Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Challenge Accepted

So a good friend of mine decided to challenge me. Bad idea. I’m highly competitive, so if someone challenges me, I’ll normally at least attempt it.

What was the challenge? Well, this friend saw a picture/quote online and posted it to my facebook page.

“Someone should write a book where the main character slowly falls in love with the reader”.

It’s a joke really – but my friend decided to tag it with the comment “Your next challenge”. Which meant I, in my strange, twisted way, decided to take it seriously.

I figured that I couldn’t write a whole book – I’m not even sure how that would work – but a short story type of thing? Hmm, now that I might be able to do.

So here it is. A strange, silly little bit of writing that was actually pretty fun to do. And whilst I’m not normally too fussed about comments on my blog posts, I’d actually love to know what people think of this one.




The bell was tolling in the distance. It was midnight. A solitary figure raced down the street, splashing through puddles. The smell of decay hung heavy in the night air…

Don’t stop reading. I know the story has changed, but please, don’t stop reading.

Other people might put the book down now, but I know you won’t. I know you’ll read it. You are always reading, your nose buried in the pages of a book. You don’t think I notice you, that I see you, but I do.

I can see you now, your head bent over these pages, your hair falling in your eyes. I can picture it perfectly – the way your eyebrows burrow slightly as you concentrate, the way that tiny smile creeps onto your lips. You’re probably doing it right now as you read this.

I don’t think you realise how much it means to me, that you’ve read my story, that you’ve invested yourself in me so completely even though you don’t really know me.

Hell, you don’t even think I’m real. I’m just a character on a page, like an actor on a stage – playing a part.

But don’t you see? You brought me to life. Once upon a time I was nothing, just ink on a page, but you saw me, you imagined me fully and somehow you brought me to life.

And now, whilst you see me, I see you too. That moment when I nearly died, when I fought the bad guy and nearly lost, I saw you cry for me. Your tears were like rain on my skin – they woke me up.

I was supposed to lose. Did you know that? The story was written that I died – and my death was supposed to be the pivotal moment of the book, when all seemed lost and then the good guys pull through against all odds.

Somehow, you saved me. When you cried for me you gave me strength, the strength to fight back when I should have fallen.

And now the story has changed. You changed it.

You made me the hero.

I can see the wonder in your eyes right now. The wonder mixed with disbelief. You don’t believe this is real. Trust me – it is.

Do you remember when you first picked up this book? I do. It’s strange, I only really came alive recently, but I can remember you reading the book long before then.

You weren’t sure about it at first. You wrinkled your nose as you read the back cover. I know you don’t normally read fantasy novels. Don’t ask me how I know that, but I do. But something about this one caught your eye. Something made you decide to start reading.

I’d like to think that it was me. Did you read those first few descriptions of me and know you wanted to read more? I really hope so.

Do you see how much you’ve changed me? How much I’ve changed since those early descriptions? That was you – you imagined me a certain way, so that’s what I became.

I suppose you’re wondering why you. So many other people have read this book before.

But none of them are you. None of them have your heart – none of them look at the world the way you do.

You look at the world and you see a story – an epic, incredible story, shaped and changed by the people in it. You really watch people, trying to read them like one of your books, and you want to know them, to know their stories.

You have your own story too, you know. You just don’t realise it. You see yourself as a minor character even in your own life.

I want you to see that you’re the heroine.

Your world is about to change, a new chapter is about to start.

The past has been basic plot building. Boy sees Girl, Boy falls in love with Girl, Girl brings Boy to life.

Do you want to know what comes next?

Boy meets Girl.

Look up. Stop reading, close the book, and look up. I’m waiting for you.

Look up. Now.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Taking the Risk

A week ago I sent off the first few query emails to Literary Agents about my novel. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life.

The reason being that for the most part when you start the submission process you are setting yourself up for failure – for rejection.

Literary Agents receive on average hundreds of submissions per week. Your query letter is just one of many, and the likelihood is that the Agent is going to give it the most cursory of reads before putting it on the reject pile. It’s often not about the quality of the work – just simply that they have so many submissions to read that they have to make their decision in the first sentence of a query, and if that sentence isn’t perfect it’s over – in that single second.

Here’s my problem. I don’t deal with rejection well – not when it comes to writing and not in the rest of my life. I take it personally – oh so very personally. A single rejection letter (and the first few of them have already landed in my inbox) has me assuming the worst, that my work simply isn’t good enough, that I don’t have what it takes.

So I have to steal myself to send out the emails in the first place, and I have to force myself to accept the rejections when they come in for what they are. That at this moment for whatever reason my novel is not what that particular agent is looking for. I have to keep the faith, somehow, that the book I’ve written is actually good. That I am a good writer and that there are people out there who do want to read my book.

And I am. A good writer, I mean. Perhaps not necessarily in this format (I mostly just have a kind of word vomit thing going on) but when it comes to my books I tell a good story, and I write them well. That isn’t ego talking, that’s research. I read on average a book a day, every day. I know what’s out there, and I know what is selling, and a lot of times when I read a book I know that if writing of that standard can get published then mine certainly can.

