Rewriting and Recovering


Hello, my lovelies.

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.

In case you missed it, I did a short ‘update’ episode of my podcast, The Worried Writer, at the beginning of the month: The Worried Writer #21: Deadlines and Mild Concussion

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).

The Language of Spells: Audible UK                      Audible US

Personally, I love audiobooks and if you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

And, as always, thank you for visiting.

Why Writing A Book Is Like Making Gravy


Writing a book is like making gravy.

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.

My gravy, however, is pretty damn fantastic.

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!









In The Light of What We See – Spotted In The Wild!

In The Light of What We See - Amazon Kindle Top 100
My book cosying up to The Night Manager in the Kindle Chart!

Hello, my lovelies.

I apologise for my continuing obsession with In The Light of What We See. Normal service (AKA book recommendations, cat pictures and writerly fretting) will be resumed shortly.

Reviews have been rolling in (eighty five-star reviews on Amazon so far!), it is still in the top 100 of the Kindle chart, and some folk have been kind enough to send me pictures of my book ‘in the wild.’

In The Light of What We See, Sarah Painter, book,

There’s one from my friend Rachel… Doesn’t my book look lovely with a glass of bubbly? What an EXCELLENT combination. Also, a big thank you to Aimee, who posted the lovely Kindle pic on Twitter.

Also, for those who may not know, this week was the London Book Fair (massive industry trade show). Keris Stainton (YA author and wonderful human being) spotted my book on my publisher’s stand and was kind enough to take some snaps. I almost fainted with excitement when I saw them. Seriously. I have been reading about London Book Fair (and deals struck there) for a decade and now my book was there: Displayed next to mega best-selling superstars Mel Sherratt and Mark Edwards. Meep!

I have also been thrilled with the number of book bloggers who have taken the time to read and review the book. Thank you to every single one – I am hugely grateful.

‘In The Light of What We See is a book that will stay with me for a long time, with two female characters who had such good stories to tell, in vastly different ways, but both were just as important and I never wanted to be done with Mina to get back to Grace, or vice versa. This was a delightful tale, and absolutely perfect for Sarah Addison Allen fans, you will not regret reading this book.’Bookish Escapes

In other news, I have been struggling with the WIP, drowning in a sea of admin (courtesy of my volunteer role at local youth theatre group), and trying not to let publication/deadline stress take over my life. Ha.

I am almost at the end of a new (very messy) first draft and that’s a bit of a tense time. I wrote about my fear of finishing over on The Worried Writer, if you’re interested.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you have a lovely weekend!


How I Used Pictures To Write In The Light of What We See

Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star for the Galaxy Ball, 1929 Photographer: Cecil Beaton. This is an important image in the book and I had a print of it sitting on my desk while I wrote.
Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star for the Galaxy Ball, 1929 Photographer: Cecil Beaton.
This is an important image in the book and I had a print of it sitting on my desk while I wrote.

When I’m writing I like to collect images which ‘feel’ like my book. In the past, I’ve even made paper-and-glue collages, with small objects and found ephemera stuck into the mix.

Visual details and setting are very important to me, but the first draft tends to arrive in the form of characters talking. In The Light of What We See was no exception, so I used an inspiration board of digital images to help me. The board (like the book) includes ghost birds, the beautiful Gower peninsula in South Wales, Brighton, nurses, and the Royal Sussex Hospital.

In the early stages, I use pictures of people as ‘placeholders’ for the characters. They don’t necessarily look the same as the character, but they evoke a feeling or attitude which helps me to write them. Pretty quickly, I get to know them through the story and they take on a life of their own. Evie and Geraint look (and feel) completely different in my mind, now, but the inspiration board was a massive help in the beginning.

Unusually, I didn’t use images for either Mina or Grace (the main characters) as they arrived so fully-formed and definite that I didn’t need them.

As this book is half-set in 1938, I did a fair amount of research. The pictures serve as shorthand reminders for that research or, again, just to set a certain mood in my mind before writing a scene.

I have collected quite a few of the images I used onto a Pinterest board if you are interested.

Out on Friday - meep!
Out on Friday – meep!

Also, don’t forget to enter your email address here to be in with a chance of winning book swag on Friday!

I will pick three names at random from my mailing list on Friday afternoon.

Also, Lake Union are running a GoodReads giveaway which ends on Friday. Head here for your chance to win one of twenty paperbacks.