I am blogging more infrequently than ever these days (sorry!) so if you want to keep up with the latest from me (and get the news before anybody else), please consider signing up for my mailing list. It really is the best way for us to stay in touch…
In book news, the audio version of The Garden of Magic is out next month. I just received the cover from my talented designer and I’m really pleased… I hope you like it, too!
Also out next month is my first non-fiction title for writers. It’s called Stop Worrying: Start Writing and it reveals everything I have learned over the last decade about overcoming fear, self-doubt and procrastination in order to get books written.
In other news, I had a lovely research trip to London for a new series idea which I am incubating, and I woke up this morning with a completely new book idea which I’m really excited about…. So many ideas, so little time!
No, that header is not sarcastic. Those of a cynical disposition who would prefer not read a soppy post, please look away now…
I turn forty this month and I’m absolutely thrilled about it.
For various personal reasons, I have always been aware of how lucky I am to be alive. I mean, we’re all lucky to be alive, but I very nearly didn’t make it out of babyhood (having been born with a literal broken heart, I was saved by a wonderful NHS cardiology department) and, without wishing to be too vomit-inducing, I’m so happy and grateful for my life and that I still get to be living it.
Rather than worrying about ageing (let’s face it, there can be few less-productive things to fret over), I’m truly celebrating. I get to be forty: I’m so blinking lucky!
I adored my thirties and so many amazing things have happened to me in the last decade – both personally and professionally – that it is only natural to feel a little sad at waving it goodbye. However, I have every intention of making my forties just as enjoyable and fulfilling. More time with family and friends, more writing, more travel and fun and nice food and reading good books!
Perhaps I have an unfair advantage; I was the child who couldn’t wait to grow up, the teenager who always wanted to be older, the woman in her twenties who ran joyfully into the arms of marriage, mortgage and motherhood. I have, frankly. always been middle-aged (reading, radio four, comfortable shoes, saying ‘gosh’) so it’s quite nice to be at the ‘right’ stage for my natural inclinations.
As the more astute will have already noticed – it’s December. I know I say this every year, but I cannot believe how quickly the last twelve months have flown. It’s been a mix of a year (with plenty of bad stuff in the wider world, for sure), but there have been lots of positives, too, and I certainly have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, I am living a charmed life (something I hate saying as I imagine a giant axe falling to punish me for my happiness/good fortune/smugness) but it’s the truth; I am an exceedingly lucky woman and I am very, very grateful.
I was a wee bit stressed last month with a combination of parental responsibility and book deadline, but I’ve spent the last couple of weeks enjoying the absence of that stress and getting things sorted for Christmas. This has involved Leaving The House, which is most exciting. I’ve been to Edinburgh with my lovely husband for some art-appreciation, Christmas shopping, some beautiful walks and a fancy writerly lunch with the fabulous Clodagh Murphy.
I also enjoyed a family trip to the cinema to see Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (so much fun!) with a bonus sighting of this Captain America kilt outfit.
Oh, how I love Scotland!
I’ve been working, too, of course, but now I’m going to ramp up and get as much done as possible before the holiday.
I’m taking a small break from fiction to write a book on writing. It’s a combination of everything I’ve learned over the last few years, with tips and advice from top authors I have interviewed on The Worried Writer podcast. Part of me worries ‘who cares what I think?’ but I do feel that I might be able to help other people. Basically, I want other writers who are anxious or filled with self-doubt to think ‘if she can do it, then I can, too!’.
In reading news, I loved Elizabeth Buchan’s The New Mrs Clifton and I’m currently enjoying The Quarry by Iain Banks (it came out a couple of years ago but, as the author passed away and I knew it was the last book from him, I have been saving it).
Thank you for reading – and for your support and encouragement this year. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas/holiday and that you will join me again in 2017!
Don’t forget, you can keep in touch by signing up for my free readers club (plus, exclusive content and giveaways!).
After boasting that I had finished my latest book, rewrites appeared from my editor, and I had to re-open the document and get back to work. I was expecting edits, of course, but they coincided with a busy time personally (I help out with my the local youth theatre group and it’s been the lead-up to show week) and a teensy fainting episode which resulted in me bashing my head.