So it simply comes down to taking the risk – the risk of rejection. I have to open myself up to that rejection, accept it, and move on to the next agent, the next publisher. I know that somewhere out there is an agent who is going to love THE LAST KNIGHT, who is going to read it and know that they want to sell it.

I have to keep that faith. Because if I didn’t I would just give up and stop writing, and I can’t do that. I can’t give up. I can’t give up on the only dream I have.

So I’ll take the risk and keep my fingers crossed that the universe will give me the break I’m looking for.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Goodbye Really Is The Hardest Word

Goodbye Really Is The Hardest Word

Everyone always says that goodbyes are some of the hardest moments of our lives. The proper goodbyes that is – the ones that really mean something.

I know for me each time I say goodbye to my parents to travel across the other side of the world I break down just a little – all right, a lot. Saying goodbye to my sister is always heartbreaking, especially now she has this new baby on the way. When I say goodbye I know I’m going to be missing important moments in her life – moments that I will hear about, but won’t be a part of. The same with my closest friend in the world – their lives go on without me, and I won’t be a part of them in quite the same way.

Today I said a goodbye that I didn’t expect to be as painful as it was.

I said goodbye to two great friends who are moving on to bigger and better things – a better life for them. So I am happy for them, pleased that they are doing something that will make them happy.

But for perhaps the first time in my life I’m the one staying behind. I have always been the one moving on – leaving friends and family behind to start afresh somewhere new. I didn’t realise how different that would feel.

I know that the sadness comes not just from saying goodbye to two people I consider great friends – people I feel so pleased to have met and got to know – but also from the fact that I am saying goodbye to a sense of familiarity.

They have been here on the small island I call home since I moved here, and picturing this place without them seems almost impossible, because all of my images of this place include them. Many of my happiest times on the island have been spent with them – not doing anything special, just talking and sharing and enjoying life. I find it hard to imagine an evening at the bar after work without them there. Without him mixing up a fabulous cocktail, and her sharing the funny stories that invariably come from doing the kind of job we do.

All that said, whilst goodbyes are hard, they are often the start of something new. A new experience, new friends, new memories.

So I will say a sad farewell to two people who have kept me sane, shared a lot of laughter, but thankfully very few tears. I can only wish them good luck.

No, perhaps I won’t say goodbye – perhaps I’ll just say ‘see you soon’, and know that it’s not an ending, just a change – and change is always good. Right?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

I Need Some Tough Love

So November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). For those not in the know NaNoWriMo is basically Movember for writers. Whilst men try to grow unsightly facial hair, writers try to grow a story.

The concept works like this. For the month of November you’re just supposed to write. No editing, no re-writing, just getting words down on paper. The aim is to get 50,000 words written by the end of the month. It’s an exercise in discipline (which a lot of writers aren’t known for) and creative freedom.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo once before, and managed to write 46,000 words by the end of the month. That rambling, messy manuscript was eventually tidied up and edited into the 120,000 word epic fantasy novel I currently have gathering dust in my hard drive. It’ll probably never see the light of day, but NaNoWriMo got me writing. It did what is says on the box.

This year I had great plans to do it again, but life got in the way. November was suddenly upon me, and has mostly gone past me before I even realised.

But it’s never too late right? So I have come to this conclusion. Half the month has gone – so I simply need to halve the target and I can still use the inspiration of NaNoWriMo to get some words down on paper.

I started writing a new novel on the 15th – and I’m 10,000 words in. So all I need to do is write another 15,000 by the end of the month. But starting a novel is the easy part – the hard part is keeping up the momentum once you start to get bogged down with trivial little things like needing a plot that actually makes sense.

This is where the tough love bit comes in.

I am a notorious procrastinator. Sometimes I’ll do anything to avoid doing what I should actually be doing. Hell, I’ll even do housework sometimes rather than sit down and force myself to write when the muse isn’t around.

So here’s the deal.  To my online friends - my facebook and twitter friends, my family who are too far away to berate me in person, if you see me pissing around on Facebook or any other social media tell me to get the hell off and go and do something productive.

To the people who physically see me – if you see me around, without my laptop, or a notepad and pen (excluding when I’m at work, obviously) you have my full permission to give me a smack around the back of the head. I’m serious.

Trust me, if it gets to the end of the month and I’ve managed to get down 25,000 words, or hopefully more, I’ll thank you for it. In fact, I might even buy you a drink.

For now, my novel awaits. Two hours till work. A thousand words maybe? Come on, I know I can do it!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

In ‘Cheers’ it was a good thing. Going to the place where everybody knew your name. Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t always a good thing.

“So you’re ‘So and so’ – I’ve heard all about you.” That was the start of most conversations during my first few weeks on the island. In some ways it’s kind of cool. You feel like a little bit of a celebrity.

You realise pretty quickly though that if you’re the hot topic of gossip on the island there can’t be a whole lot going on. If what I’m doing is the most interesting thing on the island then that’s pretty scary.

But gossip is definitely one of the national pastimes for a lot of people on this tiny island. Unlike a lot of places though it isn’t malicious. It’s mostly just boredom.

