and get your work ‘cherry picked’!

www.absolutewrite.com – A one-stop shop for everything writing connected. Great advice too for the new author.

For writing and information sites, these are the best to join and visit:

www.griffinsquiill.com – A great website run by the multi-talented Ryan Holmes, who also has THE coolest job in the world – he works for NASA no less! A great place for fantasy writers to showcase their work and help each other. A real haven in a shark infested web!

www.triciadrammeh.com – Fantasy writer Tricia Drammeh’s website where she showcases her own writing, reviews books, hosts guest blogs and interviews authors in her ‘Authors to Watch’ section.

But probably the most comprehensive website/blog I have come across is Morgen Bailey’s.

www.morgenbailey.wordpress.com – Everything you could possibly need or want is here under one wonderful web umbrella! Flash fiction, short stories, author spotlights, blog interviews, writing tips, submission info. for every genre type including scripts and poetry, exercises, poetry writing, the latest competitions – again for every genre type , guest blogs, links, writing groups, critiques (no reviews though as Morgen is insanely busy),  and so much more.

For publishers & agents, one of the very best sites is Preditors & Editors.

www.pred-ed.comTHIS IS A MUST SITE! The writing world, like every other, is full of sharks as well as the genuine fish that you’d love to hook or be hooked by. A case of buyer, or writer, beware. This site is invaluable for finding out information on prospective publishers and agents that you are interested in submitting to. A genuinely important resource for all writers.

Also:

www.writersservices.com – An up-to-date site for everything the writer needs. Agents, publishers, editorial services, ‘What’s new’, The Writer’s Magazine, advice from experts and 2,000 pages of information and services. A great site.

www.firstwriter.com – A good resource for finding literary agents specialising in specific genres.

www.agentquery.com – One of the internet’s most trusted databases for literary agents.

www.writers.net – A good general resource for writers, editors, agents and publishers.

In truth, I could go on and on. There really are SO many sites out there to help you on your journey. I’ve only included the ones I have personally used or visited or which have been recommended to me by fellow writers.

Also, for those wanting to navigate the murky waters of what to do next and how to do it – there is help out there. Check out Debbie Young’s new book, ‘Sell Your Books!’ full of invaluable advice for the self-published and small press author alike. Really great stuff! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sell-Your-Books-Promotion-Self-published/dp/1906236348/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351030196&sr=1-1

Product DetailsRemember, the road to publication is usually a long and arduous one and is often littered with the carcasses of those writers and works that didn’t make it for what ever reason. Give yourself the best possible chance.

Be in no doubt – this IS an Everest that you are attempting to climb.

But remember, Everest has been conquered, despite the catalogue of casualties. It is an achievable goal, though a mammoth one. Be prepared. You wouldn’t attempt to scale a mountain without any training, climbing equipment or a friendly guide, would you? Enthusiasm and talent will only get you so far. Time to get serious.

So guys…get your tackle out! (ummm…that sounded wrong!) 😛 xx

Biting nails, book signing and the road to publication – Part 1.

Writing advice is a tricky one.

Certainly you’ll find hundreds of sites ready to tell writers what to do and how to do it. Unsolicited advice that may be very helpful or may not.

Personally, I genuinely believe that the writing journey is different for everyone – one size definitely does NOT fit all. It’s difficult and perhaps even dangerous to tell other writers what to do, but sharing experiences and stories is always a good idea.

So, for what it’s worth, here is a little of my journey to publication…I hope it’s helpful. 😀

Right, you’ve written a book, spent years toiling over it, researching it, bringing your characters to life and building the world they inhabit. So what now?

Well, firstly, the gestation period for my debut novel was extraordinarily long, ridiculously long in fact and well outside of the norm in terms of the writing process. I initially had the idea for White Mountain back in 1997 while travelling around New Zealand. I had had a few characters roaming my imagination for a while, but slowly over the course of a four-month odyssey in that astounding country, those characters became a story.

Real places I fell in love with, became the direct inspiration for locations in the book. My world building went into overdrive. I found myself delving into countless volumes about ancient cultures, the Sumerians, Nabateans, Indus Valley civilisations, the Epic of Gilgamesh and other ancient myths. I lost myself in the intricacies of etymology, the derivation of words we all know and many we don’t. I pored over books on geology, geography, botany and other aspects of natural history. All of it seeped into my consciousness and blended with my own growing mythology.

I’ve said it in interviews, but I truly believe that research is the key. Whatever your writing, whatever the genre – DO YOUR RESEARCH!!!