I have been off the internet and social media in an effort to focus on my book and get the rewrites done by the deadline and it’s been very helpful. Much as I love the internet (and I do, truly, love it!) it was good to take a step back and reduce the number of external voices in my head. Especially with the turbulent (and terrifying) political times of the last couple of weeks.
I’ve also done lots of reading, which is always a good thing.
I will have to put together a ‘recommendations’ post soon, but for now I’m currently enjoying The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.
Also, a quick reminder that The Language of Spells is now available in audio format. If you don’t already have an Audible account, you can sign for up for a one-month free trial and get it completely gratis! (Or any other audiobook you fancy, of course).
I was making gravy last night (not as a random event, I was cooking dinner) and as I had my usual ‘is it thick enough?’ panic in the last few minutes before dishing-up time, I realised how similar the process was to writing a book.
Bear with me.
You need to start with a good base. In the case of gravy, this means a decent stock. For a book, you need a solid story idea or character or setting or, ideally, all three.
You need to turn the heat up.
For book-writing this means you need to put your characters under pressure. Make things worse: Challenge them and force them into action and change and revelation. Dial up the emotion and let the whole thing simmer.
You need to be patient.
There’s a long stretch of gravy-making that is just stirring. This is also true of book-writing. (And by ‘stirring’, I mean ‘typing’.)
You need to hold your nerve.
Every single time I make gravy there is a point at which I panic. There is always a moment at which it’s probably too late to add any more cornflour (I run the risk of spoiling the flavour of the gravy or making it gloopy), but I’m convinced it’s too thin and tasteless and will be a roast dinner disaster. It’s missing the essential, smooth gravy-ness that I am aiming for and is barely clinging to the spoon when I test it.
However, if I hold my nerve, whack the heat up a bit more and stir, stir, stir, it – magically! – becomes smooth and thick and glossy.
I didn’t need to add anything else, I just had to keep on going and give it that last bit of care and attention.
I just realised that this is the point at which my analogy breaks down…
There is definitely a point at which a book goes from being a collection of ingredients to feeling like a living, breathing story, but even after I reach that stage, I am never fully satisfied with the finished product. It never measures up to the perfect thing I had in my mind.
Yes, I finally finished The Book Without An Ending (actual working title: Beneath The Water) and, let me tell you, it was a massive relief.
As I write without a plan, there are always several ‘oh, bugger, what on earth is going to happen next?’ moments, but once I get half-way or two-thirds in, I usually have a clear idea of where it’s heading. The details of this can change, but there is a general, comforting gist. Not this time.
After typing ‘The End’ (hooray!), I took the week off from writing, but kept having those annoying post-finishing thoughts about things I could have added/made better. Urgh.
Still. It’s away on submission, so there is nothing more I can do right now – except obsessively check my email for news, of course.
So, I have been catching up on email and admin/accounts and, more importantly, Reading For Fun. Such a joy after being on deadline.
I loved Anne Marie Casey’s smart and engaging The Real Liddy James, and am halfway through Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. I haven’t read any of Kelly Link’s stories before and they are extraordinary. Next, I’m going to dive into Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be The Place which I wanted to read the moment it came out. I am a huge fan, but I forced myself to wait so that I could give it my full attention.
In other news, my eldest turns sixteen next week. Sixteen! I am always wobbly and emotional before my children’s birthdays, but this does feel quite significant. She is talking about university and the next stage of her life and it is really beginning to hit me that she will, one day soon, leave home. Gah.
To celebrate the Strange And Terrible Linear Passage Of Time (or, ‘birthday’, if you prefer), we had a family trip to Comic Con in Glasgow. My daughter and I did our first ever cosplay as a mother-and-daughter demon hunting team and we met the fantastically talented (and lovely) Hillywood sisters.
We also saw Jenny Colgan speaking on a panel about writing and publishing Science Fiction, stocked up on cuddly Totoro toys (you can never have too many), and generally had a blast.
If you have never been to a con and like the idea of being surrounded by lots of folk being unabashedly enthusiastic about the stories/fictional worlds they love, I definitely recommend it. And as a writer it was an inspiring and energising reminder of the power of story.