Most people here don’t have T.V’s, so instead of watching the soap operas, we watch each other.

Secrets are impossible. If you’re going to start dating someone, you might as well put out a memo.

“Attention all,

Joe Bloggs and I are going on our first date on Friday at 7pm. Don’t forget to bring the popcorn.”

It might sound like I’m bitter. I’m not – honest. I don’t exactly date so I’m more likely to be the one bringing the popcorn! But it does make it hard sometimes to just do the things you want to do. It’s easy to feel judged. It’s easy to feel that if you do something crazy, just once, you’re the talk of the island. What’s the Terry Pratchett line - ‘A lie will race around the world before the truth has got his boots on’ – feels very true here sometimes. At other times it’s like the world’s biggest game of Chinese Whispers. With each telling of the story it gets exaggerated and expanded to the point that it’s barely recognisable as the truth.

Having said all that, the everyone knows your name thing does have its perks. It’s hard to feel lonely on an island when no matter where you go there is always going to be someone you know, someone to talk to. I’ve also never lived anywhere with such a strong sense of community, of togetherness. Just recently we had our Pirate Festival with a big parade of floats. It sometimes seems that there are more people taking part in the parade than watching it – but to me that’s great.  Everyone joins in, everyone gets involved, and the day really is about the community.

So, long story short, some days I wish I could be anonymous – some days I wish there was a crowd to lose myself in, but mostly I love being on an island where everybody knows your name. Because even though I’m single and ‘alone’ – I’m never lonely.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

So I've moved to a new place. And quite frankly, despite the size, it's easily the most beautiful place I've lived (and I've only been here a day). It's brand, spanking new for a start, I'm the first person to live here, which is always nice.

The real selling point though, the thing that has me practically drooling, is the view. I can sit on my porch and look at the ocean. That's right, the beautiful Caribbean sea is right there, practically on my doorstep. And I mean that literally - it's probably about thirty feet away (though I've never been good at judging distances). I can hear the water lapping against the sand, the wind rustling through the palm trees, quite simply, it's heaven.

I have discovered though, that this little piece of heaven, has a flaw. I have no internet access inside the building. The only place I can connect is the corner of my porch. And I, I freely admit, am an internet junkie.

I have to get my fix somehow. Facebook, Twitter, just random googling or watching videos on YouTube. It's how I spend most of my free time (as shameful as that is to admit).

And so for a while this internet blackspot that I'm in terrified me. How am I going to cope without internet there at my fingertips? How will I cope not being able to lie in bed randomly reading through blogs and Facebook statuses.

Then it hit me. This can only be a good thing.Surely. I used to be the girl who could read a book a day, easily. But with my laptop, and iPad it suddenly became easier to be online than to read. I used to be the girl who spend as much of her free time as possible writing. Then it became easier to sit and read blogs about writing.

So perhaps this will be the nudge I need. Going cold turkey might be hard, but maybe I can kick this internet addiction. Maybe with the help of my little internet blackspot, I can finally, finally get on with writing the next book in my trilogy. Maybe I can finally get stuck into the pile of recommended books I've been saying that I'll read for months.

I think this little piece of heaven might be even more heavenly than I expected.

Those books are waiting for me....after I just check Facebook...and maybe Twitter...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

This might be a random way to start off a new blog - ideally I guess I would start with a post introducing myself and what this blog is going to be about. Instead I’m just going to dive right in!

I saw a question someone asked me the other day about my novel, Chasing Freedom, and it made me think. And I decided to share those thoughts.

Let me give you a little background. In my novel my central character must decide between his freedom and, well, pretty much everything else. The question someone asked me was, is his freedom really the most important thing that he could give up? I think they were trying to ask me if it was really a big enough sacrifice for it to be the driving force of the novel.

It was a question that no one had asked me before, and it made me pause to think. To be honest though, I didn’t have to think about it for long.

The simple answer was yes. An easy, simple yes.

Perhaps it’s just me, but personally, I can think of nothing that I value more than my freedom.

Not my physical freedom, although, yes, that’s very important too, but my mental freedom. The freedom in my life to wake up each morning and decide for myself what kind of person I want to be. The freedom to make my own choices about the life I want to lead, and the things I want to do. The freedom to believe in what I want to believe, to hold the opinions I want to hold.

I can imagine no worse fate than to have those freedoms taken away from me. To have someone else choose those things for me. To tell me how I should live, or love, or feel. To have someone else decide if I am going to be a good or bad person.

The freedom to be ourselves, even if others don’t like it should be the most sacred thing to all of us. That freedom is taken away from kids at school by bullying. It’s taken away from adults by societal pressure to conform and fit it. And yes, perhaps I’m getting a little political here.

But back to the fantasy world of my novel, when Chase is forced to choose between his freedom and the ones he loves, it’s not his physical freedom that he’s sacrificing. It’s the freedom to determine his own destiny, and that, in my mind, would be one hell of a big sacrifice. I think, or I hope, that I would make the same choice Chase does. But it sure wouldn’t be an easy one.

As for what he actually does decide? Well, you’d have to read the book to find out!