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? 

 

 

 

Monday Motivation: Happy Author Is Happy

The sparkly owl I knitted also makes me happy. Essential companion when reading and stalwart book-cosy!

It’s Monday morning as I write this – not traditionally a time of deep joy – but I am fizzing with excitement. Okay, some of that may be the caffeine (I didn’t sleep well and possibly over-filled the tea bucket) but it’s mostly happiness.

I am just so damn lucky because I love my job. I went out for a meal with my lovely husband recently and do you know what I started blethering about as soon as my first beer hit? My job: My current WIP, my ideas for this website, how amazingly nice and supportive my readers are, how flipping lucky I am, and how I still can’t believe I get to do this…

So, thank you to you all for being here. I am so grateful to you for reading and talking about my books and for hanging out in my corner of the internet.

And I’m grateful to all readers, too. They (well, ‘we’, since I’m a reader, too) support an industry which promotes creativity and empathy and enables a (lucky) few to work in their PJs.

On that note, if you fancy winning a signed copy of The Language of Spells, there’s a GoodReads giveaway running at the moment (finishes Thursday). You can enter here.

 

 

Podcasting, Writing and the Joy of Rereading

ID-100305236It’s been a lovely sunny Easter holiday. We’ve had the first picnic of the year and even been to the beach a couple of times (which means, of course, the first outdoor fish and chips of the season – yum).

In between the fun, I’ve been busy editing and uploading my new podcast. The first episode is now live and you can subscribe in iTunes or listen via The Worried Writer site.

The first episode features an interview with YA author (and my good friend) Keris Stainton. I really hope you like it!

Writing-wise, I’ve been trying to work on a new project that just doesn’t feel right. I don’t usually hit my first, serious ‘I can’t do it’ wall until around 20,000 words, but I am seriously flailing at just 4000. I need to decide whether it’s the wrong project or the wrong idea or whether I’m just burnt out and need a little break.

Speaking of feeling a bit odd, after finishing the excellent The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, I couldn’t settle on a new book to read.

So, I decided to visit some old friends…

I used to reread a lot and it’s something I’m trying to find time to do again. It’s nice, every once in a while, to step off the ‘shiny new book’ conveyor belt (so many new books, never enough time!) and to slip between the worn covers of an old favourite.

Sometimes it’s like coming home, with everything just as I left it – and is just as comforting as that sounds. Sometimes, though, it’s deliciously unsettling; familiar stories made strange with the fresh perspective of another decade (or two) of life.

How about you? Do you like to reread books or is once enough?

[Image credit: pannawat at FreeDigitalPhotos]

Friday Five: All The Books, All The Time

So far, 2015 has been really good to me reading-wise. I have enjoyed loads of great books (some of which I got for Christmas or my birthday – yay!) and, better yet, I’ve become totally immersed in them (not always possible since I made books/writing my job…)

So, here are a select few recommendations. If you’ve read anything brilliant lately, please let me know in the comments… I like to keep my to-be-read pile topped up.*

yesplease1. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.

This is just as funny, warm and honest as I was hoping it would be. It also contains these (perfect) words on writing a book:

“Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea… The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It’s been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”

 

 

 

the bees2. The Bees by Laline Paull was an excellent, unusual read. Writing a book from the point of view of a bee can’t have been an easy task, and I’m in awe of Paull’s imagination and linguistic dexterity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

wild3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Definitely read the book before you see the film (which, considering that it’s a worldwide bestseller, you probably already have done). Beautifully written, bare-your-soul honest, and uplifting. Warning: It made me sob, so maybe don’t read it on public transport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

rosegarden4. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley. I had never heard of this author but when my friend Stephanie Burgis recommended it I downloaded a Kindle sample and became instantly hooked. It’s a ‘time slip’ novel in which a grieving woman steps into the past while staying at a beautiful house in Cornwall. Romance! Smugglers! It’s also got a cracking plot and lots of heart; happy sigh. It definitely won’t be the last Susanna Kearsley I read…

 

 

story5. And, still in progress… Story by Robert McKee. Although this seminal work on the craft of story-telling is aimed at screenwriters, it’s been recommended to me again and again by other novelists. I’m (finally) giving it a go and, so far, it’s very interesting. I bought the audiobook and am listening to it during my daily walk which is both good (multi-tasking) and bad (I can’t take notes).

 

 

 

*By ‘topped up’ I mean ‘ridiculously tall and impossibly large’.

Books, Books, Books!

Having finished the latest (maybe final?!) rewrite on the WIP, I’m now free to catch up on my reading. Yay!

Here are the books I’ve been gazing at longingly for the last few weeks…

N.B. This list doesn’t include the books I’ve put on my Christmas wish-list or the pile I have out from the library. Yes, I am a bookaholic, but you guys knew that, right?

mynotoriouslifeMy Notorious Life by Kate Manning. This was featured on Catherine Newman’s blog (I love her writing and have followed several of her book – and board game! – recommendations with great success). Plus, it sounds amazing. Here’s Emma Donoghue’s blurb:

Not just a splendidly page-turning story of an angry orphan clawing her way up in the world, but a gripping docu-drama about women’s business (in several senses) in nineteenth-century America. My Notorious Life gives midwifery its full dues: the glories and the miseries, the feminism and the money, the literally bloody ethical dilemmas. Unflinchingly memorable (Emma Donoghue, author of Room)

provincial The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. I think I heard about this book from Sara Manning on Twitter and, as my obsession with the 1930s continues unabated, I grabbed a second-hand copy with both hands.

 

 

goodomensGood Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The fabulous news about the Radio 4 adaptation of this book reminded me that I’m long overdue a re-read.

 

 

 

businessforauthors Business For Authors by Joanna Penn. I’ve been freelance for many years and have even run my own company, but I haven’t quite made the psychological switch to treating my fiction writing as a business. I really want to build a career/continue doing this full-time, though, so I’ve downloaded this manual to kick-start my business-planning for 2015.

 

minitaurist

 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I missed reading this with my book club because of deadline-hell, but everybody loved it so I’m keen to give it a whirl.