Yay – I Get To Be A Year Older! And Other Thoughts on Turning Forty

Birthday candles

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.

Hooray!

 

 

 

Happy December!

Sadly, not my wreath. Or my door.
Sadly, not my wreath. Or my door.

Hello, my lovelies!

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.

captainamericakiltI 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!).

 

The Power of Story

theendIt’s finished! Phew!

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.

Summer Holidays, Reading, Writing and Catching Up

Hello, my lovelies!

As is often the way, I need to start this post with an apology for neglecting the blog. I find that writing here often slips to the bottom of my ‘to-do’ list and I need to have a good think about how I can remedy that…

In the meantime, for regular (but not too frequent – maybe every two months?) updates (plus exclusive free extras), please sign up for my readers group newsletter.

I also spend a fair amount of time on Twitter if you would like to follow me there.

Zelda can't believe the summer holidays are over, either.
Zelda can’t believe the summer holidays are over, either.

So, the summer was wonderful (lovely family holiday to France, lots of lazy starts and relaxed days, and some beautiful sunshine here in Scotland) but it went far too quickly.

I allowed myself lots of ‘reading for fun’ time, which was pure heaven. Some notable favourites include Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe, Peter May’s Lewis trilogy (Scottish crime fiction, book one is The Blackhouse), A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman (which made me sob on the plane back from France. Embarrassing, but worth it!).

I also recommend The Art of Deception; a fun fantasy novelette by my friend Stephanie Burgis. It’s stuffed with scintillating sword fights and delicious deception and is available from all good ebook retailers!

The children (who are both in their teens, now, so I should probably call them something else) went back to school last week. Yes, autumn comes quickly north of the border, and we are, once again, neck-deep in after-school activities, uniforms, and homework.

And, I’ve also been writing lots. I finished a supernatural thriller and sent it to my agent for her opinion (meep!) and am now diving into the edits for a book I wrote earlier in the year. It is set on the west coast of Scotland in the present day and 19th century Edinburgh, and I’m planning to finish it in the next couple of weeks. Then the terrifying submission process can begin.

In other news, the audiobook for The Language of Spells is on its way. I’ve been listening to the files as they are recorded and the narrator, Stevie Zimmerman, is doing an AMAZING job. I’m so excited!

Do check back next week for the cover reveal and publication-date, and thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Catch-up: Exams, writing and getting crafty

Hello, my lovelies!

I thought it was high-time I gave you all a personal update…

I’ve been trying to support my eldest with her first set of ‘big’ exams. In Scotland, these are called National 5s and they are roughly equivalent to GCSEs.

In truth, there hasn’t been much to do in practical terms (my daughter is one of the most hard-working and organised people I have ever met), but the subject has loomed large over the household and, being a soggy over-emotional kind of parent, I empathise with her deeply and will be very happy when they are over!

LandandSea
Land And Sea by Iona Mackenzie Laycock

I’ve also been trying to get a better work-life balance (ha!) and took a day off last week for a rare day out with my lovely mum.

We both love craft and have dabbled in a variety of different projects and materials over the years. We went to the Knitting and Stitching show in Edinburgh and wandered around in a happy daze, discovering interesting new things and stroking the beautiful yarn, threads and materials on offer.

We also took a workshop with textile artist Iona Mackenzie Laycock, which was brilliant. Iona showed us a technique involving a hot iron and pearlescent acrylic ink to make a ‘layered landscape’ picture. Iona was really nice and it was lots of fun to be in a real-life class (I do most of my learning online these days).

It also reminded me how important it is for me to do other creative things which are just for fun.

Speaking of fun, I finally sent the first draft of the new book to my agent, and have spent the last week happily writing on an old project. It’s a slightly different style and genre to my other stuff and feels like a wee holiday!

I also finished episode #15 of The Worried Writer. If you haven’t listened yet, all the shownotes and episodes can be found at worriedwriter.com or you can subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

elizabethbuchanI’ve been reading lots, too, and highly recommend Elizabeth Buchan’s I Can’t Begin to Tell You.

It’s set during WWII in Denmark and London and focuses on the SOE/Danish Resistance. I finished it at the beginning of the week and I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m also looking forward to reading Catherine Ryan Howard’s, Distress Signals, which came out yesterday.

I have been following Catherine’s blog for ages and was thrilled to speak to her last year for The Worried Writer.

 

 

So, how about you? Read any good books, lately? Seen any wonderful films? 

 

 

 

In The Light of What We See Publication Day! Meep!

ITLOWWS_champagne

Hello my lovelies!

*Standby for excessive exclamation marks and random CAPITAL LETTERS*

It’s PUBLICATION DAY! MEEP!

I am thrilled to share this book with you all and I really hope that you like it.

It’s a story I have wanted to write for a long time, and Mina’s voice came to me very clearly back in 2010, when I was doing my masters in creative writing at St Andrews university. Now, a mere (!) six years later it’s a proper shiny book and on the shelves.

Yay! I am celebrating with a meal out later on (and the champagne in the picture).

Thank you so much for reading and for all your support. I truly believe in this book and, of course, am super-nervous about its reception/whether it will do ‘well enough’.

It definitely helps that I woke up to find over forty five star reviews on Amazon, and the book sitting in the top hundred on the bestseller chart – phew!

In The Light of What We Seeavailable now in audiobook, ebook and paperback.

Word of mouth is still the biggest factor in a book’s success, so if you could tell a friend, send a Tweet or leave a review, I’d be over the moon.

THANK YOU!