Even with a brilliant storyline, engaging characters, a plot full of twists and turns, the enjoyment of your novel will be greatly heightened by your research. In short, the suspension of disbelief which is so important to every work of fiction, is hinged upon whether you have made your story realistic, believable. In the most fantastical novel, real elements will ground it, make it easier for the reader to connect and relate to the material.

Often this is actually more important with fantasy and science-fiction novels, as they more than any other genre run the risk of alienating readers if the world the writer creates is too fantastical.

So, you’ve created your world, written your novel…what now?

Well, once you truly have gone through the vital process of rigorous editing and redrafting…I must have edited White Mountain a 100 times at least, and once you are absolutely certain that your manuscript is publisher ready…then take the plunge!

A stupidly simplistic statement, but as I know all too well, when you have taken so long on your book, it becomes your baby. It has consumed such a large part of your life that it becomes difficult to let go. The danger here, is that you then sit on the novel too long, certain of its merit and appeal but fearful to let others get their hands on it. Totally understandable. But if you are ever to make writing your life, then you have to be brave and take the plunge. Send your ms out into the world and brace yourself.

You’ll either get no response at all, or most likely, a polite no. The chances of actually gaining a publishing contract are hugely against you, so be aware of the figures. Less than 1% of all fiction published in the UK is by new authors…less than 1%!

That’s quite a mountain to climb!

Once you really know and understand that, then you’ll be better prepared for the emotional rollercoaster to come.

As all writers will tell you…the worst aspect of this process is simply the waiting, endless waiting, wasting time, months of it, in some cases years.

I was lucky. I had finally finished fiddling with my book and decided that I would start the submission process. I started by entering the 2011 ABNA competition and to my delight, got through to the quarterfinals before being cut at the semi’s. In that time, I didn’t send out any submissions other than to agents. Had a few rejections and a few non responses from those, par for the course – agents are even harder to get than publishers.

That’s the catch-22 scenario. Agents are harder to get than publishers but most publishers, and certainly the ‘Big Six’ – Hachette, Macmillan (excluding their new writers programme), Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster, will only take manuscripts through an agent, no solicited ms!

Tricky…

Passing 4,000!!!

Mind your own business!!!!A few months ago, I overcame my inherent nervousness and general suspicion of anything IT, to start my own blog. My initial intentions were to keep it small and informal, a running dialogue concerning life, writing and everything in between. Quite quickly and despite my best IT efforts, it became apparent that my ‘Daily Hello’ was becoming more of a weekly howdy, which in turn became increasingly more sporadic as life and the pressures of work impinged on my time.

However, never did I genuinely entertain the thought that my humble sojourn into the blogging world, more of a trip stumble splat really, would result in my little blog passing 4,000 hits in such a short time.

As those who know me will attest, I’m rarely lost for words…however on this occasion I am truly speechless!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your support has been truly amazing.

😀 xx

Weather for ducks and Waterstones!

Alright, I admit that I’m a very lucky girl. Despite living in the rain-soaked capital of the world, otherwise known as the UK, I have a lovely garden that I just adore in all weathers and great family and friends.

Whilst, like the rest of us, I do get utterly fed up with the constant grey skies and incessant rain in what should be our summer, that eagerly awaited and precious window of time when life takes on a wonderful rhythm of its own, hazy lazy summer days. How we all long for sunshine and cerulean above, those halcyon days of our youth when we ran around in jean shorts and bare feet and our skin was naturally bronzed and flecked with sun-kissed freckles. How bitterly disappointed we are by yet another wash out, our fifth wet summer in a row…but, as with all things, there is always a silver edge to that rain cloud.

Peering out across the garden, which resembles a marshy pond at the moment, as yet another violent cloud burst overhead, what did I see waddling towards me? A beautiful wild duck followed in close procession by her equally gorgeous and rather large ducklings! We’d noticed over the past few weeks that the mallard ducks we have flying in from time to time, has lessened, but in their place was one constant rather nervous female. Two months ago, to our utter delight, we discovered why she was so nervous when we saw the fluffy little humbugs tumbling behind her! Seems my love of nature has paid off, all my bird feeders have attracted some rather larger visitors.

Now, as part of our daily routine we go out to the feeders, with Mrs Duck and her brood patiently waiting, and to the soft gabbled sound of quacking, we fill the feeders and sprinkle some on the ground. Breakfast for ducks!

Anyway, today was no exception, except that it was special for one reason…with a break from my job and time to breathe, between the chaos of building work, I found myself looking at two lovely Waterstones emails. Wow! This rollercoaster of a ride to publication doesn’t stop! I cannot describe the feeling…I have two signing dates! My very first signing dates!

