Friday Five: The Feeble Edition

Argh! It’s the end of the week, already!

I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and feeble this week, so this Friday Five is all about trying to combat that.

1. New knitting project. Knitting is definitely good for stress-relief and the repetitive action helps me to think through story ideas, too.

This owl pattern and yarn combination is super-cute, but the yarn itself is making me cross-eyed. I’m getting used to it, though, and the pattern is nice and simple, which is what I need at the moment!



2. I’ve been giving myself plenty of reading time (as I know that will help me to ‘refill the creative well’, as well as being an enjoyable escape from my own head) and I really enjoyed The Lie by C.L. Taylor and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

3. Easing out the post-deadline kinks with some yoga. I’ve been saying ‘I must do some yoga, it’ll do me good’ for so long, that I (finally) got sick of myself and actually did some. Hurrah. I’ve been following the 30 Days of Yoga on the  ‘Yoga With Adriene’ channel on YouTube and I really like her down-to-earth, approach.

amandapalmer4. I don’t think I have a number four, unless you count walking lots and listening to podcasts.  Oh, I know! I’ve been listening to Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking: How I learned to stop worrying and let people help
audio book and it’s really good.

5. There is no number five, either. Feeble, see?



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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’.

Friday Five: Random Recommendations

Random picture to go with random recs. Mmm... Vintage!
Random picture to go with random recommendations. Isn’t it beautiful?

Hello, hello! Hope you’ve all had a good/productive/positive week!

My aim to finish draft two by the end of May has been going pretty well, but it does have the knock-on effect of everything else going to hell in a hand basket. Is that the phrase? I have no idea and I can’t Google it as I’m using the ‘stay focused’ app and it locks me out of Google (and Twitter and Facebook and many other interesting and enlivening things) until five pm. See? I *am* working hard!

Without further waffle (stop cheering in the back, there), here are five random recommendations.

(I know, it’s not much of a blog post, but wait until the end of the month: I’ll have lost the power of language all together by then and will simply post ‘burble burble blarg’.)

1. Superdrug shampoo and conditioner. I haven’t tried all of them, of course, but I am THRILLED to discover that all of Superdrug’s own brand stuff is BUAV approved (not tested on animals), which makes cruelty-free shopping super-easy. I’m currently using the Pro Vitamin Thermal defense stuff and I love it. I also got the coconut and almond shampoo for the kids, which has the added bonus of smelling like cake.

annpatchett2. Ann Patchett is one of my favourite novelists and her non-fiction stuff is fabulous, too. Have you read Truth and Beauty? Just wonderful. Anyway, last week I finished her latest book, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a collection of essays and articles (including The Getaway Car, which is about writing) and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

3. The aforementioned ‘Stay Focused’ app. It’s a free extension for Chrome and is customisable so you can block certain sites for certain hours in the day. You can also set a timer for your access to those sites (ten minutes is the default) so when you’re faffing about on Twitter it tells you ‘five minutes until you’re locked out’ and counts down. Once you’ve used your minutes for the day, it displays a cheery ‘shouldn’t you be working?’ if you attempt to access any of your banned sites.

4. Struggling to get started on your book or other creative project? Like playing video games? Felicia Day has made a video-game-themed vlog packed with tips for getting started, staying motivated and finishing creative work.

5. Tumblr. Yes, I realise this is unlikely to be news, but Tumblr is full of funny/awesome/creative/crazy stuff. And cat gifs. While we’re on the subject, why not follow my tumblr? Advanced Procrastination.  Thank you!




Friday Five: The Writing Life

Try-balancing-aFriday again! In my part of the world the kids are on holiday from school so it’s been a week of snatched moments on the laptop* and many games of Boggle. Which, just to be clear, is brilliant. I love Boggle.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the writing life. Not so much the practicalities of getting the work done, but all the other stuff that comes along with being an author. It began when Neil Gaiman was asked this question on tumblr: ‘How stable of a career would you say being an author is?’

1. His answer is pictured above. [Link to the original post]

2. This funny piece by Jim Crace on his advice to aspiring writers: ‘The Secrets of My Success’. The Guardian.

3. Natalie Whipple is a YA author and she writes about the realities of being a mid-list author with honesty and clarity.

4. One of the (brilliant) aspects of the writing life is being in a position to promote books and reading. If you’re an author, perhaps you’d like to become a Patron of Reading for a local school?

5. My piece for Novelicious this week is about the importance of being professional.

*Truthfully… Snatched hours while they play Minecraft.

[Image credit: Quote picture made with Quozio]

Friday Five: The self-involved edition

The Secrets of Ghosts coverHello, hello! How are you all?

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks with The Secrets of Ghosts going out into the world (eek!) and getting some lovely reviews (phew!).

Plus, I’ve been knuckling down on my WIP. It’s so satisfying to see the word count go up and I’m almost through the ‘dreaded middle’. Hurrah!

I’m sorry I haven’t been here very much, but I have been popping up around the internet, promoting The Secrets of Ghosts. I wasn’t organised enough to do a formal blog tour this time around but, in case you’re interested, here are some links:

1. As you might suspect from the title, my latest book contains a measure of spookiness. I talked to OneMorePage about my favourite ghost stories.

2. Fellow Carina author, Samantha Tonge, interviewed me about cake, writing, and cats on her blog.

3. Are you a writer? If you’re interested in finding a literary agent, I wrote about that very subject for Novelicious this week.

4.  ‘The Book That Changed My Life’ at Novelicious featuring – you guessed it – me!

5. The most excellent Sunday Opening Hours has invited me this week (thank you!). Do drop by on Sunday to learn all about my fascinating (ah-hem) Sunday routine.

Friday Five: The ‘I can’t believe it’s April’ edition

Look for Helpers

Apparently, the last Friday Five was in November. Whoops…

1. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know it’s been a bad news week. Like many people, I’ve taken some comfort from the words of Mr Rogers (see above). Also, this excellent post about Boston on Bea; Running Into The Smoke.

2. This post by Matt Haig on writer’s neuroses is very good (and, sadly, very true).

3. Author and artist Terri Windling has written a series of thoughtful posts this week about fear and creativity. It’s something I battle with regularly and I particularly liked this post on courage. It includes a very apt quote from e.e. cummings:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

4. I know this isn’t exactly new news, but it makes me so happy… Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is out 18th June. Huzzah!

5. Since it’s Friday… Books and alcohol. No, I’m not describing my house*; Flavorwire lists 15 amazing book-filled bars.  [Via CatherineCaffeinated]

[Image Credit: The Huffington Post]

* Not entirely.