After years of quietly writing and writing and dreaming…my dreams are finally coming true. So yes, a huge amount of hard work has gone into getting me in this position, but nonetheless…whether it rains or shines this summer, I count myself as a very lucky girl!

😀

Injustice for all? Why does dead wood float?

Listening to a friend recently, as we both collectively joined others in having a damn good moan, the phrase ‘dead wood floats’ was mentioned. It occurred to me, as we all groaned and agreed, that we have in this country such a skewed system of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and that the reason the gap between these polar opposites keeps growing, is that we applaud and even reward failure!

Look at the bankers and banking system. Take the former head honcho of Barclay’s, a man who looked the part, talked the talk, great ‘front of house’, could charm and smarm his way into any boardroom, a man of power and charisma who abused that power dreadfully, took everyone for a ride…looks like he’s going to be given an enormous golden handshake for failing in his job, in addition to his multi-million pound salary!

Words fail.

In such an unfair world, where dead wood floats to the top, while the rest of us work our fingers to the bone for a crumb at the master’s table, all we can do is continue to hope and dream and make our own worlds as beautiful as possible!

😀

‘Aspiring Author’, really?

writing

I was having a discussion with some writer friends recently and this topic came into the conversation. It is also popped up on my publisher’s website, and they are of the same opinion as me. That although it is certainly a very common turn of phrase on writing forums and social media sites, it is also a complete cop-out!

Why ‘Aspiring’? Yes, to be an author may well be a long-held dream, certainly in my case, it has been a lifetime’s ambition, harboured and nurtured since I was a child. So I understand the longing, the desire to achieve ‘Author’ status, what I don’t understand or agree with, is the sentiment behind the word ‘aspiring’. It is such a terribly weak statement.

You are not an ‘aspiring doctor’, or teacher, or lawyer, or dentist…you either ARE a doctor, teacher, lawyer, dentist, or you are NOT. There is no halfway house. Yes, you may be ‘in training’ to join one of those professions, but you should still consider yourself to BE one of them, even if you can’t practise on your patients! Have confidence in your abilities and in where you want to go. You wouldn’t consider yourself an ‘aspiring human’, would you? Ummm…well in some cases that may actually be true! 😀

Have the strength of your convictions and the confidence to see them through.

Putting yourself in the category of ‘Aspiring Author’, merely tells the world that you don’t have confidence in your own writing and that you don’t consider yourself to be a professional. Why should any publishing house take you on and take you seriously, if you don’t take yourself seriously. Publishing houses are not looking for amateurs. Debut novelists, new writers…YES! But ‘Aspiring Authors’? Really?

Your approach and your thinking must always be professional, from the outset. No weak ‘aspiring’ here.

Some consider the sacred term ‘author’ to be based on sales. That you cannot call yourself an author until you are published and those royalty cheques start coming through your letterbox. Again…is this right? If you are basing your status as an author purely on sales…then you are in the wrong profession! Yes, being an author is a professional endeavour, but it is also a highly creative one. Creativity should and MUST always come before hard cash.

Although it is easy to get carried away with stories of instant success and truck loads of money, Christopher Paolini is a good example. If you are writing to get rich…you are DEFINITELY in the wrong profession! These stories hit the headlines precisely because they are so rare. Most writers struggle with sales and building their fan base for years and years, there’s nothing instant about it. It’s hard graft all the way. A good mate of mine, Will, once said that writing the book was the easiest part about it and he’s absolutely right. As hard or as easy as you may find the process of writing and editing your work, that really is the easiest part of being an author.

Think of the great writers of the 19th and 20th century, few of them had instant success with their very first book. They too had to build their readership, hone their craft and get on the carousel of marketing and promotion. Why a carousel? Because it NEVER stops! If they had dismissed themselves as merely ‘aspiring authors’, when their first book languished on the bookshelves due to poor sales, then they probably would never have written a second or third book and thus deprived us readers of some literary masterworks!

Sales has nothing to do with writing or wanting to be a writer. Yes, you’ve got to be professional and yes, good sales are what you want to strive for and achieve, but it should NEVER be a motivational tool or a yardstick by which you class yourself as an author or not.

Be what you want to be. Have confidence in your abilities, your imagination and your writing. There is nothing ‘aspiring’ about it…inspiring, hell yes! Wouldn’t you rather be an inspiring author than an aspiring one?

Whatever your professional day job…You ARE a writer…or you are not. That simple.

For me?

I am and have always been a writer, an author and proud to be one. 😀